View All Articles

Reaching new (and more dangerous) heights: Alcohol trends among teens

February 17, 2014

Underage drinking has been a prevalent issue among teens for years, resulting in many research studies and attention from the media in an effort to put a stop to this risky behavior. A few years back, health officials and parents alike were most concerned with how much alcohol teens were consuming on a regular basis. Fast-forward to today, and alcohol consumption among teens has been taken to a whole new level. Not only do we need to be concerned with how much teens are drinking, but also the way teens are getting drunk.

That’s right. New era, new trends. And parents, let me warn you; some of these trends are shocking. As difficult as it may be to wrap your head around, these trends are real. And they are happening all around your teen, and within his or her school.

“Smoking” Alcohol

Smoking… alcohol? What? This trend is characterized by vaporizing alcohol with air pumps or pouring it over dry ice and inhaling the fumes. And apparently it’s a pretty easy trend to pick up on, given there are numerous tutorials on YouTube showing how to vaporize alcohol with common household items. Some even entice minors by claiming that they can hide consumption of liquors from parents and the police, since the breath is not laced with the stench of alcohol!

What’s most alarming is that many teens associate this trend with fewer calories, since they are not “consuming” the alcohol. But contrary to what some may think, this method does not reduce caloric intake. It does however greatly increase one’s risk of alcohol poisoning, and even death.

Is smoking alcohol more dangerous than consuming it? Absolutely. When an individual inhales alcohol vapor, it bypasses the stomach and liver (the body’s normal way of processing alcohol), and goes straight into the lungs and brain, and ultimately, the bloodstream. Usually, when one drinks too much, he will vomit – the body’s natural response to the inability to process alcohol at that point. When this process is bypassed, there is no warning sign which leads to rapid intoxication, resulting in a much higher risk of overdose, or “alcohol poisoning.

Drunken Tampons

Yes, you read that correctly. Girls are soaking tampons in vodka to use before school or during parties. Yet another way to bypass the act of drinking alcohol, producing a quicker “buzzed” state as the alcohol is absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

This new way of experimenting with alcohol can have several implications and can cause lifelong health problems. First, there is a risk for severe chemical burn, and secondly, this behavior can predispose one to vaginal infections and rectal scarring. And if that isn’t enough cause for concern, there’s probably drinking going on at the same time. Cue the emergency signal!

Caffeine + Alcohol = potential recipe for death

While this trend is nothing new, it’s still important to talk about it. Let me describe to you what goes through a young person’s mind as they “pre-game” for a big night out: “Alcohol makes me sleepy (or I could use a little pick-me-up), so if I have an energy drink, I’ll be able to stay up all night!” It’s a win-win, right? WRONG.

Caffeine is a stimulant, and alcohol is a suppressant – combine the two together and it makes a potential deadly potion. How? Caffeine causes an individual to be less aware of how drunk they actually are, which increases their chances of making poor, alcohol-induced choices. According to NPR, when individuals combine alcohol with caffeine, they are four times more likely to want to drive home. The scary part is – roughly half of teens who consume energy drinks admitted to combining them with alcohol while partying, according to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. That’s a lot of teens mixing energy drinks with alcohol that are convincing themselves they are sober enough to drive home.

The Takeaway

You may not have wanted to know about these trends. But, it’s important for parents to educate themselves and stay current on what’s happening in a young person’s world so that they can talk with their teens about the dangers and risks involved in the choices they are making. Even if you think there’s no way your child could be involved in such behaviors, chances are, they’ve at least heard about them. I encourage you to communicate openly with your kids so that they know they can trust you and come to you with any concerns or questions they might have.