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The New Alcoholics: Young People and Hand Sanitizer

Imagine the taste of the Purell hand sanitizer. It likely burns the tongue just like it burns nostrils if it’s sniffed too close. What’s absolutely crazy is that there are teenagers that are drinking hand sanitizer in some form as a way to get drunk. It’s extremely harmful and there are plenty of negative health effects that can accompany this ridiculous behavior.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 8.7 million people aged 12-20 reported that they drank alcohol in the past month. Some of these underage drinkers are stealing from the liquor cabinet and topping it off with water. Sometimes, these teens will try desperately to get drunk. That’s why they might turn to hand sanitizer. While it’s not super common, it’s still something to be aware of. Hand sanitizer is cheap and easy to find and there are also ways to make it a bit more palatable.

The biggest problem with hand sanitizer is that it’s quite dangerous. Hand sanitizer is made of isopropyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol, and it’s often denatured. Which means the alcohol is made undrinkable and frequently toxic. A person can also go blind if there is even a drop of isopropanol alcohol.

On top of being toxic, hand sanitizer is full of alcohol. Many common alcohols are around 80 proof, which is 40 percent alcohol. Hand sanitizer is 60 to 65 percent alcohol. Which is somewhere around 120 proof. A few pumps of hand sanitizer or just a small bottle that can be purchased for $1 can get a young person drunk.

To get drunk, the beverage has to be consumed. Just the smell of hand sanitizer is pungent and terrifying. So how can teens manage to drink it? Many teens will create something called Mr. Cleans’ Tears. It’s a combination of hand sanitizer, salt, and Listerine. The salt serves several purposes. It adds some flavor that isn’t straight hand sanitizer, but it also can detoxify the hand sanitizer just a little bit. This process actually developed in New Zealand prisons but can be found in teen bedrooms across the country.