The Risks of “Smoking” or Inhaling Alcohol

Julie Weber Trending Topics

Consuming an excess amount of alcohol either by ingesting or inhaling can have significant risks. Alcohol is found in many beverages such as wine, beer, and whiskey and is also a common substance used in cleaning and disinfecting products. Today, some individuals are “vaping” or “smoking” alcohol to get drunk, which is a hazardous activity that can be detrimental to your health.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU INHALE ALCOHOL?

If you inhale alcohol, it bypasses your digestive system, is rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream and travels to the brain. Heated alcohol vapors can injure the lungs and can lead to alcohol poisoning faster than when ingested. Even small amounts of inhaled alcohol can cause life-threatening overdose and intoxication.

INCREASES RISK OF ALCOHOL POISONING

Alcohol poisoning is a serious ─ sometimes deadly ─ situation. If you or anyone you know is experiencing alcohol poisoning, call the poison center or go to the nearest emergency department for treatment. There is no time for your body to absorb or dilute the alcohol before it enters your bloodstream. Signs of alcohol poisoning can include: drowsiness, confusion, vomiting, passing out, low blood sugar, and coma.

LUNG DAMAGE 

Breathing in alcohol fumes can damage your lungs. The heated vapors can irritate your airways and lead to coughing that may leave someone unable to catch their breath. Long-term lung damage can lead to breathing problems and increased infections.

LEADS TO ALCOHOL ADDICTION 

People who “smoke” alcohol may be more likely to form an alcohol addiction because the feeling of intoxication happens quicker than when ingested. They may seek this “high” and abuse the substance more and more.

STUDIES ON INHALING ALCOHOL 

Studies using rats show the effects that smoking alcohol may have on humans. The research so far reveals that after exposure, rats display an increase in anxiety behaviors, a link to alcohol dependence, and more severe withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, seizures, and sweating. 

In humans, most studies show the effects of alcohol vapors when someone inhales them at the workplace. These studies look into health risks related to inhaling fumes from cleaning supplies such as hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, and other alcohol-based solutions.

A glass of scotch with a vape pen smoking on top to represent smoking alcohol fumes.

 “SMOKING” ALCOHOL VS. DRINKING

Some people watching their weight may think smoking alcohol makes it calorie-free, but this is not true. No matter how you consume alcohol, there are calories. Inhaling alcohol can be more dangerous than drinking alcohol in the following ways: 

NO WAY TO MEASURE HOW MUCH ALCOHOL YOU’RE CONSUMING

With smoking alcohol, it’s hard to measure how much someone is consuming. It’s easier to measure how much alcohol someone has consumed by keeping track of the alcohol content and how much someone pours. This practice can lead to alcohol poisoning and other serious health risks.

YOUR BODY CAN’T EXPEL THE ALCOHOL

Vomiting is a natural way for the body to expel excess alcohol in the system. Our bodies can detect when we have consumed too much alcohol and will use vomiting to help reduce the amount of alcohol absorbed. When alcohol is inhaled, it does not go through the digestive tract and cannot be vomited out. Not only can this lead to alcohol poisoning, but inhaling alcohol means there could be a longer recovery time or hangover.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND SOMEONE HAS INHALED TOO MUCH ALCOHOL?

The first thing to do is to remain calm and look for signs of alcohol poisoning such as confusion, slow or irregular breathing, seizures, or passing out without waking up. If you are unsure what to do, don’t wait. Call the Missouri Poison Center to get advice or call 911 if the person is unconscious. Our specially trained nurses and pharmacists are available 24/7/365. The service is free and confidential.

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