Teens Getting Drunk on Hand Sanitizer May Risk their Lives

Last year, California saw over 2,000 cases of teens hospitalized due to intoxication by hand sanitizer. It’s not just a West Coast problem, though.  Across the nation, teenagers have been hospitalized with alcohol poisoning due to ingesting hand sanitizers.  Alcohol poisoning could potentially lead to death.

In a move that might only make sense to the teenage brain, teens are turning to hand sanitizers as a cheap and easy way to get drunk.  It used to be that teens would drink vanilla extract, or try to gulp Nyquil. But now, teens are turning to hand sanitizers which are widely available at low cost.  It only takes a few drops of hand sanitizer to intoxicate these teens.  At roughly 65% ethyl alcohol, this makes each hand sanitizer roughly 120 proof.  To put that into perspective, vodka is 80 proof.  Teens are getting intoxicated at dangerous levels off of a few drops of unregulated alcohol.

Across the internet, teenagers are posting how to videos and instructions to show other teens how to get drunk on hand sanitizer.  They’re using salt to break up the alcohol and increase the strength of the dose.  Once drunk, teenagers are recording themselves and posting videos online.  These instances are increasing and becoming extremely hard to control.

Hand Sanitizer is Widely Available and Hard to Control

The largest problem is hand sanitizer is widely available.  How do you regulate a common household item? Hand sanitizer stations are widely available at every door- in supermarkets, shopping malls, schools, and public bathrooms.   Even if a teen didn’t have the dollar to buy a mini hand sanitizer bottle, he or she could obtain the few precious drops they need to get drunk from many public sources. All they have to do is pump some hand sanitizer in their palm, go to the nearby fast food joint for a packet of salt, and they’re ready to get drunk.

There are no warnings on hand sanitizers to caution children against risky behaviors.  There is no regulation of the sale of hand sanitizers. And if your impressionable child sees a video online, he or she may run to the store to scoop up a bottle.

How Do You Keep Your Teenager from Getting Drunk off of Hand Sanitizer

Unfortunately, with such widespread access, it’s going to be an uphill battle for parents.  Experience tells us that if a teenager wants to get drunk badly enough, they’ll find a way.  But you can take steps to protect your teen, and hopefully prevent fatal alcohol poisoning.
  • When not in use, put your hand sanitizer away where your teen won’t have access.
  • Know what your teenager is doing after school.  Check in on them.
  • Encourage your child to talk about negative peer pressure and dares that might result in using hand sanitizer to get drunk.
  • Talk to your child about the serious danger of alcohol poisoning and death that could occur with only a couple of drops of hand sanitizer.

If your teenager has seriously hurt themselves by using hand sanitizer inappropriately, you should seek medical attention immediately.  Be upfront and honest with the physician about what your teen did.  If your child has hurt themselves or died as a result of getting drunk off of hand sanitizer, you may want to talk to an attorney about your legal options.