From Vodka Tampons To Beer Bong Enemas: Non-Traditional Alcohol Use Among College Students

The other day, I overheard a couple of college-age guys talking about what they thought was an ingenious method for never failing a breathalyzer test again when stopped by police on suspicion of drunk driving: ingesting alcohol anally instead of orally—specifically, by inserting vodka-soaked tampons into their rear ends (actually, one guy suggested vodka, but the other guy said he’d prefer a tequila tampon. I suspect your anus wouldn’t know the difference, though). That way, according to their logic, you won’t smell like booze or breathe it out. Upon hearing this, my first thought was that the best way to avoid failing a breathalyzer test is simply to not drink and drive in the first place and maybe download the app for Uber or Lyft instead. My second thought was one of concern because these guys actually sounded serious about trying it. So, does anyone actually do this? And what kind of effects would this have on the body?

If you do an internet search for “vodka-soaked tampons” (or “Tampax on the rocks,” as I like to call it) you’ll get a bunch of hits. Some will be news stories saying that it’s all the rage these days among college men and women, with the ladies putting boozy tampons up their vaginas and the guys putting them up their rectums. Supposedly, others are giving themselves beer or wine enemas instead (a practice known colloquially as “butt-chugging”). However, you’ll also come across stories saying that all of this is largely the stuff of urban legends (for instance, there’s a story on Snopes claiming that vodka-soaked tampon use is nothing more than a rumor). So what’s the truth?

Some college students are indeed using these non-traditional methods of alcohol consumption, but it’s pretty rare. It’s certainly not the “hot trend” that many in the media have claimed, but it’s not a myth either. For instance, consider a 2014 survey of 2,349 U.S. college students [1]. Just 1.1% (26 students) admitted to any type of non-traditional alcohol use. Most commonly, this involved anal administration or the use of an alcohol nebulizer (which turns alcohol into an inhalable mist). Three students reported vaginal administration and, disturbingly, one student admitted to “eyeballing” (i.e., putting alcohol directly into the eye, usually via an eye dropper—needless to say, don’t try this one at home, or anywhere else for that matter).

To put this in perspective, consider that more students in this study reported using methamphetamine (1.9%) or heroin (1.3%) than all forms of non-traditional alcohol use combined—so we’re talking about a pretty rare phenomenon here. Likewise, the majority of students (56.5%) reported binge drinking in the last month, which tells us that most students are still getting drunk the old fashioned way. In light of these results, vaginal and anal alcohol use can hardly be considered an epidemic and this probably isn’t an area where we need to start funneling a lot of money and resources for prevention, unless we start to see a dramatic uptick in this behavior.

With that said, let’s consider the effects of consuming alcohol through your nether regions. For one thing, it will lead to faster and more intense intoxication because the alcohol can enter the bloodstream directly. For some users, this is the primary appeal. However, given that it is absorbed so quickly, it would be easy to ingest too much and wind up with alcohol poisoning. Once it’s in the bloodstream like that, you can’t really do much about it short of seeking medical attention. And unlike traditional drinking, you can't vomit to get excess alcohol out of your body.

Another downside: you risk causing irritation inside the vagina or anus. In addition to being physically uncomfortable, this could potentially increase the risk of contracting STIs if you engage in sexual intercourse afterward.

Oh, and non-traditional alcohol consumption won’t really help you pass a breathalyzer test either, despite what you might have heard otherwise. Breathalyzers work by estimating the amount of alcohol in the blood (that’s why the reading it provides is your “blood alcohol content” or BAC). If you have alcohol in your blood (whether it is from drinking, tamponing, or eyeballing some booze), you will necessarily be breathing some of it out and it will show up on a breathalyzer test.

So there you have it--booze-infused tampons and butt-chugging are indeed real things that at least some college students are doing; however, there appear to be a lot of misconceptions about this kind of alcohol consumption. Fortunately, it is quite rare, and I think we can all agree that’s a good thing.

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[1] Stogner, J. M., Baldwin, J. M., Eassey, J. M., & Miller, B. L. (2014). Promoting pragmatism over panic: The case of alcohol inhalation and other nontraditional forms of alcohol use. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 75(4), 719-720.

Image Source: iStockphoto

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