Smoking alcohol: a dangerous new trend

Smoking alcohol is a trend that is gaining in popularity among young adults and teens, but this new fad can have dangerous consequences.

Melissa Vrudny, a certified prevention specialist with Partners for a Drug Free Chisago County, shared information about smoking alcohol she recently obtained in a conference call with other prevention specialists during a meeting of the Chisago County Alcohol Action Team in North Branch last week.

Photo from drugfree.org

Photo from drugfree.org

First, she explained the procedure.

“(The consumer) takes a 2-liter Pepsi bottle or whatever, puts an inch or so of alcohol in the bottom and then vaporizes it by pumping CO2 into the bottle,” she said.

Numerous online articles also note the alcohol can be vaporized in other ways, such as pouring it over dry ice.

The vapors are then inhaled, which reportedly leads to near instantaneous drunkenness.

According to a June 25 NBC report, there are several myths surrounding this type of alcohol consumption. One is that if a person consumes alcohol in this fashion, he or she is ingesting far less calories than if the alcohol were drunk.

“As for the weigh-loss claim, when you’re consuming alcohol, you’re consuming calories, period,” Steve Pasierb, who runs The Partnership at Drugfree.org, said.

Another is that smoked alcohol isn’t detectable on one’s breath.

“It’s in your lungs, it’s in your breath,” Pasierb told NBC.

Other claims that a person can’t get a DWI because the inhaled alcohol can’t be detected by breath or blood tests are also false.

Vrudny said the dangers of consuming alcohol this way are alarming.

“It’s a massive dose,” she said. “If you overdose on alcohol (by drinking it), a lot of times you can vomit to get a lot of it out, but you can’t vomit away something you’ve inhaled into your bloodstream. The risk of alcohol poisoning is dramatic.”

Inhaling vaporized alcohol — in some instances, depending on the proof of the alcohol being “smoked” — is like ingesting five or six shots of alcohol all at once, according to the NBC article.

Vrudny noted those who come across people who have smoked alcohol should get them to a hospital right away.

“You should never, ever let someone sleep it off,” she said. “If they’re impaired enough where they’re needing to sleep, they need to be checked out.”

Minimal statistics

Because the fad of smoking alcohol has just recently gained in popularity — some news articles report it has been around since 2004 but just really started becoming more mainstream last year — Vrudny said there aren’t a lot of statistics about who is doing it and how often, but the prevention specialists on the conference call told her more reports of the activity are starting to surface in the Midwest.

“It’s been a trend more on the coasts, like a lot of substance abuse, and it’s really coming like gangbusters toward the Midwest,” she said.

She added, “It’s good to know about and good to be aware of so we can think of prevention efforts.”

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