Some Morons Ruin Eyes Because Chugging Vodka Isn't Fast Enough!

By Potter · May 16, 2010 · Updated May 16, 2010 · ·
  1. Potter
    'Drinking' neat vodka through your EYE for a quick buzz? It sounds insane, but countless young people are risking their sight in this new craze

    Even as drunken student antics go, it was, by any stretch of the imagination, a disturbing scene. Surrounded by cheering rugby players, applauded by fellow members of the university netball team, 19-year-old Melissa Fontaine tipped back her head and giggled as fellow drinkers in the Students' Union bar pulled apart her eyelids and allowed them to pour a shot of vodka into her left eye.

    'Vodka eyeballing', as it is known in student circles, is the latest drinking craze to sweep through Britain's universities.

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    Those who do it claim that it induces feelings of drunkenness at break-neck speeds, providing an instant high.

    Reckless: A website clip of the 'vodka eyeballing' craze that started in the U.S. and has now spread to the university party scene in Britain

    But the devastating long-term damage it causes is becoming a major concern among doctors and university authorities who already worry that Britain's student drinking culture is out of control.

    Melissa, who left university last summer and is now 22, believes they are right to be worried. Her constantly watering left eye has been left permanently scarred by her antics. More worryingly still, she has been warned that her eyesight may deteriorate further as she gets older.

    'I'm in constant pain because of what I did,' she says. 'And I'm terrified that it will get worse. I wish I could turn the clock back and change things. But I can't.'

    It would be easy, of course, to dismiss Melissa as nothing more than a silly 'ladette'. But it is hard to reconcile that stereotype with the young woman she is today, fresh out of university in London with a first-class English degree, the privately-educated daughter of financiers, and an aspiring writer.

    In short she is not the kind of young woman who might naturally be associated with Britain's spiralling binge-drinking youth culture.

    The question is then, why would an intelligent, seemingly sensible woman do something so foolhardy and so grotesque as 'vodka eyeballing'. And what can be learnt from her story?

    It is a question she wrestles with every day.

    'I know people will say that their son or daughter wouldn't do anything so stupid, but really I don't think parents have any idea what goes on at university and what pressures their children will come under to do stupid things,' says Melissa, who shares a flat with friends in South London.

    'The student drinking culture has got completely out of hand and I know because I saw it. I regarded myself as a normal, sensible teenager, but I got pulled into it myself.'

    She hasn't yet told her parents about her eye. 'I've put off telling them about it before now because I didn't want to worry them,' she says simply, but it's not hard to imagine how distressed they will be. Leaving home for the first time and going to university plunged Melissa into a world of almost unchecked social high-jinks.

    'Being at university is like being in a bubble,' she claims. 'You live for the moment. It's very carefree. You want to try new things and don't think about what will happen afterwards.'

    Looking back, she can see how she put common sense to one side as she tried to fit in with the other students.

    The social environment at university was, she says, 'bawdy and competitive'. For those who did sports, it was even more so.

    When she joined the netball team, she had no idea that her drinking skills off the court would be as scrutinised as her agility on it. Overnight, she found herself swiftly drawn into the university drinking culture.

    'I'm in constant pain because of what I did'

    'It's especially difficult if you do sports because the element of competition you see in your game is transferred to the bar,' she says. 'I felt very pressured at the beginning. When we were travelling back from a game on the coach, there was a tradition whereby you had to down lots of port.'

    The weekly 'Athletics Union' nights held in the Students' Union bar were even more depraved.

    'The rugby players were the worst,' she says. 'But because of feminism, you're expected, as a woman, to keep up with them. The guys set a precedent and you have to follow. That's what drives the whole ladette culture. Women believing they have to be equal in every single way.'

    What made matters worse for Melissa was that, by her own admission, she has always been highly competitive. It is a trait that in other areas of her life, her schooling, exams, has served her well.

    Under the influence of alcohol, it was disastrous. Challenged to undergo a 'vodka eyeball', she was determined to impress her friends.

    'Vodka eyeballing' is believed to have emerged as a dangerous trend in the U.S., where it is a popular nightclub trick performed by waitresses for tips in resorts such as Las Vegas.

    Insane: A barmaid in America 'drinks' vodka through her eyeball for extra tips

    Critics have also blamed the 2000 film Kevin And Perry Go Large, starring Harry Enfield as 'Kevin the Teenager', for encouraging the practice. In the film, actor Rhys Ifans plays a character called DJ Eyeball Paul, who performs the stunt in nightclubs.

    While medical experts say it is still a relatively new phenomenon, a quick glance at the internet reveals how rife it has become among young drinkers in Britain.

    The website YouTube, for example, features more than 800 clips of young men and women pouring vodka into their eyes - usually in their own homes. And these are just the ones stupid enough to film themselves and post their clips online.

    Another woman I spoke to this week recalled seeing her former boss, a senior figure at a well-known advertising agency, 'drinking' vodka through his eye at an advertising party.

    There are also pages on Facebook and other social networking sites set up by 'fans' of 'eyeballing', in which people seem to revel in the dramatic inebriation which seems to follow this dangerous practice.

    In Scotland, concerns have been expressed by charities and campaign groups over a similar stunt using the highly alcoholic cinnamon-flavoured schnapps Aftershock instead of vodka.

    Certainly, in recent years, ' eyeballing' has become a regular feature in university bars which are often run by students themselves and therefore difficult to police.

    Peer pressure: Even respected, intelligent students from normal, sensible backgrounds are vodka eyeballing

    Melissa was partly reassured by the fact that many of her peers were doing it.

    'I saw people I respected, intelligent students from normal, sensible backgrounds like me, behaving like this. I know it sounds stupid, but it made you feel it was OK. You felt that if other people were doing it with no serious side-effects, then somehow you were all right.

    'I felt very buoyed up by everyone else. Your inhibitions have gone. It was exciting to push yourself.
    'It's almost a test of endurance in front of your peers'

    'People will wonder why you'd do something so unpleasant to yourself, but it's almost a masochistic thing, a test of your endurance in front of your peers.' Not surprisingly, the pain was excruciating.

    'It did sting. It was really painful. But bearing the pain is part of the competitiveness .'

    Devotees claim that 'vodka eyeballing' induces drunkenness faster than drinking it can, because it passes easily through the mucous membrane and enters the bloodstream directly through veins at the back of the eye, although some experts are sceptical about the claims and believe that since those who do it are usually already drunk, they simply convince themselves that it's having such an effect.

    Professor Robin Touquet, consultant in emergency medicine at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, says: 'At 40 per cent pure ethanol, vodka in the eye would create inflammation and thrombosis - clotting of the blood vessels - such that very little alcohol would be absorbed. Unlike the stomach, the eye does not have a gastro-intestinal lining to protect it and aid absorption.

    'I am absolutely horrified that someone would even think of putting vodka in their eye. It's self-abuse.

    'In the past, vodka has been used as a disinfectant. At 40 per cent proof, imagine what it can do to an area as sensitive as the eye? It is highly toxic.

    'Poured into the eye over a period of time, it could cause serious damage to both the cornea and the sclera, the white of the eye.'
    Masochistic test: The dangerous practice is very painful, but young people often bear it as part of the competitiveness

    Masochistic test: The dangerous practice is very painful, but young people often bear it as part of the competitiveness

    Irreversible damage: Doctors say the vodka is so corrosive that it literally sears its way through the cornea of the eye

    Not surprisingly then, the following morning after her first 'vodka eyeball', Melissa's eye was severely bloodshot and sore.

    'The pain went on for a long time, but I thought it was partly due to my hangover.' Nevertheless, she underwent the process again and again. In the weeks that followed, it became her party trick.

    'I was very competitive,' she admits. 'Some people might do it once or twice - I did it quite a lot. I don't think I did more than three shots in a night, but I've got so much alcohol-related amnesia that I have completely blank periods of memory.'

    On one level, of course, it is hard to comprehend how an intelligent young woman could be so irresponsible. But what is clear too is that Melissa's story is by no means unique.

    'Vodka eyeballing was quite mainstream really,' she says. 'It went on all the time. Men and women were doing it. It was mostly the men, but the more competitive girls were trying to keep up with them. There was a sense that it was harmless fun. And although it was going on in the students' union bar, it was mostly run by students.'

    It took only a month for Melissa to realise that she had damaged her eye. 'It got more and more sore and bloodshot,' she says. 'It was as if I had conjunctivitis all the time. It was sore and weepy, very sensitive. I was really frightened.'

    Not surprisingly, her doctor was stunned when she went to see him. Melissa, who previously had perfect eyesight, was referred to an ophthalmologist, who told her that she had permanent scarring on the cornea of her left eye.

    'She'd heard about vodka eyeballing going on in America, but she'd never seen a case in Britain,' says Melissa.

    'She said vodka was so corrosive that it had literally seared its way through the cornea. But there was nothing she could do. You can't repair the cornea. I've been told it could lead to complications and can cause blindness, which is terrifying.

    'At the moment, my vision is blurred in that eye, but that's because it's watering all the time. It's really sore and weepy. I've got used to the pain now. I just have to bear it. I don't think people can tell looking at me, but it is more bloodshot than the other one. It's never a clear white colour. It's hard to wear eye make-up because if anything goes in it, it's really painful and starts watering.'

    Alarmingly, some of her friends have also suffered after-effects.

    'I've told them to seek medical help, but they're too scared,' she says. Melissa is speaking out now because she wants to warn other students of the dangers and the pressures of the university drinking culture.

    'The damage I've done to my eye is irrevocable. It's like someone damaging their liver. I really do want to get the message across,' she says.

    She still drinks alcohol although never vodka, but keeps within the recommended NHS limits.

    'I can't bear not feeling in control now,' she says. 'I hate the fact that there are nights out, periods of time that I simply can't remember.'

    But there are also things that she can't forget.

    And while most people are able to put their youthful misdemeanours behind them, Melissa is reminded of hers every day, with every blink of her eye.

    By Barbara Davies
    Last updated at 2:20 AM on 15th May 2010

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  1. TheUnicorn
    This is definitely not a good idea. My unicorn tried a tiny bit of vodka like this once when he was extremely battered. Its pretty much the worst pain you can imagine. Don't even want to think about the long term effects of this.

  2. Lithop
    That is so scary. I'd heard of eyeballing, but it was always the storyteller's neighbour's-cousin's-girlfriend's-dog who had claimed to have done it, and was always spoken about in ha-ha-what-a-wally terms... I'd never have dreamed people were actually doing it for real.
  3. chillinwill
    WTF is wrong with the people across the pond? I have never heard of this in the USA, nor in the college scene. This just seems stupid and risky behavior, especially considering how fast alcohol already works when drinking it orally. Why not just shoot alcohol then if they want an instant high? Both are downright stupid and pointless.
  4. Smeg
    The Daily Mail strikes again,SWIY's. This publication is well known for its scaremongering and ruthless gossip on this side of the pond. SWIM is not implying that the "eyeballing" scenario hasn't happened, just that there may be more than an element of exaggeration.This newspaper is notorious here for its claims of new immoral epidemics particularly when it comes to sex and drugs and rock and roll.
  5. Charenton
    :applause: Very true! In 1934 the Mail published an article called "Hurrah for the Blackshirts" Thesedays their readership likes to get furious over their cornflakes about modern youth. Kenny Everett, a British comedy genius, created a character called "Angry of Mayfair" which pokes fun at this type of folk.

    Having said that this practice is a shocker. There is a pack instinct that develops in these drinking groups. SWIM saw similar antics last week involving huffing from a glass of absinthe.
  6. Spucky
    AW: Some Morons Ruin Eyes Because Chugging Vodka Isn't Fast Enough!

  7. EscapeDummy
    WHAT THE FUCK?! Honestly, swim has done, seen, heard of a lot of STUPID drunken shit... but this takes the cake. Speaking of stories, he's heard of snorting alcohol, girls soaking tampons in vodka, plugging alcohol... but what the fuck man. Eyeballing alcohol? Fuck you if you do it, you deserve to go blind. Also, not to start a USA/UK fight here... but in the article, they say they'd heard of it in America, but never in Britain... let me tell you, swim has never heard of this happening here, ever. A large portion of his high school goes out of state, swim honestly has friends in at least 35 states, not once has he heard this. Not to say its never happened but swim has not heard of it.
  8. Coconut

    Darwin says "let them die".
  9. missparkles
    What I'd like to know is how someone so dumb actually made it this far in the academic world, she got a place in university? Jesus, wonder what she does for an encore, shoots white spirit?:s

  10. salviablue
    Ahem... :p
    However, alcoholic stupor and a kind of "competition" drinking/getting drunk, is a sytemic scourge here in the UK, unfortunately prevalent across the generations, and not just contained with in the "(American) football/sports freak" or "red neck trailer trash" equivalent here, but infecting nearly all groups of society.

    Also, this is a typically ridiculous scaremongering "what's wrong with the youth of today? We weren't like that" of the tabloid
    It hasn't gotten out of hand, it always was out of hand, and not just restricted the the student class, like I said, across most of the society in the UK.
    Not to mention the fact this is no "new craze", I've known/heard about/seen this when I has 16/17.

    I'm so glad you're on "our side" and not "theirs". ;) [noparse]( <- I know you love these, have another[/noparse] :p )

    But seriously, "he with out sin.......", we have all done some really stupid stuff, and not every one has the confidence, mental ability or clarity of thought to resist obvious stupidity, especially when forced into a state of fake social acceptance through/compounded by low self esteem/social confidence.
    Also, its very easy to whipped up into the frenzy of the moment, especially when "young and care-free".
    So as much as I think I'd like to see this propensity for stupidity cleansed from our gene pool, there are far more insipid genetic 'defectuals' I'd like to see eradicated before these would even get a look in.
  11. Paton
    One of my friends did it at a party, repeatedly throughout the night about 4 years ago. He was using some sort of tequila, think it was called Samba.

    I don't think he'll ever do it again, he's younger than me and was about 18 at the time I think. He never had any long lasting ill effects from it though, just at the time of doing it. Must've been lucky
  12. xJSL
    This is extremely stupid. Vodka onset is already decently fast. Is putting high concentration ethanol directly into the eyeball really a good idea? Hmmm... No. Do these people not even think about what could happen to their eyes?
  13. girlygrrl
    I've heard of LSD drops being put in the eye which I thought was weird enough, but vodka seems like a seriously bad idea. vodka kicks in very fast if you just drink a shot glass on an empty stomach, why risk one's vision doing something that anyone with common sense would realize is a bad idea?
  14. Paradoxical Frog
    And I think you hit the nail on the head right there! The trouble seems to be that these people are severely lacking in that good old common sense!!

    The drinking culture in the UK has been a bit out of hand for some time now, and living in a University city I do see an awful lot of stupidity going on where alcohol is concerned. Admittedly I've never seen anyone doing anything like this, but then I haven't been to any student parties in a while.

    I'm willing to bet it's nowhere near as common as the Daily Fail is trying to make out, but at the same time it's not totally unbelievable that some people are doing this. There's a lot of bravado of the "let's go out and get completely wankered! YEAH!" type and a lot of people get swept up in it, especially if they're in uni, living away from home for the first time and suddenly they can do whatever they want. I think it's just an example of how far it can go sometimes.
  15. Potter
    Sorry Salviablue, but I have a hard time feeling sympathy for people who inflict massive amounts of pain on themselves for no reason other then someone told them to do it. These aren't even stupid kids, but well educated, adults who should be able to put one and one together to get two.
  16. Smeg
    A person may be academically bright, but SWIM feels that there can sometimes be distance from that aptitude and emotional intelligence. He supposes also that there can be a gap between any laudable ability and compassion towards self and others.
    SWIM does agree that it's fucking daft to pour strong drink into your eyeball though.
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