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Teens Getting Sick on Cheap High from Hand Sanitizer

hand sanitizer, alcohol

In search of a cheap and easily accessible form of alcohol, teens are turning to drinking hand sanitizer, reports the LA Times. Over the past few months, sixteen have been admitted to Los Angeles area emergency rooms with alcohol poisoning due to this disturbing new trend.

The California Poison Control System since 2010 has received 60 reports of teenagers either drinking the hand sanitizer straight or using salt to separate the alcohol from the rest of the ingredients. The resulting product is a 120-proof liquid – similar to a shot of hard liquor.

Most hand sanitizers contain 62% ethyl alcohol; the same intoxicating ingredient used in beer, wine and distilled spirits. The alcohol is an antiseptic agent used to avoid transmission of harmful pathogens, ie. bacteria, fungi, and some viruses.

"All it takes is just a few swallows and you have a drunk teenager," Cyrus Rangan, director of the toxicology bureau for the county public health department and a medical toxicology consultant for Children's Hospital Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times. "There is no question that it is dangerous."

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The sanitizer drinking trend is not limited to teens or to kids in LA County. At least two homeless people in Albuquerque NM died after drinking a mix of distilled hand sanitizer and mouthwash, says KASA-TV.

The UC San Francisco’s Department of Clinical Pharmacy also notes that there were more than 2,200 cases involving children under the age of 12 who accidentally ingested the sanitizer gel and needed treatment. The vast majority of these cases were small children under the age of 5. Most of the cases were minor and treated at home, but health effects from alcohol toxicity can include diarrhea, memory loss, blindness and irreversible organ damage.

Doctors are urging parents to keep hand sanitizer out of reach of children and monitor it around teens. They also suggest parents who have concerns purchase the foam version rather than the gel version, since it is harder to extract the alcohol. There is also the option of purchasing an alcohol free version such as CleanWell.

Other products in the home that contain alcohol that require monitoring include cough syrup, vanilla extract and mouthwash.

Other dangerous trends among teenagers reported recently include The Cinnamon Challenge, The Choking Game, and Vodka Eyeballing.

LA Times