Is Inhaling Alcohol Dangerous? The Sobering Facts


Teens have a knack for finding various ways to get intoxicated. That’s why it’s important for parents to talk to their kids about alcohol and drugs and to keep the lines of communication open. If you talk to your kids, you can help them avoid underage drinking and the dangerous consequences of risky behavior.

A new trend involves inhaling alcohol, and it may be more dangerous than drinking.

What is Vaporized Alcohol?

Some teenagers are experimenting with inhaling or vaping alcohol. Vaporized alcohol forms when the user heats up the alcohol or pours it over dry ice. There are also special machines (which are illegal in many states) that take alcohol in vapor form and mix it with oxygen. The user then smokes or inhales the vaporized alcohol.

What Does Vaporized Alcohol Do To the Body?

According to Poison Control, inhaling alcohol gets the user drunk very quickly. Vaporized alcohol is absorbed through the lungs, where it is delivered almost instantly to the bloodstream and the brain.

Inhaling alcohol bypasses the digestive system, so users may believe they can get intoxicated without consuming calories. According to Poison Control, that’s not true. Alcohol comes with calories, whether swallowed or inhaled.

Why is Vaporized Alcohol Dangerous?

There are no direct studies about the dangers of inhaling alcohol, but experts agree it’s dangerous — particularly for underage drinkers.

Dr. Harris Stratyner, regional clinical vice president of Caron Treatment Centers in New York, describes why it’s dangerous in a New York Daily News article.

“When you inhale alcohol, it goes directly into the lungs and circumnavigates the liver,” he told the Daily News. “The liver is what metabolizes alcohol, but when you inhale it, it goes directly from the lungs to the brain.

Inhaling alcohol can also lead to alcohol poisoning quicker than drinking it. When you drink heavily, you usually vomit. That’s your body’s natural way of preventing alcohol poisoning. Vaporized alcohol bypasses the stomach and goes straight to the lungs. There’s no natural warning sign to get you to stop drinking if you’ve had too much.

Instead, the effects of vaporized alcohol can be more serious: passing out, physical injuries from falling, or drunk driving crashes.

“This is a stupid, highly dangerous thing to do,” Stratyner says.

Studies in Rats

According to Poison Control, no human studies have been published about the health effects of inhaling alcohol. However, studies in rats show several problems:

  • In rats, chronic alcohol inhalation leads to more alcohol-seeking behaviors
  • It increases anxiety
  • It can be addictive
  • It can cause changes in the brain
  • An alcohol withdrawal syndrome can also occur

Dangers of Alcohol Misuse

Whether it is consumed or inhaled, alcohol misuse is dangerous for teens and kids. According to research by the Centers for Disease Control, excessive drinking behavior results in more than 4,300 deaths of underage people every year. Not everyone who drinks does so at heavy levels, but when underage people drink, they are more likely to engage in binge drinking.

Read more underage alcohol misuse statistics here.

The first step in preventing your kids from underage drinking or inhaling alcohol is to start the conversation with them. Take the Pledge to teach your children about underage drinking.