Hand Sanitizer: Another Way to Get High

So now it’s hand sanitizer.

That familiar, inconspicuous little bottle designed to keep the nation germ-free has become the newest fad teenagers use to get high.

A few weeks ago, Los Angeles hospitals admitted 6 teens with alcohol poisoning from drinking hand sanitizer. Since March 2012, this adds up to 16 cases of teenagers requiring medical attention for guzzling the cheap liquid.

Distilled & Dangerous: How Do You Get Drunk Off Hand Sanitizer?

So how on earth do you get drunk off of hand sanitizer?

Well, hand sanitizer products are around 60% ethyl alcohol. Teens distill the sanitizer, using salt to separate the alcohol from the liquor. The result is a 120 proof shot, which is about 50% more potent than vodka.

Dr. Cyrus Rangan, chief of toxicology for the Los Angeles County Health Department, said that the method of using salt to separate alcohol from the sanitizer is like “drinking shots of hard liquor.”

And then some drink it right out of the bottle. Yum.

Since these are so potent, intoxication is much more likely with hand sanitizer products than regular alcohol, making the practice extremely dangerous.

Asides from the classic symptoms of heavy drinking—blurred vision, slurred speech, etc.—the effects can cause further damage such as a burning stomach, diarrhea, and irreversible organ damage.

Small Numbers Can be the Start of Something Big

Since 2010, the California Poison Control System has received 60 reports of teenagers drinking hand sanitizer.

Although the numbers do not seem big, even 6 cases are enough to cause alarm. The news of 16 teen hospital visits when there has been so few from this age group in recent years could very well be a reason for concern.

Today, videos showing teens experimenting with the trend are circulating on YouTube, and how-to instructions can be just as easily searched. The ease of instructions, combined with the easy accessibility and the low cost of hand sanitizers could make the practice easily widespread.

Should I Freak Out?

So teens are chugging hand sanitizer to get drunk. Nothing is safe anymore. But is this something parents should freak out about?

While there may not be the need to ban hand sanitizer from the house, parents should definitely be aware of the problem. Whether you think it’s creative, desperate, or stupid—or all of the above—this trend is nothing to blow off.

Hand sanitizer, like mouthwash and spray paint (and a plethora of other “inhalants”), is now on that list of potentially dangerous items. So, parents—and teens—now you know. Be aware.

How Can I Help Teens Who Get High on Hand Sanitizer? 

If a parent or friend suspects a teen has an alcohol problem, experts are suggesting that parents 

  • Buy the foam version rather than the gel type.
  • Don’t leave hand sanitizer around the house unmonitored.
  • Watch for signs of intoxication.
  • Get professional help.

Of course, these measures do not prevent the teen from buying the product himself. Again, awareness of the problem is always the first step and the best step, and professional attention before you enter the emergency room is always preferred.

Remember, knowledge is powerful, and preventative measures are the best solution—for all dangerous substances, no matter how crazy it seems.

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