I'm always fascinated with the crazy new ways younger people keep coming up with to abuse drugs. Today I ran across an article describing a new technique for abusing alcohol.. smoking alcohol.
According to the abusers, when liquor is poured over dry ice, the vapor produced from that reaction is said to contain alcohol. So, instead of drinking the liquor in order to catch a buzz, the vapor is inhaled instead. It's being said that it's gives a "smoker" a quicker buzz because it is directly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs, bypassing oral absorption and the first-pass effect.
And because the vapor is inhaled, and the liquor is not drunk, it's also been said that it's a calorie-free way to get drunk. One can supposedly abuse alcohol without weight gain. Here's a video report of it -
Notice that I said "supposedly" because I'm not sure that I buy into this purported chemical reaction. I don't see how anyone could "smoke" alcohol this way. Let me explain my reasoning, and please feel free to correct me if I'm missing something. And no, I'm not drinking while I type this.
The alcohol contained in liquor, ethanol, is hygroscopic and very miscible with water. While hydrated ethanol (<200 proof liquor) may be somewhat volatile over time depending upon temperature, getting it to break it's bond with water quickly and to vaporize requires the addition of heat and flame.
You see chef's use this technique (flambé) all of the time when they cook and flavor their dishes with certain liquors. They add the liquor to the dish during cooking to "burn off" most the ethanol content, while leaving the liquor flavor in the pan.
Dry ice is frozen CO2 (carbon dioxide). It is MUCH colder than the usual "water" ice. When water, ethanol, or liquor is added to dry ice, the dry ice "sublimates" (changes directly from a solid into a gas) much quicker, producing that cool cloud of smoke everyone is familiar with (vapor).
Now, here's where I don't understand the supposed chemical reaction. The way I see it, there is no "liquid" dry ice for the ethanol to mix with and be released. And the dry ice is so cold that it would also seem to reduce the ethanol's volatility, thereby keeping it hydrated instead of releasing it into a vapor. Then how does the alcohol vaporize? I don't think it does. I think it remains in solution.
So, while it may "look" like someone is "smoking" alcohol because of the sublimation of the dry ice, what they're really doing is just inhaling the carbon dioxide vapor. I'd bet there isn't any alcohol at all (or very minimally) contained in that vapor.
Personally, I would be very skeptical about "smoking" alcohol as being an effective or dangerous way to abuse alcohol. However, I do see it as a dangerous way to abuse carbon dioxide. Inhaling carbon dioxide is not safe, and can lead to hypercapnia. So, it should be avoided simply for that reason.