Inhaling Alcohol Is a Thing, and It’s Dangerous

But the good news: It might not be as big a trend as the news media is suggesting.


Shaken or vaporized? Martini photo via Shutterstock

College students making bad decisions is hardly breaking news. It’s an environment already rife with questionable choices. But the latest partying tactic in the news could very well top the list: inhaling alcohol.

The technique is intended to cut calories while simultaneously getting really, really drunk. The New York Daily News explains that while some diet-conscious drinkers go for the DIY technique and pour liquor over dry ice and inhale the vapors, there’s an actual device, called the Vaportini, that vaporizes alcohol and allows users to suck it up through a straw. Seriously, who comes up with this stuff? (And, how is that legal?)

In addition to being totally insane, inhaling alcohol is also, predictably, extremely dangerous. When alcohol is inhaled, it goes right into the lungs and then straight to the brain, instead of being processed safely through the liver. Plus, inhaling vapors and circumventing the stomach means that the body’s main protection against alcohol poisoning—vomiting—is no longer an option, making it very easy to go too far. We never thought we’d say this, but kegstands and shotskis look downright responsible right about now.

The good news, however, is that inhaling alcohol may be less a full-on trend than a bizarre niche technique. David Rosenbloom, a health policy and management professor at Boston University School of Public Health, says he hasn’t heard of any cases in Boston, even with the city’s thriving college community. “Has it happened? Probably. But I don’t know whether anybody has actually called the National Poison Center and said, ‘Are cases like this showing up in emergency rooms, and if so, how many?,'” he says. “I suspect that some have, but how big a trend it is, I don’t think anybody has a clue.”

Regardless, Rosenbloom confirms that inhaling alcohol is an incredibly bad idea. “The biggest health risk is if people think this is safe,” he says. “The notion that people are ‘avoiding’ calories is silly, in the sense that they are putting themselves at risk for an unknown to avoid a pat of butter.”

Partiers everywhere, take note. If you’re trying to keep your figure, do it the old fashioned way: Eat right and exercise regularly. And here’s a crazy idea: Maybe just drink less if you want to cut alcohol calories.