Teens drinking hand sanitizers for a quick high


Washington: Following the trend of cough medicine, hand sanitizer is the latest in a string of household items used to induce intoxication and has public health officials worried as a few squirts of it could equal a couple of shots of hard liquor.

    As many as six California teenagers were hospitalized with alcohol poisoning last month, and two last weekend alone, from drinking hand sanitizer. “This is a rapidly emerging trend,” ABC News quoted Cyrus Rangan, medical toxicology consultant for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, as saying.

    About 2,600 cases have been reported in California since 2010, but it’s become a national problem.

    “It’s not just localized to us,” Helen Arbogast, an injury prevention coordinator in the trauma programme at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, said.

    “Since 2009 we can see on YouTube it’s in all regions of the country. We see it in the south, in the midwest, in the east,” Arbogast said.

    Liquid hand sanitizer is 62% to 65% ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, the main ingredient in beer, wine and spirits, making it 120-proof. To compare, a bottle of vodka is 80-proof. “A few swigs is all it takes to get a person to get the intoxicated effects of alcohol,” Rangan said.

    According to doctors, ingesting hand sanitizer can produce the same side effects as consuming large amounts of alcohol — slurred speech, unresponsiveness, possibly falling into a coma state.

    Rangan warned that long-term use could lead to brain, liver and kidney damage. Teenagers use salt to break up the alcohol from the sanitizer to get a more powerful dose. These distillation instructions can be found on the internet in tutorial videos that describe in detail how to do it.

    Sean Nordt, director of toxicology at USC Los Angeles county emergency department, said he used to get reports of children accidentally consuming small amounts of hand sanitizer, but now the trend is toward purposeful ingestion by those who cannot purchase or obtain alcohol legally.