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Alcohol Vapors: Know the Risks

Drinking alcohol to the point of getting drunk is nothing new: People have been doing it for generations. A new way to get drunk involves inhaling the alcohol instead of drinking it. Once inhaled, alcohol may cause serious harm to the brain and lungs, often more so than when people ingest it. People can also become intoxicated more quickly when inhaling alcohol than they do when drinking it.

"Smoking" alcohol involves heating it or pouring it over dry ice, which creates a vapor that is then inhaled. Inhaling alcohol vapors leads to a fast and intense high because the alcohol absorbs into the bloodstream and the brain more quickly through the lungs than it does when it is absorbed through the stomach lining. In fact, even small amounts of inhaled alcohol can make a person much more inebriated than if someone drank the same amount of alcohol.

"Smoking" alcohol eliminates the digestive system from the equation, and because of that, some people are attracted to this option because it doesn't involve ingesting calories. The ability to get drunk without consuming extra calories can seem like a win-win situation. But however alcohol is taken into the body, whether by inhaling or swallowing, it comes with risks.

  • The higher rate of absorption of alcohol when it is inhaled can lead to brain damage, which can be especially hazardous for teenagers and young adults, since they have brains that are not fully developed.
  • Drinking too much alcohol will irritate the stomach, which typically leads to vomiting, and this expels some of the alcohol from the body, which limits the amount of alcohol that is absorbed into the bloodstream. However, "smoking" alcohol won't lead to stomach upset and vomiting, so the absorption won't be interrupted.
  • The heat from the vapors can cause lung injuries, which could even cause long-term breathing issues.

Scientific studies in rats have uncovered several potential health issues with smoking alcohol, including those that accompany addiction.

  • Rats have shown more alcohol-seeking behaviors when they engage in chronic alcohol inhalation. Inhaling alcohol has led to rats requiring higher doses to produce the same feelings.
  • In lab studies, rats also show increased anxiety after exposure to alcohol inhalation.
  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome may occur, which involves anxiety, sweating, tremors, chills, and seizures.

Although inhaling alcohol may seem like a good solution for getting the desired effects of the drug in a faster and easier way without calories, this process is very risky. The effects of the alcohol can be powerful and fast, and long-term damage can result to the lungs and the brain. Avoid abusing alcohol in any way for optimal health. If you do decide to consume alcohol, do it the old-fashioned way and in moderation.