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Drinking Hand Sanitizer to get Drunk

Drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk has officially been added the list of ridiculous and dangerous substances people have attempted to get high from. Although all of the reported cases seem to stem from just 6 incidents in California, reports about teens drinking hand sanitizer have surfaced in news outlets all over the nation. And because of this wide coverage, it’s likely that other teens nationwide will follow suit when they learn they can get intensely drunk on a little hand sanitizer. However, they can also slip into a coma or die.

Drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk is dangerous because the alcohol derived from this basic household product can be as high as 120 proof. Compare that to a good bottle of vodka at just 80 proof and it’s easy to understand why this trend is troubling; even seasoned alcoholics would have difficulty handling that kind of alcohol concentration.

However, it’s not just teens that are likely to drink hand sanitizer to get drunk. Anywhere that people are looking for a cheap way to get a buzz this trend may rear its ugly head. This includes jails and prisons, drug rehab centers, mental health facilities, hospitals and other institutions. And while some people are blaming the press for the possible proliferation of this trend, the fact of the matter is that we’ve been here before, and we’ll be here again. In an article for the Los Angeles Times, Anna Gorman writes;

“Doctors said this is the latest over-the-counter product that teenagers have adapted for a quick high. Teenagers have done the same with mouthwash, cough syrup and even vanilla extract.” (1)

Of course, the recent slew of reports of teens drinking hand sanitizer doesn’t mean that any of this is a teen-specific problem. In fact, people have been getting high from over the counter drugs like Robotussin cough syrup since at least the 1960’s. Even more troubling was the trend in the mid to late 1990’s when huffing cans of products like Glade or Pledge was popular.

All of these drug abuse trends have been dangerous and pose serious risk to young people and adults alike. But with hand sanitizer, the concentration of alcohol may be so high that a person drinking it could be quickly overwhelmed by alcohol poisoning. And because people often consume drugs like this together, if this were the case it wouldn’t be likely that there would be someone capable of taking care of the poisoned individual, thereby increasing the chances of death.

When a person has been drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk, their behaviors will almost certainly give them away. If you suspect someone you know has consumed hand sanitizer, you should call 911 and get help immediately. And if that person or someone you care about has a drug abuse or drinking problem, the best thing you can do is help them to take the right action, right now.

Call the number at the top of your screen for an immediate consultation, or fill out the form to the right of this page to check your insurance. If you don’t do something right now, who will?

(1) Gorman, Anna A troubling trend in teens drinking hand sanitizer LA Times 04/24/2012

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More