A dangerous trend among teens and young adults in Europe and the Middle East involves inhaling alcohol. The user obtains an immediate high from the inhalation of alcohol but completely avoids feeling hung over. AWOL takes alcohol in vapor form and mixes it with oxygen. The resulting substance is then inhaled via a special machine that is comprised of a diffuser and one or more delivery tubes.
Because the vaporized alcohol completely bypasses the digestive system and immediately enters the blood stream, it crosses the blood-brain barrier in record time; the user feels the effects of the alcohol almost immediately. Without being filtered by the liver as alcohol is when ingested, users need to inhale only a fraction of the amount of alcohol they would normally drink to become intoxicated. Although the makers of AWOL claim that inhaled alcohol does not contain calories, this idea has been refuted by the scientific community. Whether alcohol is digested after drinking or inhaled, ethanol is the form of alcohol involved, and it is estimated that one gram of ethanol contains approximately seven calories. No matter how it is introduced into the body, ethanol must be metabolized; calories are either burned as energy or stored as fat. It takes about 20 minutes to inhale approximately one shot of vaporized alcohol. Due to the increased concentration, venues that offer AWOL have implemented limits on how many shots can be consumed in any given period. Despite the manufacturer’s assurance that AWOL is safe, medical professionals are concerned that the practice of inhaling alcohol can be more addictive than drinking it, and that the practice will encourage binges. Furthermore, individuals experiencing alcohol poisoning will instinctually purge to avoid serious injury or death, yet no similar physical response can quickly expel vaporized alcohol or curb its effects.