About Alcoholism and the Dangers of Smoking Alcohol
The prevalence of alcohol consumption in the United States is high, creating significant public health, social, and economic issues. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 85.6% of people ages 18 and older reported drinking alcohol at some point in their lifetime. Of this age group, nearly 26% participate in binge drinking, and 6.3% engage in heavy alcohol use.
Although alcoholism is a common substance use disorder, affecting around 15 million Americans, there’s one route of administration that many are unfamiliar with — smoking alcohol.
This method of administration seems like an odd concept for some, but for others, it’s a part of their everyday life. For the latter group, understanding the risks could help save their life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol, help is available. Zinnia Health provides health and healing for everyone, everywhere. Discover our comprehensive substance abuse treatment options.
Smoking Alcohol – Know the Facts
Smoking or vaping alcohol is a trend that results in rapid intoxication. To achieve the desired effect, users will heat alcohol, often pouring it over dry ice to generate alcohol vapor or aerosols. This trend has become popular enough to create and market devices to young adults and college students. These devices intend to make alcohol vaping seem like a sophisticated method. However, smoking alcohol is a dangerous practice.
When alcohol is transformed into a vapor, you can inhale it via the lungs. This process creates a rapid, intense high and an effect that is much more intoxicating than drinking alcohol. For some, this is reason enough. Others choose this option because they think they’re skipping out on the calories — which isn’t the case. This myth places many adolescents at risk of severe, potentially fatal complications.
Smoking Alcohol Can Lead to Dangerous Consequences
The most significant danger associated with smoking alcohol is an overdose. This consequence is better known as alcohol poisoning, which accounts for over 2,200 deaths in the United States. However, this is just one cause of alcohol-related death, showcasing the severity of alcoholism. Excessive alcohol use takes the lives of more than 140,000 Americans each year — or around 380 deaths per day. Excessive alcohol use shortens the lives of those affected by an average of 26 years.
Alcohol poisoning is a possible and common consequence of ingesting alcohol excessively. However, the difference between smoking and ingesting alcohol is very different.
- During the ordinary course of drinking, if an individual is approaching a state of alcohol poisoning, they will typically vomit. This reaction is the body’s natural response to prevent overdose.
- The issue with smoking is that there’s nothing in your stomach to vomit. Once your brain has absorbed the ethanol, there is no way to eliminate it from your system.
The other danger related to alcohol poisoning is that when inhaling alcohol, you don’t know how much you’ve consumed. If you pour a cup of alcohol into a bottle to vaporize, you won’t know the amount of alcohol you inhale. It could be the entire cup or just a few sips. If you do this several times over a short period, you begin to gamble with your life.
Zinnia Health offers the support you need if you’re at risk of experiencing the dangers of smoking alcohol. Call us at (855) 430-9439 to receive evidence-based treatment.
Smoking Alcohol Can Increase Your Risk of Addiction
Aside from immediate dangers, like a fatal overdose, smoking alcohol also creates high alcohol abuse potential. The intense and rapid effects of alcohol vapors can reinforce addictive effects — especially among those predisposed to alcoholism. Although researchers are still unsure why some people become addicts while others don’t, a combination of genetic and environmental variables is the most likely explanation.
Think of the effects of smoking alcohol as a “quick hit” — a term used by cocaine and methamphetamine users. Research shows that in response, specific brain regions activate. These regions are known to be involved in developing and maintaining addictive behaviors. Scientists are particularly concerned about teens because their brains have not yet fully developed — particularly the regions associated with impulse control and assessing risk.
How Alcohol Vapors Affect Users
- When you inhale alcohol vapors, the ethanol doesn’t break down in the stomach and liver. The vapors go directly from the lungs to the brain.
- As the alcohol enters the bloodstream, users experience rapid alcohol intoxication. Some say the effects are felt nearly immediately.
- These effects are also more potent because the liver does not metabolize the alcohol before it enters the bloodstream.
Methods of Smoking Alcohol
Nearly two decades ago, as this trend emerged, a machine called AWOL (alcohol without liquid) became a popular choice when aiming to vaporize alcohol. However, it was quickly banned in the United States.
Around ten years later, this dangerous trend re-emerged. Unfortunately, the myth that smoking alcohol contains no calories has become attractive to many, including teens. Wanting to feel the effects of alcohol without consuming calories is known as drunkorexia. Despite this, alcohol vapors do contain calories. Your body still absorbs ethanol, the active component of alcohol.
You’ll find several DIY “smoking alcohol” methods when searching the internet. One of the most common is pouring alcohol over dry ice, as discussed above. Users will generally pour alcohol into a thermos-type bottle, and when the vapors emerge, the user inhales them directly with a pipe or straw.
The second method is to make a “vaporizing kit” with a bicycle pump. With this option, alcohol is poured into a bottle, then corked. The pump’s needle is poked through the top, and air is pumped into the bottle. As the alcohol vaporizes, the user inhales the alcohol. The last method is what’s known as free-basing. While this method often describes smokeable cocaine, it can also apply to smoking alcohol over a flame.
Regardless of how you consume alcohol, if this substance creates chaos in your life, it’s time to reach out for professional support. Taking this step could save your life.