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  • Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. People who abuse the drug face serious health risks, including liver disease, alcohol use disorder (also called alcohol addiction), and alcohol poisoning. 

    If you or someone you love feels unable to stop abusing alcohol, treatment is available. 

    How Is Alcohol Abused?

    People abuse alcohol in numerous ways. The most popular way is excessive drinking. 

    According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), excessive drinking includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by people who are pregnant or under 21.

    Binge Drinking

    The NIAAA defines binge drinking as:

    • a woman having 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours 
    • a man having 5 or more drinks in about 2 hours 

    Heavy Drinking

    The NIAAA defines heavy drinking as:

    • a woman having more than 3 drinks in one day or more than 7 drinks per week
    • a man having more than 4 drinks in one day or more than 14 drinks per week

    A standard “drink” contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in 12 ounces of beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.

    Other Forms Of Alcohol Abuse

    Along with excessive drinking, other forms of alcohol abuse include:

    Mixing Alcohol With Other Substances

    Some people combine alcohol with other substances for a more intense or unique “high.” Popular combinations include:

    • alcohol and weed, which can cause poor judgment, memory problems, and paranoia
    • alcohol and cocaine, which can cause liver damage, seizures, and heart attack
    • alcohol and meth, which can cause high blood pressure, heart damage, and aggression
    • alcohol and prescription stimulants (such as Adderall and Ritalin), which can cause high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and heart attack
    • alcohol and opioids (such as oxycodone and fentanyl), which can cause changes in blood pressure, irregular heart rate, and respiratory failure
    • alcohol and hallucinogens (such as LSD and ecstasy), which can cause nausea, vomiting, panic attacks, and seizures
    • alcohol and ibuprofen, which can cause extreme drowsiness, stomach ulcers, and kidney problems

    Mixing alcohol with other substances increases your risk of alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal when left untreated. Symptoms include confusion, vomiting, pale or bluish skin, and loss of consciousness. 

    Drinking Household Items That Contain Alcohol

    When they can’t access regular alcohol, some people drink items that contain alcohol, such as:

    • rubbing alcohol
    • cooking wine and other types of cooking alcohol
    • hand sanitizer
    • mouthwash
    • nail polish remover
    • cough syrup

    When misused, these products pose a high risk of alcohol poisoning. That’s because they typically contain alcohol that’s more potent than alcohol made for drinking. 

    Smoking, Vaping, & Snorting Alcohol

    To avoid the taste or calories of alcohol, some people consume the drug without drinking it. 

    For example, they might smoke alcohol by heating it, pouring it over dry ice, and inhaling the vapors. 

    Others smoke or vape the drug using asthma inhalers, homemade vaporizers, or AWOL (Alcohol Without Liquid) devices. AWOL devices can also be used to snort alcohol. Some people also snort liquid or powdered alcohol (sometimes called “palcohol”) through a straw.

    Injecting Or Boofing Alcohol

    Other people inject alcohol into their veins. Some even insert the drug into the anus or vagina using a funnel, alcohol enema, or alcohol-soaked tampon. This practice is sometimes called “boofing alcohol.”

    All of these methods of alcohol consumption cause rapid intoxication, which increases your risk of alcohol poisoning.

    Alcohol Abuse Facts

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 1 in 3 adults is an excessive drinker. You face an increased risk of excessive drinking and other forms of alcohol abuse if you have a family history of alcohol addiction. 

    The CDC also found that alcohol abuse causes 95,000 deaths in the United States every year. That’s because alcohol abuse has been linked to health problems such as:

    • alcohol poisoning
    • alcohol use disorder (also called alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence), a disease that makes you feel unable to stop drinking alcohol
    • heart disease
    • high blood pressure
    • stroke
    • liver diseases, including hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis 
    • cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, colon, rectum, liver, and breast
    • weakened immune system
    • mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety
    • sexually transmitted diseases from having unprotected sex while you’re intoxicated
    • injuries from car crashes, falls, drownings, burns, and assaults that occur while you’re intoxicated

    In addition, pregnant women who abuse alcohol face a higher risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth. Similarly, their babies face a higher risk of fetal alcohol syndrome and sudden infant death syndrome. 

    Alcohol Abuse Treatment Options

    If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol abuse, seek help at a substance abuse treatment program. Alcohol rehab programs offer recovery-focused services such as:

    • medical detox, where behavioral healthcare professionals can help you safely stop using alcohol with minimal withdrawal symptoms  
    • mental health counseling, where you can learn coping skills to help you maintain recovery
    • family therapy, where you and your family members can learn how to resolve conflicts and support your recovery
    • medication-assisted treatment, where you’ll be prescribed medications to ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms and cravings
    • support groups, where you can connect with other people recovering from drug abuse

    To learn more about treatment options for alcohol abuse, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist today.

    Alcohol Abuse FAQs

    Can You Drink Cooking Alcohol?

    A person can drink cooking alcohol, just as they can any other alcoholic beverage. 

    However, since cooking alcohol can be added to meals, a person may not realize just how much alcohol they’re consuming, especially if they drink the cooking wine while preparing a meal that uses alcohol as an ingredient.

    Learn more about Abusing Cooking Alcohol

    Can You Really Smoke Alcohol?

    By heating alcohol, pressurizing it, or pouring it over dry ice it is possible to convert alcohol into a vapor or mist, which can be inhaled or “smoked” to cause intoxication. 

    However, this method of alcohol consumption greatly increases the potency of a dose, along with the risk of harmful or fatal alcohol poisoning.

    Can You Vape Alcohol?

    With the help of relatively new vaporizers similar to e-cigarettes, you can vape alcohol. Alcohol vaporizers are too new to have their effects studied in-depth, but may come with a host of risks to your health including lung problems and an increased risk of overdose.

    Learn more about Vaping Alcohol

    Is It Safe To Mix Different Types Of Alcohol?

    It is most likely safe to mix different types of alcohol if you are not drinking large amounts. 

    Mixing different types of alcohol can become unsafe if you cannot control your alcohol use, or if you lose track of how much alcohol you drink. It may also increase your chances of a next-day hangover.

    Learn more about Mixing Different Types Of Alcohol

    How Does Boofing Alcohol Work?

    Boofing, butt-chugging, or plugging alcohol involves pouring drinking alcohol into the rectum using a funnel or inserting an alcohol-soaked tampon.

    This method of ingestion bypasses the digestive system, rapidly delivering the full dose into the bloodstream without being first processed by the stomach or intestines, increasing the risk of alcohol poisoning.

    Learn more about Boofing Alcohol

    Can You Inject Alcohol?

    Alcohol should never be injected into any part of the body. It can cause major side effects and lead someone to pass out and die almost instantly.

    Learn more about Alcohol Injection

    Is It Safe To Mix Ibuprofen & Alcohol?

    Mixing a dose of ibuprofen with one alcoholic drink probably isn’t harmful. But taking ibuprofen regularly, in high doses, or combining it with heavy drinking can cause peptic ulcers and bleeding in the stomach, among other health problems. 

    Learn more about Mixing Ibuprofen & Alcohol

    Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol While Breastfeeding?

    Alcohol that transfers into breast milk can negatively affect your nursing baby. While breastfeeding, not drinking any amount of alcohol is the safest practice for protecting your baby. 

    However, if you have an occasional drink while breastfeeding, it is unlikely to affect your breastfed baby. 

    Learn more about Alcohol Abuse & Breastfeeding

    How Many Drinks A Day Is Considered Alcohol Abuse?

    It really depends on if you’re a man or a woman, but anything more than two drinks a day could be considered alcohol abuse. It also depends on where your alcohol consumption falls within the guidelines for moderate drinking, binge drinking, and heavy drinking. 

    To learn more, read How Many Drinks A Day Is Considered Alcohol Abuse?

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Most people who drink excessively are not alcohol dependent
    Harvard Health Publishing - Alcohol Abuse
    National Library of Medicine - Cocaethylene toxicity
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Alcohol Facts and Statistics
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Drinking Levels Defined

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on July 16, 2021
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