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Inhaling alcohol dangerous trend, experts warn


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SALT LAKE CITY — More and more people nationwide are finding ways to inhale alcohol, which is concerning to doctors and law enforcement.

Whether through using vaporizers, dry ice or just using a bike pump and a 2 liter bottle, there's no shortage of how-to videos posted on YouTube teaching people how to vaporize alcohol. Doctors are concerned because inhaling alcohol gives a more intense dose and gets the person who inhaled drunk faster.

"Your lungs have tremendous surface area to absorb (it), so you can actually absorb the alcohol much quicker. It's akin to binge drinking," said Utah Poison Control Executive Director Dr. Barbara Crouch.

Crouch said inhaling doesn't provide the same amount of alcohol as drinking it. It may be more than expected.

"When you swallow something like alcohol it's metabolized in your stomach and metabolized in your liver," she explained.


If you're ingesting it into your lungs, how do you know (if) you've had too much? That's a problem.

–Dwayne Baird, Dept. of Public Safety


But, in this case, it goes from the lungs to the bloodstream and straight into the brain, thus, not giving the body some of the warning signs normally present if a drinker has had too much.

"Often times, when you drink too much, you start to vomit and you self-limit your absorption with it or you pass out," Crouch said. "Here, you can get a much higher concentration quicker and get to the danger point."

Department of Public Safety spokesman Dwayne Baird said, "(Some people) drink so much, so quickly, that their body can't metabolize it and it doesn't burn off fast enough."

Baird said law enforcement is not seeing a rash of people who are breathing in booze compared to ingesting it the normal way. But, he said officers have seen people die from having too much liquor in their bloodstream just from drinking.

About inhalant abuse
"Generally speaking, because inhaled chemicals are absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream and distributed quickly to the brain and other organs, the effects of inhaling can be severe.

"Within minutes, the user experiences feelings of intoxication and may become dizzy, have headaches, abdominal pain, limb spasms, lack of coordination, loss of control, hallucinations, and impaired judgment."
See more on inhalant abuse prevention at www.inhalant.org.

"If you're ingesting it into your lungs, how do you know (if) you've had too much? That's going to be a problem," he said.

Baird said some people may believe they can pass a breathalyzer test since they didn't physically drink the booze. That's not true. The test checks your blood alcohol level, and people who inhale their liquor will have a more intense dose of it being circulated.

"I'm sure there are people who think that," he said. "But if they understand the law, they'll know that it won't make any difference, one way or the other. Not to us."

Plus, even though the person didn't drink, Baird said the smell of alcohol will still be on their breath.

Contributing: Carole Mikita

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