Those who have raised children know those tough teen years can be challenging for both you and them. Not only are these not-quite-adults trying to figure out where they fit in the world, they are dealing with peer pressure and testing boundaries. They often are still naively unaware of the dangers and potholes they lay in front of them; they often feel invincible – and can easily be persuaded to up the ante in all kinds of situations.
Knowing the normal dangers drugs and alcohol are one thing. Convincing your teen that overdoses and accidents can happen to them, too, is another.
Teens get creative on ways to get wasted
In pursuit of a newer, cheaper or more intense experience with alcohol, some pretty scary and revolting practices have developed. Alcohol enemas? Eye shots (yes, booze poured directly into the eye)? Rummy Gummies? Alcohol soaked tampons?
Now we can add â€œsmokingâ€ alcohol to the list. Granted, it doesnâ€™t have the gross factor, but it absolutely has the danger factor. Apparently, the booze is poured over dry ice in some sort of thermos-type bottle and the vapor produced is then inhaled with a straw or pipe. Vapor can also be extracted with a corked bottle and bicycle pump – Iâ€™ll skip the details… Then there is free-basing, where a flame is used to create the vapors.
Just as it is with the other quick-delivery methods, the danger comes when these methods skip the usual stomach-liver breakdown process, and instead deliver the ethanol almost straight into the bloodstream. This poses the risk of alcohol poisoning, since it only takes one overdose to kill or send that teen to the emergency room.
According to an online article in WBTW News earlier this year, the intoxication happens so fast that â€œmany young people especially are not aware of just how intoxicated they have become or the potentially deadly impacts on their bodies.â€ USA Today likened it to a night of binge drinking in an instant – giving the inhaler the effects of four to five drinks at once.
And there are hazards other than alcohol poisoning. Damage to the lungs can happen, since alcohol can be very drying and irritating (I donâ€™t even want to think what it does to the eyes). Dry ice inhaled is difficult to humidify in the lung tissue could actually â€œburnâ€ the lining of the lung, causing permanent damage. Long term affects are unknown, therefore equally disturbing. Friends passing the bottle of alcohol vapor exposes everyone to bacterial or viral meningitis, which is more common among young people than older adults. The risk for addiction rises with this method of delivery, since the immediate high reinforces the addictive effects, not to mention eliminating any kind of moderation or control. An added consequence of alcohol poisoning (if you survive) may be irreversible brain damage.
Smoking spirits isnâ€™t exactly new. A vaporizer called the AWOL (alcohol without liquid) popped up back in 2004, but it was quickly banned in the US, so the fad essentially died out until recently. Another product, Vaportini, has surfaced in recent years and claims to deliver the alcohol with â€œno calories, no carbs, no impurities and the effects of alcohol are immediately felt, making it easier to responsively imbibe.â€ That apparatus is legal, but the claims misleadingly make the practice sound safe. And Iâ€™m not convinced that the word responsible should be used in their pitch at all.
So why do these kids want to do it in the first place?
Some speculate that they want to avoid the calories. Dubbed â€œdrunkorexia,â€ this method of weight loss doesnâ€™t work well, since calories are in the ethanol, itself. The only calories avoided are mostly in the mixers and sweeteners. Online videos claim that by inhaling the booze, a teen can hide his drinking from parents or the police, lessoning the chance for a DUI. This, too, is a myth. A breathalyzer measures the alcohol in the bloodstream, not in the stomach or liver. And what parent canâ€™t tell when their teen is inebriated to that degree? Bottom line is that they want to feel a powerful effect fast – a distressing trend in light of the fact that teens are dying just to push the envelop on party night.
Parents should become aware of these practices and talk openly with their children about the danger that comes with them. Peer pressure may be daunting, but keeping an open dialogue with your child will allow him to make informed choices rather than cave to what his peers are doing.
And it doesnâ€™t hurt to remind him that however itâ€™s delivered, itâ€™s still illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol
If you suspect your child has a substance abuse problem and you donâ€™t know where to turn or what you can do to help, call a professional. Our experienced staff knows what you may be dealing with and can present you with options to fit your needs and situation. Kids die from experimenting with new ways to get high. Get help before itâ€™s too late. It only takes one experience gone wrong to drastically change lives forever.