The electronic cigarette is a technology that allows for user modification, including controlling the voltage, battery power, and the contents of the e-cigarette liquid. In addition to legal and illegal substances, some e-cigarettes may contain enough alcohol to impair motor skills, without the user even knowing it. Some people have tried vaping alcohol directly, which can not only ruin your vape device, it can be dangerous and harmful to you.
Vaping alcohol is not recommended and may involve serious health risks.
Vaping alcohol is no different than drinking — it is just another method of ingestion.
Vaping alcohol may increase the chances of alcohol intoxication and alcohol poisoning, and it is riskier to the brain and lungs in younger people.
Vaping alcohol may cause long-lasting effects, including alcohol withdrawl even after stopping vaping.
Inhaling alcohol is dangerous
The simplest way to get drunk is usually to drink too much. Consider how an even faster method can affect your body: inhaling alcohol directly.
When inhaled or vaped, alcohol can not only make you intoxicated rapidly, but it can cause instantaneous harm to your lungs, heart, and brain. This is a potentially dangerous, and even irreversible, situation that everyone should avoid.
Some people have tried inhaling alcohol by pouring it over dry ice. E-cigarettes have offered a new method that can cause rapid, intense, and unpredictable intoxication.
Vaping alcohol bypasses the gastrointestinal system, so many young adults think that they will avoid ingesting any calories by taking alcohol in this manner. This is false, however. Your body will process calories from the alcohol, no matter how it is consumed.
In fact, by vaping alcohol and bypassing the gastrointestinal system, there are other potential problems. Vaping alcohol may unintentionally avoid important alcohol poisoning warning signs, such as vomiting, which will falsely give the impression to others that the person is okay when they are not.
The speed at which vaping alcohol causes intoxication is the same as binge-drinking, or drinking five or more drinks within two hours. Vaping alcohol can put the person at high risk of overdosing on alcohol or alcohol poisoning, whereby your body has taken in more alcohol than it can safely handle.
Alcohol intoxication can prove to be fatal in some circumstances. If alcohol intoxication is suspected, it is important to seek immediate medical assistance. The symptoms may include:
- Diminished or irregular breathing
- Decreased body temperature
- Blue or pale skin (pallor)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of consciousness
Risks of alcohol intoxication
The risks of alcohol intoxication depend on the following factors:
- Overall health status.
- Body type and weight.
- If you have food in your stomach.
- If you have combined alcohol with other substances, particularly tobacco or illicit drugs.
- Rate of alcohol consumption, or how much you vape at a time.
- Your level of alcohol tolerance. Those who drink alcohol often may have a higher tolerance for vaping alcohol and its effects.
Vaping alcohol may damage the lungs
Ultra-heating alcohol in the e-cigarette may cause direct lung tissue injury from the heat and exposure to the fluid and gases.
The direct inhalation of alcohol by vaping can lead to long-term airway damage and breathing problems. Chronic vaping causes restricted airways, scarring, and other issues.
There are no clinical studies that have studied vaping alcohol because of the inherent risks and potential dangers.
There are studies that examined the vapor inhalation of alcohol in rats. The rats showed a tendency to become alcohol dependent, which would theoretically translate to alcoholism in humans. The rats showed increased anxiety and predilection toward alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Other studies imply that vaping alcohol may lead to alcohol use disorder in humans, rendering people vulnerable to lung damage and loss of natural lung immune defenses.
Vaping alcohol may damage the brain
Our bodies are designed to protect our most precious asset, our brain. We have a skull to protect us from the outside world. We also have a blood-brain barrier that protects our brain from the inside. The blood-brain barrier is a physiologic barrier that has many interrelated components to make sure our brain stays safe from various toxins, pathogens, and other unwelcome visitors that may cause the brain harm.
With vaping alcohol, there is much less control as to how much alcohol is being introduced to the brain. The additional risks of exposure to potentially high doses of alcohol in young adult brains are unknown.
It is not true that vaping alcohol is less likely to lead to addiction. Alcohol addiction is still a risk, no matter the method of ingestion.
Vaping alcohol is at least as risky as drinking it. In fact, if you are under 21 years of age, you can vape alcohol, and it is still considered illegal since you are consuming alcohol, just by a different method. Many US states have specifically banned alcohol inhalation and alcohol vaporizers.
Vaping alcohol may affect the brain by increasing the severity of withdrawal symptoms, particularly in young people. These may include tremors, anxiety, seizures, and other health risks.
There is scientific research that combining tobacco use and ingestion of alcohol by any means, including vaping, will cause more specific risks to particular brain regions. It is thought that by combining tobacco smoking and alcohol ingestion, the brain undergoes chemical changes, oxidative stress, and inflammation.
What makes matters even worse is that vaping alcohol and then stopping, alcohol-induced brain damage, continues even after the vaping alcohol is stopped. Studies show there is a generalized change in the white matter (the areas that are used for communication between the different parts of the brain).
Recently, research has shown that drinking just one drink per day can actually shrink your brain or cause brain atrophy. There are no studies showing whether vaping alcohol in varying amounts and concentrations has a similar or worse effect, but vaping alcohol in young people may be particularly unpredictable with higher risks than in adults.
Vaping alcohol may seem like it will save calories and be safer than drinking alcohol, but it is not. In fact, by vaping at all, most vape brands already have a small amount of alcohol within the vape fluid, which makes it inherently unpredictable or unsafe.
Vaping alcohol is just another method of alcohol ingestion, carrying all the same risks. And yes, studies show you can get drunk, which affects motor skills, using commercially available e-cigarettes.
Vaping alcohol carries particular risks to the brain, airways, and lungs, especially in younger people. Vaping alcohol is not recommended.
- Mayo Clinic News Network. Mayo Clinic Q and A: Vaping and Teens.
- Virginia Commonwealth University News. Can Vaping Cause You to Fail a Sobriety Test?
- Addictive Behaviors. Young adults report increased pleasure from using e-cigarettes and smoking tobacco cigarettes when drinking alcohol.
- The Harvard Gazette. Restricted airways, scarred lung tissue found among vapers.
- Science Daily. Smoking and alcohol: Double trouble for the brain?