In early November, a local television station in Phoenix reported that a school resource officer heard teens talking about how they used vodka-soaked tampons to get drunk. This report re-ignited a rumor that’s been reported by the media since the 1990s, that young women and sometimes young men use tampons to ingest alcohol.
While unsubstantiated accounts have been circulating for years, the question remains, is this “everywhere” as the school officer said, or is it only an urban myth?
The why behind alcohol-soaked tampons
You have to wonder why anyone would want to combine alcohol and tampons. But then you might remember the not-so-smart things you tried as a teen. And also, there are three generally-mentioned reasons why teens try it out:
- So that alcohol cannot be smelled on the breath. In reality, alcohol is partially eliminated from the body through the lungs, when alcohol is in the blood, so it will always be present in expired air.
- To get drunk quicker. This would be true since the substance immediately enters the circulation by fast absorption without passing through the stomach and being diluted with gastric fluids, according to physicians.
- To prevent someone from throwing up from too much alcohol. This might work, but it’s much easier to get alcohol poisoning, which can lead to death.
Getting drunk without being obvious is another reason someone might try it. And then sometimes, there really is no why. You just do it.
But just doing it brings enormous risks, say medical experts. Anyone thinking about trying it should consider the damage it might cause. Dr. Lisa Masterson, co-host of "The Doctors," says this method will "literally destroy the vagina," and the website Teen Alcohol Abuse refers to a number of serious health problems that could be caused by the practice.
Are teens really doing this?
Snopes.com lists the truth status of this tale as "undetermined." When asked, a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control said the CDC did not have any information about this topic.
Then again, the CDC hasn't talked to 21-year-old Alden, a college student in Georgia who told JJIE he has used an alcohol-soaked tampon twice in the last few years.
"I was at this party when I was 17," he said. "We were all telling stories and one of my friends said something about tampons soaked in vodka."
Alden, who declined to give his last name, said he immediately got a tampon from a girl at the party, soaked it in Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum and inserted it into his anus.
"It burned a little," said Alden, "but other than that, it didn't cause any pain."
He said he gave it a try again a couple of years later, but he said he couldn't say if the intoxicating effects were stronger or not because he continued to drink after the exercise with the tampons.
Asked whether he felt the practice was widespread or limited to a scattered few, he said, "well I can say that I'm not the only one. Not long after the first time I did it, another guy I know did it."
Twenty-three-year-old Kate Stone of SqueamishBikini.com who lives in the U.K. said over email, “Like most teen crazes, I heard about it in the press first. Even when I was a teen, I never knew about all these crazy things we were apparently getting up to until the news told me so.”
She said she has not done it before but some of her friends from small towns know people who had done it as teens.
“I think when stories like this come around people like to call it a trend and fret over it, instead of seeing it for what it usually is, either a very localized group of friends who experimented or an urban myth,” she said.
Generally teens aren't shy about talking about drug us on such sties as Facebook and Twitter. Indeed, after the news articles and blog posts began to pop up and Stephen Colbert mentioned it on his late night TV show, teens’ reaction on social media seemed to serve as an occasion to make jokes about it. But some have also reacted with shock.
For the most part, however, social media has been pretty quiet on the issue. Only a few examples of people talking about the practice can be found. A YouTube video posted by a user in the United Kingdom on July 2011 shows what looks like a party where several teens appear to test out the alcohol tampon idea (though one cannot be sure as the actual attempt is not shown). Also, a Facebook topic has a comment left over a year ago by a young woman in Canada who says she tried it.
Media reports of alcohol-soaked tampon
The practice is called slimming in the United States, where the trend started, according to a German newspaper report in March of this year. The story mentions an account of a girl who collapsed during a street festival, supposedly intoxicated from a vodka-soaked tampon. The paper also said that youth researchers have since found this form of alcohol abuse to be trendy in the region. Media in other countries have talked about it too, especially in Columbia and in other parts of Europe.
Despite these mentions, no outlet seems to offer any accounts from people who say they have tried it, or who know someone who has.
JJIE Stock Photo: Clay Duda/JJIE Staff.