Absolut Tampax: The Problem With Alarmist Drug and Alcohol Stories

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Are women soaking their tampons in alcohol to get drunk? Yes, some of them. But that's not a trend, and we're asking the wrong questions.

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According to Stephen Colbert, being a parent is a "sublime and beautiful adventure, filled with unexpected joys and unimaginable terror." Undoubtedly, much of this is due to the behavior of children. If that weren't enough, most local news hours provide wall-to-wall coverage of the "unimaginable terror" which Colbert speaks of. Look no further than Phoenix KPHO, who stood steadfast to their self-appointed motto, "telling it like it is." Taking a catnap from more pressing immigration concerns, KPHO delivered a hard-hitting piece on the newest problem in Arizona high schools, alcohol soaked tampons.

In order to provide their audience with an objective, measured assessment of the situation, KPHO led with the "experts." As Valley High School security officer Chris Thomas explains in the broadcast, "This is not isolated to any school, any city, any financial area. This is everywhere." Similar to made-for-TV ads capable of shaking housewives out of ambien-induced comas by shouting, "Wait! That's not all," KPHO kept the shock coming -- its not just teenage girls getting in on the fun. Again, American crime-stopper Chris Thomas breaks the news, "this is definitely not just girls. Guys will also use it and insert them into their rectums." But wait! That's not all....

KPHO finishes strong, exposing the real danger on the horizon, the growing trend of "butt-chugging" amongst misguided youth. You heard that correct, "butt-chugging." Unfortunately, this is exactly as it sounds. Enthusiasts use a funnel/beer-bong and apply the tube directly to their anal cavity. After watching 10 minutes of actual "butt-chugging" clips, I find myself asking the same question you all are: Why? What's wrong with using your mouth?

Turns out folks, officer Thomas is a harbinger of truth. Alcohol tampons and butt-chugging are truly a global problem. Reports have surfaced over the last 13 years not just in the United States, but in Finland, Germany, and Columbia as well. The first known coverage of vodka tampons dates back to 1999, when the Oxford Journals first documented their use. That same year, Reuters documented the creativity of teenage Finnish girls, noting that several of them had been experimenting with "tampons dipped in vodka as a way of getting tipsy without parents detecting boozy breath." Here, we have our first inkling as to why underage drinkers might find this appealing: they think they can hide this form of drinking more readily. In addition, the use of alcohol tampons and "butt-chugging" both bypass the stomach, allowing users to feel the effects faster, without the worry of an upset stomach. For those watching their figure, this form of consumption also avoids many of the calories associated with alcohol consumption. Reports have also suggested that naïve teens may also believe this is good way to beat a Breathalyzer.

Now, let's unpack the mythology. Despite not consuming alcohol orally, those that use alcohol tampons or chug will not have booze-free breath. Alcohol is partially expelled through the body via the lungs. Once alcohol is in the blood, it will be partially removed from your system as you exhale. This is why breathalyzers work -- they measure blood alcohol content -- and why you won't beat the test. As for not getting sick, this appears to be accurate. However, this is not panacea for those looking to avoid the cons of heavy alcohol consumption. Because these practices circumvent the stomach, those with potential alcohol poisoning will not vomit, but simply pass out. Furthermore, this may present an unexpected problem for medical authorities: "If a person does pass out or lose consciousness, health care professionals won't necessarily know that they have to look in those areas and that may delay treatment," said Dr. Dan Quan of the Maricopa Medical Medical Center in Phoenix. Worse still, Quan lamented that teenager's cutting edge use of funnels and tampons may cause serious "mucosal irritation to the vagina and rectum."

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Michael Durfee is a contributing editor to Points, the blog of The Alcohol and Drugs History Society.

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