Top of Utah officials not yet seeing victims of inhaling alcohol vapors

Aug 3 2013 - 11:06pm

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This is a Youtube video frame grab of a young adult “smoking” alcohol. Top of Utah hospitals haven’t seen the deadly effects of this trend in Utah yet, and officials say they hope they don’t, because it is dangerous, as inhalation of alcohol allows the body to more readily absorb the intoxicants and bypass the body’s natural safeguards. (Courtesy image)
This is a Youtube video frame grab of a young adult “smoking” alcohol. Top of Utah hospitals haven’t seen the deadly effects of this trend in Utah yet, and officials say they hope they don’t, because it is dangerous, as inhalation of alcohol allows the body to more readily absorb the intoxicants and bypass the body’s natural safeguards. (Courtesy image)
This is a Youtube video frame grab of a young adult “smoking” alcohol. Top of Utah hospitals haven’t seen the deadly effects of this trend in Utah yet, and officials say they hope they don’t, because it is dangerous, as inhalation of alcohol allows the body to more readily absorb the intoxicants and bypass the body’s natural safeguards. (Courtesy image)
This is a Youtube video frame grab of a young adult “smoking” alcohol. Top of Utah hospitals haven’t seen the deadly effects of this trend in Utah yet, and officials say they hope they don’t, because it is dangerous, as inhalation of alcohol allows the body to more readily absorb the intoxicants and bypass the body’s natural safeguards. (Courtesy image)

OGDEN -- The dangers of drinking too much alcohol have long been known, but now officials are warning a new, potentially harmful way to consume liquor could make it easier to get drunker faster, bypassing the body's natural safeguards in the process.

Media reports from around the country indicate the trend of inhaling alcohol vapors is increasing in popularity, and experts are warning it could be much more dangerous than drinking alcohol.

However, several local authorities said they haven't yet encountered instances of people overconsuming alcohol through inhalation, meaning the trend may not yet have caught on in Utah.

Barbara Crouch, director of the Utah Poison Control Center, said the lack of evidence from Utahns who have actually overdosed through inhaling means she's treating the dangers as serious but speculative.

"The theoretical concern is, you can inhale and absorb it much quicker," she said. "Lungs are good at absorbing, and (the alcohol) could go right to the brain."

Not only would that allow people to feel the effects of alcohol faster and stronger, leading to an increased blood alcohol level, but the method would also skip the body's protection methods, Crouch said.

When people drink too much alcohol, they become nauseous and, in serious cases, black out.

But Crouch said that when someone inhales alcohol, the body may have no way to force the person to slow or stop consumption, which could easily lead to alcohol poisoning.

The trend seems to be growing thanks in large part to the proliferation of YouTube videos demonstrating how to turn the alcohol in common liquors into vapors, which are then inhaled.

Several methods can be found in the videos, but some of the most popular include heating the alcohol or pumping air into a plastic bottle containing a small amount of liquor. Kits that include all the necessary equipment, such as one called the Vaportini, can even be bought online.

The website for the Vaportini, for instance, touts the fact the alcohol's effect is felt immediately, as opposed to the several minutes it takes to feel a buzz when drinking alcohol. And according to media reports from around the country, being able to feel the effects of alcohol without consuming the calories is another benefit users of the method have reported.

However, regardless of whatever positives inhaling alcohol may have, the potential danger is too much of a risk for some.

"I couldn't imagine trying it," said Matt Malde, who said the regular method of drinking alcohol is good enough for him. "It sounds a little crazy to me."

One concern that would arise for police officers if the trend does catch on in Utah is that people may mistakenly believe they can beat a DUI test by inhaling alcohol, rather than drinking it.

"Some people think, if they inhale alcohol vapors, you won't be able to detect it when they're driving," said Dwayne Baird, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety.

"In fact, that's what our technology detects."

Chris Dallin, spokesman for McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, said no doctors at the hospital had reported treating patients who had overdosed through alcohol inhalation.

Additionally, the number of people the hospital has treated for alcohol poisoning in recent months has been in line with typical numbers, he said.

But just because there isn't much evidence of people in the Top of Utah inhaling alcohol doesn't mean officials aren't keeping an eye out.

"I would hope it doesn't catch on here," said Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Mark Lowther.

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