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Alternative method of consuming alcohol has experts worried

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Posted at 10:03 PM, Jul 14, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-15 06:41:12-04

SALT LAKE CITY --  A dangerous new trend called smoking alcohol is threatening teenagers and college students.

Doctors said the practice is hazardous and could be addictive, and they want to get the message out to parents.

Rather than drinking alcohol, people are converting it into a vapor and inhaling it. Though there is no actual smoke produced, the practice is still called “smoking alcohol.”

Patrick Fleming is the director of Salt Lake County Division of Behavioral Health Services, and he said they are working to inform parents and teens about the danger.

“It is out there,” he said. “As more and more we publicize it, the more kids are going to try this. So, in some ways, even though we're talking today about trying to get the information out to parents, in some ways we're getting information out to kids too. So that's why I would say for kids: ‘Don't do this. It's not worth it!” and for parents: 'Monitor your kids and be aware that this is out there.'"

Fleming said there are only three ways to get a substance into a person’s brain: ingesting, injecting or inhaling.

“But the fastest way to get things in is by inhaling,” he said.

Fleming didn’t want to give specific details about how to smoke alcohol, as that is the opposite of their prevention goals. He said the alcoholic vapors deliver an instant high, going straight to the lungs and to the brain. He said that is one problem, and he said the second problem is that the practice allows people to absorb too much too quickly.

“If you drink too much alcohol, the body’s normal purging action is to vomit,” he said. “It doesn't happen when you are snorting alcohol."

Fleming warned people to avoid the practice entirely.

“Don't risk this,” he said. “This is not worth it. By snorting alcohol and getting that directly into your brain, you don't know how much you are getting. You don’t know what damage it's doing to your lungs and your brain. It is just not worth it. It's a stupid thing to do."