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09-12 ‘Butt chugging’ is a rare – but dangerous – trend

Posted in Substance Abuse, Teens

'Butt chugging' is a rare – but dangerous – trend

“Butt chugging” is the slang term for ingesting alcohol via the anus. Generally, it’s done via an enema or a funnel. There’s also a related activity involving alcohol-soaked tampons called “slimming.” Interestingly, it might not even be a particularly new phenomenon.

If you’re still reading, you’re probably wondering why anyone would do this. Well, the main reason is using alcohol this way can get a person drunk far more quickly than the traditional method can.

It’s also quite dangerous.

Gross and risky

When drunk normally, alcohol enters the stomach first. The stomach and liver contain an enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase, that breaks down ethanol and makes it less toxic. Also, stomach acid and lining slow alcohol’s absorption into the bloodstream.

But when alcohol is introduced to the lower gastrointestinal tract, the alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream at far greater speed. Also, users avoid certain tell-tale signs of drinking like having alcohol on their breath. Alcohol taken this way still shows up on a breathalyzer, though.

Without that digestive barrier, it’s very easy to go from “drunk” to “poisoned.” People who get seriously drunk by absorbing alcohol via their lower GI tract won’t vomit the booze back up – they’ll just pass out, possibly complicating medical treatment.

Consider the story of a member of Pi Kappa Alpha at the University of Tennessee (UT). In 2012, UT made national news when the student was taken to the hospital for severe alcohol poisoning allegedly after receiving an enema consisting of a boxful of cheap wine.

It’s important to understand that this activity seems mercifully rare, occurring more as a stupid stunt rather than as a signifier of serious alcohol abuse. “This is extraordinarily dangerous, but people shouldn’t get the impression that it’s a widespread phenomenon,” said Aaron White, Ph.D., of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, to CNN at the time of the UT story.

Recently, though, a more serious variation of the story has cropped up on various social media feeds and news aggregators. According to the story, which appeared last year on addiction and recovery website, some teens are allegedly butt chugging cough syrup.

Cough syrup abuse

Now, there’s absolutely no serious proof that this is a common activity – the story was apparently sparked by pictures posted on Twitter and nothing more. However, abuse of both prescription and over-the-counter cough medication is both common and a serious health concern.

Many cough syrups contain dextromethorphan (DXM) as their active ingredient. DXM is a safe cough suppressant, but when abused in large amounts – “skittling” or “robo-tripping” in slang terms –  DXM can have mind-altering effects on users. Also, because most medications containing DXM also contain acetaminophen, long-term users can experience liver damage. Additionally, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports large doses of DXM can cause brain damage due to slowed breathing. DXM medications come in syrup, pill and gel capsule forms.

Prescription cough syrups containing a mix of promethazine and codeine are also commonly abused. Famously known as “sizzurp” or “purple drank,” users abuse these medications by mixing them with soft drinks and sipping the narcotic cocktail. Codeine is an addictive opioid narcotic. Like other opioids, codeine can dangerously slow the body’s rate of breathing, leading to death after large doses.

Whether due to wanting to experience something new or just sheer boredom, it’s easy for a teen to fall into the trap of substance abuse. Sovereign Health’s Rancho San Diego facility offers adolescents aged between 12 and 17 a residential environment in which to heal and reach their full potential. Our staff of compassionate experts uses effective, research-backed treatment modalities to give your teen the best chance at a lasting recovery. For more information, please contact our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for Sovereign Health. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at

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