Emerging Trend: Teens Get Drunk on Liquid Hand Sanitizer

Teens have long tried to find a way to get around legal restrictions on alcohol. However, news reports from California have many worried that teens are exhibiting a concerning determination to get drunk. Within the past year eight California teens wound up hospitalized for alcohol poisoning after drinking liquid hand sanitizer. Yes, as incredible as it sounds, young people have added hand sanitizer to the laundry list of household products being used as a drug.

Hand Sanitizer Has Greater Alcohol Content Than Many Hard Liquors

Hand sanitizer is commonly 62-65 percent ethyl alcohol. Ethyl alcohol is the chief ingredient in alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer and hard liquors. With 62-65 percent ethyl alcohol, liquid hand sanitizer is about 120 proof. By comparison, vodka runs around 80 proof. This means that just one or two gulps of sanitizer will produce the same intoxication as several shots of hard liquor.

The Internet as Distillery Instructor

There is plenty of wonderful information on the Internet, but there is lots of dangerous information as well. Teens are able to follow video instructions on YouTube to learn how to use salt to break down the sanitizer and create a more potent drug. There are other YouTube videos which show kids laughingly drinking sanitizer with many saying that they did it on a dare. Of course, some kids don’t bother to distill the sanitizer, but drink/ingest it as is.

Effects of Ingesting Hand Sanitizer

The effects one can expect from drinking/ingesting hand sanitizer are similar to those expected from drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Short term effects include: slow responsiveness or unresponsiveness, slurred speech, and a potential for coma. Long term effects of using sanitizer as alcohol include: liver, kidney or even brain damage.

Toxicologist Warns of Emerging Trend

A toxicology expert who also acts as a consult to Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, CA recently told reporters that using hand sanitizer in this way is a quickly evolving trend. There were over 2,500 cases on record in California just since 2010. The problem is not isolated to California however. YouTube videos make it plain that this is a national problem and therefore everyone needs to be educated, concerned and act with prudence.

Parents need to treat liquid hand sanitizer as a medication kept in the home. This means not leaving it out and around for one thing. It will also mean keeping tabs on the level on sanitizer in the bottle. Lastly, experts recommend opting for foam hand sanitizer since it is more difficult to distill.

Perhaps most concerning is the fact that hand sanitizer is so readily available and has none of the restrictions like those that make it difficult to obtain regular alcohol. Kids of any age can go into nearly any store and purchase it. Just a couple of gulps later and the teenager is drunk. Hopefully, getting the word out to parents and retailers can prevent the problem from spreading. Meanwhile, nothing can replace parental training regarding the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

There is still hope.

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