WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) - The images are all over YouTube, young people inhaling the fumes from liquor.
The methods they use are crude. They vaporize the alcohol with air pumps or pour the booze over dry ice then huff it.
"If you do it too much at one time, it kind of overwhelms you," Broderic Allen told WFAA-TV, Dallas.
Therein lies the problem, medical professionals say. Smoking liquor sends the alcohol straight to the lungs and brain, bypassing the body's normal methods of processing it.
"Smoking alcohol is like a night of binge-drinking in an instant," Gaylord Lopez, director of the Georgia Poison Center, told WSB-TV, Atlanta.
It comes with the risk of alcohol overdose or even poisoning and an unknown potential for brain damage.
"You are getting that immediate high, and that's the dangerous part," said Kirsten Hawkins, chief of adolescent medicine at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington. "You are not realizing how much you are getting.
"Binge-drinking for a male is five drinks in a row. For a young woman, it is four drinks in a row. So they may effectively get four or five drinks of alcohol by inhaling the vapors in a short period of time."
Also, too, is the potential for lung damage, Hawkins said.
"We can compare it to other things that are inhaled," she said. "And we know that our lungs are not meant to be inhaling (illicit) medications, alcohol and tobacco."
"Smoking alcohol is like a night of binge drinking in an instant."
- Dr. Gaylord Lopez, Georgia Poison Center
Huffing from the same bottle of gaseous alcohol also can expose an entire group of friends to bacterial or viral meningitis, which is more common in young adults and teenagers than other adults, Hawkins said.
Allen said he began smoking alcohol to avoid calories.
"Once you lose the weight, you want to keep it off," he said. "So I figured I could have my cake and eat it, too."
However, medical professionals say that doesn't work. You still get calories although slightly fewer, and the caloric savings for hard liquor are minimal, according to Slate magazine.
"We do know that when you are under the influence of alcohol, you are more likely to eat as well," Hawkins said. "So that might defeat the purpose."
Videos on the Web claim that a minor can hide liquor consumption from parents and police by inhaling the vapors, but the alcohol still gets in a person's bloodstream and will register on a breathalyzer device or blood-alcohol test.
Plus it's against the law for anyone younger than 21 to consume alcohol - whether it be by drinking it or smoking it.