'Smoking alcohol' a dangerous, growing trend to lose weight

A dangerous trend is going viral on YouTube and other social media platforms, where young people are inhaling the fumes of alcohol instead of drinking it.

Called "smoking alcohol", it involves the vaporisation of alcohol with air pumps or over dry ice and then breathing in the fumes, Times.com reported.

Within seconds, the effects of the alcohol reportedly sets in.

Clinicians say it is gaining popularity among people who want to lose weight and drink alcohol, but don't want to gain the calories that comes with the beverage, Times.com reported.

"People think it is a great way to get the effects of alcohol without gaining the weight because alcohol has an enormous amount of empty calories. You can't be ingesting a lot of alcohol if you're on a diet and want to lose weight," said Dr Deni Carise, the deputy chief clinical officer at CRC Health Group.

But the problem is that the practice is incredibly dangerous and addictive. If not kept in check, it can be lethal.

Here's the reason: When alcohol in ingested in the body normally, it takes times to get into your system. It first travels to your stomach, then is processed by your liver. Only about 20 minutes later does it hit your bloodstream, Today.com reported.

However, smoking alcohol is like a night of binge-drinking in an instant. Alcohol inhaled goes instantly into the lungs and races to the brain, bypassing the body's normal processes.

It creates a greater risk of alcohol overdose or poisoning, and an unknown potential for brain damage, USA Today reported.

"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.

Hawkins added that there is also the potential for lung damage. "We know that our lungs are not meant to be inhaling (illicit) medications, alcohol and tobacco," she warned.

According to Forbes, inhaling alcohol can be quite irritating, and can lead to bronchospasm - a sudden constriction of the muscles in the walls of the bronchioles - as well as a drying effect of the alcohol on the respiratory tract.

This drying effect carries the risk of leaving one vunerable to lung infections such as pneumonia, or pneumonitis - an inflammatory condition in the lung.

Another danger is that using the same bottle for gaseous alcohol exposes an entire group of friends to bacterial or viral meningitis.

Fox's KCTV-5 featured a North Texan man Broderic Allen who claims that he lost nearly 80 pounds (36kg) after he stopped drinking alcohol and resorted to smoking it to avoid calories.

However, experts interviewed say that losing weight by vaporising hard alcohol just doesn't work. According to Slate magazine, there are still calories involved and the caloric savings are minimal as nearly all the calories in hard liquor comes from the alcohol.

Steve Pasierb, who runs the partnership at drugfree.org, told Today.com: "When you're consuming alcohol, you are consuming calories, period."

Another myth is that one can escape being caught by the police for being over the limit. This is again untrue, Pasierb said. "It's in your lungs, it's on your breath. Absolutely, you can get a DUI. It will be in your blood system."