Instead of drinking the old-fashioned way, some people are vaping or “smoking” alcohol to get drunk.
This dangerous practice involves heating alcohol or pouring it over dry ice and inhaling the resulting vapors. Some people also use asthma inhalers or homemade vaporizing devices.
There isn’t much research on vaping alcohol for recreational purposes, but several factors indicate that it’s not safe and can be more dangerous than traditional drinking.
Vaping alcohol might sound like a novel way to get drunk while avoiding the taste of alcohol. However, doing so has serious health and safety risks, including alcohol poisoning and lung damage.
Read on to learn more about the risks of vaping alcohol.
When you inhale alcohol vapors, the alcohol is absorbed in your lungs and completely bypasses your digestive system.
Alcohol molecules are then transported directly from your lungs into your bloodstream and brain. This causes you to quickly feel the effects of alcohol, which is why people often report feeling an immediate, intense “high” from vaping.
Much of the appeal of vaping alcohol is that it gets you very drunk, very fast. But consuming too much alcohol in any form isn’t healthy.
Here are four effects vaping alcohol can have on your body:
1. It puts you at high risk for alcohol poisoning
Vaping alcohol is essentially the same as binge drinking, since you’re consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time.
Binge drinking puts you at high risk for overdosing on alcohol (alcohol poisoning). Alcohol poisoning happens when you consume more alcohol than your body can process and your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches toxic levels.
Alcohol poisoning is a serious condition that can be fatal. Call 911 or local emergency services if you or someone you know shows any of the following symptoms and you suspect alcohol poisoning:
- pale or blue skin
- low body temperature
- slow or irregular breathing
2. It can damage your lungs
Inhaling heated vapors can irritate and even damage your lungs. This can lead to long-term breathing problems and a higher risk of lung infections.
Studies on the effects of vaping on the lungs are limited, and there are even fewer studies that have looked at the effects of vaping alcohol on the lungs.
3. It could increase your risk for alcohol addiction
In other words, the faster a drug, such as alcohol, reaches your brain, the more likely you are to develop an addiction to it.
Since vaping delivers alcohol rapidly to your brain, doing so may be associated with a greater risk of alcohol addiction. However, there’s not enough research on the practice to truly know how addictive it can be.
4. It can harm your brain
In addition to increasing risk of alcohol addiction, the rapid binding of alcohol to your brain receptors
This can be especially harmful to children and teens because their brains aren’t fully developed.
Most studies on the effects of alcohol vapors on human health focus on exposure in the workplace, such as the effects of inhaling fumes from hand sanitizer.
Currently, there’s no research on vaping alcohol for recreational purposes. However, studies in rats have produced some concerning findings:
- Rats displayed increased anxiety behaviors after exposure.
- Exposure to alcohol vapors was the most effective way to cause alcohol dependence in rats.
- Rats displayed increased alcohol-seeking behaviors after chronic exposure to alcohol vapors.
- More severe withdrawal symptoms were present, such as tremors, anxiety, sweating, and seizures.
Vaping alcohol is sometimes touted as a novel, low-calorie alternative to drinking that gets you drunk almost instantly. However, most of these supposed benefits are actually myths.
Here are the reasons why vaping alcohol is just as harmful, if not more so, than drinking alcohol:
You’re still consuming calories
When you vape alcohol, your body doesn’t absorb calories from sugars in the alcoholic beverage since your digestive system isn’t part of the equation.
However, you still absorb the calories from ethanol. Ethanol is the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages.
It’s impossible to gauge how much alcohol you’re consuming
When you drink alcohol, you can keep track of the amount of alcohol you’re consuming by paying attention to the alcohol content and measuring how much you pour.
However, if you vape alcohol, it’s difficult to measure how much you’re consuming.
For example, even if you vaporize 4 ounces of alcohol, it’s hard to know whether you’ve inhaled all of the resulting vapors or just a few whiffs.
Your body has no way of expelling the alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol can lead to vomiting as a way for your body to expel the excess alcohol. That’s because most people’s bodies are capable of detecting when too much alcohol has been consumed. The body then uses vomiting to prevent an overdose.
However, when you vape, alcohol bypasses your stomach, so your body has no way of expelling it.
E-cigarettes and Juuls (a specific brand of e-cigarettes) are battery-operated devices that are filled with “e-liquid” or “vape juice,” which consists of various chemicals. The device heats the e-liquid to produce vapors you can inhale.
One of the biggest issues with e-cigarettes is that the e-liquid often contains a laundry list of toxic chemicals, including nicotine.
Alcohol is also a common ingredient, but there’s little research on the health effects of alcohol exposure via e-cigarette use.
In the United States, it’s illegal to consume alcohol by drinking, vaping, or any other alternative methods if you’re under 21 years old. These laws may vary in other countries, so it’s important to check local laws before consuming alcohol.
It’s also illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol.
It’s also illegal to buy, sell, or use devices that are designed specifically for vaping alcohol in over 20 states.
Regardless of how you consume alcohol, doing so in excess is dangerous and poses significant risks to your health and well-being.
Vaping alcohol is especially dangerous because it allows you to inhale large quantities of alcohol over a short time period, mimicking binge drinking. This puts you at high risk for alcohol poisoning.
If you decide to consume alcohol, it’s probably best to stick with drinking it instead of inhaling or vaping it.