Teens Hospitalized After Getting Drunk on Hand Sanitizer

Drug trends are just getting weirder and weirder. According to the LA Times, six teens in Los Angeles were hospitalized over the past few months after consuming inexpensive liquid hand sanitizers. Because the sanitizers contain 62% ethyl alcohol, the teenagers were able to separate the alcohol from the sanitizer (with help, of course, from the Internet) to create a 120-proof liquor, one and a half times as strong as commercial vodka. Hand sanitizer is cheap and accessible, so it’s easy to find distillation instructions online. A few shots of the liquor can cause slurred speech and a burning stomach. It can also get teenagers so drunk that they land in the hospital.

This troubling practice is just one in a series of over-the-counter products that teenagers have adapted to get drunk or high. They have done the same with mouthwash, cough syrup, nutmeg and even vanilla extract. Other substances like “bath salts” or synthetic marijuana (“K2”) were legal, but medical emergencies have caused lawmakers to reconsider whether they should be accessible, especially when teenagers seem to consider them on par with marijuana, alcohol, or other drugs that are considerably more difficult for teens to obtain.

Officials suggest that concerned parents buy foaming hand sanitizer, because it is more difficult to extract the alcohol. Others recommend that parents monitor hand sanitizer like liquor or medicine, and watch for signs of intoxication in their children; since it is legal for children to buy hand sanitizer on their own, though, it is unclear how much good this would do.

But these are band-aids for a much larger problem. The issue isn’t that parents are carelessly leaving a potential drug around the house. Instead, it signals broader failures in drug education. Like abstinence-only sex education curriculums, abstinence-based drug education programs do not inform students of the relative dangers of different drugs. Alcohol is ranked alongside distilled hand sanitizer, which is presented as equally threatening as marijuana, which if you try it once will certainly be a gateway to heroin addiction. Of course, these drugs are all dangerous, but when we can’t speak candidly to youth about the relative dangers of different drugs, it ends in confusion and, unfortunately in this case, several trips to the hospital.

Read more:

Bath Salts – The Newest Drug Epidemic?

The Global War on Drugs Has Failed, Leaders Say

Should California Legalize Marijuana?

Photo Credit: Sean Narvasa


Huber F.
Huber F5 years ago

These guys just wanna prove how quick they echo.. C'mon distillation from sanitizers require salts preparation and costs more than the drink on the shelf.. They should not be drinking young.


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

im not surprised. kids in my High School used spray paint, mouthwash, vanilla extract and bath salts.

Sheri P.
Sheri P5 years ago

this is crazy!! when i was growing up the worst thing we did was sniff elmers glue. what has happened to our society and our kids?

Claire M.
Claire M5 years ago

You know its weird, I went to high school in the early 70s and I distinctly remember being required to take a class that warned about all this kind of stuff and drugs, including a visit from a police officer.

What happened to our education system?

Lynn Squance
Lynn Squance5 years ago

It is sad that teens and others go to such lengths to get high, but then that is addiction or thrills. In one northern Canadian community I lived in during the mid-late 80's, you could not buy Lysol spray without asking for it. It was locked up in the same manner as cigarettes. The reason: a significant portion of the local population was drinking the Lysol to get high --- like drinking alcohol, but it was cheaper. Lysol! With extended use, the face and upper torso break out in blisters that look much like pimples and permanently scar the individual.

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W5 years ago

I got my drug ed. in the 1970's in school. They told us how bad everything was and what would happen if we did it.
When we found out their first "lie", we all wondered just how much else they lied to us about.

And we proceeded to find out.

Tell the kids the TRUTH and maybe it might have an affect that's stronger than their friends'.

Sabina DeBoheme
Sabina D5 years ago

Geez, how dumb can you be?

Christine Stewart

Stupid kids- stop drinking hand sanitizer or else we will need a doctor's note to buy it!

Ra Sc
Ra Sc5 years ago

This is a general problem of telling kids that alcohol is something special for adults. In most places, kids grow up allowed small amounts of alcohol now and then, and more as they become older. This way alcohol is demystified, and getting drunk isn't seen as a grown-up thing to do. But if you ban something and yet have it widely available, it makes people curious to try it. If you want people to read a book - ban it. If you want teens to drink alcohol, never allow them any. Prohibition and abstinence-only policies do not work. But giving people real information and allowing some activity often does. Especially for activities like sex or drinking where you probably do expect them to grow up to do both in moderation rather than avoiding both for their entire lives. So, encourage not having any when you don't want to or don't feel ready, but indulging in either responsibly and moderately when you do.

Amy Biggers
Amy Biggers5 years ago

I just don't understand young people sometimes. I mean I'm only 31 so it was not that long ago that I was the same age as these teens, but one thing that never crossed my mind was ingesting hand sanitizer. I mean I have accidently touched my hand to my mouth before after putting it on, and that was a very disgusting taste. Manufactuers are not responsible for every idiot out there that thinks of these stupid ideas, or for the kids who blinding follow them. A week ago I would never have thought this would be an issue, but I'm pretty sure next week there will be something else. Parents are going to have to be the key to this problem. Obviously, there needs to be more conversations on how a "simple high" can kill you very easily. Is it wrong for me to think that people even teens who do this have no common sense??