About That Vodka Tampon "Craze"

Are vodka tampons and "butt chugging" real teenage trends?

Tampons of various sizes in a row
Alcohol delivery devices?. Altrendo Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

An apocalyptic warning issued by a Phoenix, Arizona TV station in 2011 urged parents to be on the lookout for a "risky" new trend among teenagers: inserting vodka-soaked tampons into bodily orifices to get drunk.

"There's been documented cases of people going to the hospital with alcohol poisoning," high school resource officer Chris Thomas was quoted as saying. "This is not isolated to any school, any city, any financial area. This is everywhere."

Nor is the "trend" restricted to the female gender, apparently. "Guys will also use it and they'll insert it into their rectums," Thomas claimed (in some quarters this is known as "butt chugging," a term more frequently applied to alcohol enemas).

He offered no details on the "documented cases" he claims to exist, but one example Thomas may have had in mind is a report published March 24, 2011, in the German newspaper Südkurier stating that a 14-year-old girl in Konstanz, Germany was hospitalized after collapsing while in a "highly intoxicated" state. Doctors determined that alcohol was present in her bloodstream but found no traces of it when they pumped her stomach. Her friends confessed they had all gotten drunk together by way of vodka-soaked tampons.

Vodka tampons "in vogue," supposedly

As in the KPHO piece, the Südkurier story characterizes the use of vodka tampons as something that is "in vogue," and "a very dangerous trend," even though only a single specific incident is cited. We've heard this kind of talk before.

In 2008, for example, an episode of the syndicated TV show The Doctors inveighed against "Disturbing Teenage Drug Trends" which included "anal beer bongs," "Strawberry Quick meth," and, naturally, "vodka-soaked tampons":

Alcohol enters the bloodstream faster through mainlining, which is what happens when the alcohol is absorbed directly in the vagina or anus. "It's just like injecting it," Dr. Ordon comments. "The effects are instantaneous and the potential consequences are devastating." Dr. Lisa adds that vodka soaked tampons will destroy the vagina's delicate balance and cause bacterial and yeast infections, as well as crack and burn the vaginal tissue.

But the granddaddy of all alcohol suppository stories, dating back more than a decade, is this Reuters report filed on March 3, 1999:

Thrill-Seeking Teens Dunk Tampons in Vodka
HELSINKI (Reuters) - Some teen-age Finnish girls are experimenting with tampons dipped in vodka as a way of getting tipsy without parents detecting boozy breath, an anti-drinking group said Tuesday.
The group's executive director said he had received reports of individual cases of girls in eastern Finland using alcohol-soaked tampons, hoping the alcohol would then enter their bloodstreams.

Skepticism is warranted

The upshot is that we've been hearing off and on for 16 years that "thrill-seeking teens" are flocking to insert vodka-soaked tampons in their private parts to get intoxicated. Given the persistent Internet chatter about it, it seems reasonable to assume that a few have actually tried it at one time or another. But is this phenomenon in any sense an actual trend? Has it caught on to the point that teenagers everywhere are actually doing it?

Probably not.

One good reason for being skeptical is the utter lack of real data. Apart from a very few anecdotal reports amid sweeping claims of its alleged ubiquity, we simply have no idea how many teens have actually engaged in this practice, or how often.

We also have cause to doubt by virtue of a couple of experiments done by empirically-minded bloggers in 2011. The first, by Betsy Phillips of Tiny Cat Pants, consisted of dunking a variety of tampons in whiskey to ascertain the feasibility of inserting them pre-soaked, with and without applicators, into actual bodily orifices. The results weren't encouraging. Cardboard applicators simply fell apart during soaking. Tampons immersed while still inside plastic applicators expanded to such a degree that they got stuck and couldn't be ejected. Tampons removed from their applicators before soaking absorbed plenty of alcohol but became fat, soggy, and limp — "more proof those aren't going in any orifice in a fun way," Phillips observed.

But the prize for Selfless Dedication to Debunkery goes to Huffington Post managing editor Danielle Crittenden, who not only soaked tampons in alcohol to observe what happened, but — with no applicator at all, mind you — inserted one "where it was supposed to go" to see what would happen.

Herewith, an excerpt from Crittenden's report:

It felt like someone had thrown a lit match in there. I began hopping around and breathing in the rapid, short puffs I'd learned in birth classes, so long ago, before I realized I didn't need to breathe like that if I took the epidural....
The burning didn't let up. How long was I supposed to leave it there?!
I waited. And waited. If this was supposed to get me in the mood, it wasn't working. It did get me lying down though, because both standing and sitting proved to be excruciating.

Her conclusion:

[I]f there is any smidgen of effect, it's notional, and probably only psychological. Overall, vodka-in-a-tampon seems a very inefficient, not to mention unpleasant, way to get drunk. I suppose the positive is that there is no danger of a second round. And I can't even imagine trying to do this at a party. You'd be walking around all night looking like you'd wet your pants, with a pleading expression on your face that said: Does anyone have a fire hose?

So, boys and girls, if you're among the alleged many who have actually partaken in this "trend," it appears the joke was on you; if not, forewarned is forearmed. Cocktails are meant to be sipped, not inserted.

Sources and further reading:

Butt Chugging Leads to Severe Alcohol Poisoning
Huffington Post, 25 September 2012

Teens Using Vodka Tampons to Get Drunk
KPHO-TV News, 7 November 2011

Der Kick mit dem Wodka-Tampon
Südkurier, 24 March 2011

In Which I Debunk the Vodka-Soaked Tampon Myth
Tiny Cat Pants blog, 11 November 2011

Bartender, a Dirty Martini with a Tampon!
Huffington Post, 21 November 2011

Alleged Teen Craze: Vodka-Soaked Tampons
Urban Legends blog, 8 December 2008