Responding to germ-conscious consumers with the development of pocket size anti bacterial products, makers have also unwittingly opened the door to a bizarre new trend especially among teenagers: Ingesting ethanol-based hand sanitizer to get high.
“As with cough medicines and extracts that often contain 60-percent or more ethanol, this common household product delivers an even greater punch that alcoholic beverages like vodka or tequila, which typically contain less alcohol,” says Terry Marvin, Program Director for The Recovery Team in North Palm Beach, FL
A few swallows of hand sanitizer produces the same intoxicating effects of a traditional alcoholic beverage. The result? Slurred speech and unresponsiveness with side effects that range from sedation and loss of coordination to life threatening conditions as is being reported by poison control centers around the country.
“And, truth is, this latest substance to get high isn’t all that new. It’s right up there with sterno – the canned jellied fuel used to keep food in buffet chafing dishes warm. Like sterno, hand sanitizer contains a dangerous mix of chemicals that can result in severe neurological damage as well as other unintended consequences.”
Moreover, the low cost and widespread availability of the product has added to its popularity especially among those who are unable to purchase alcohol legally. It’s relatively easy to purchase the pocket size bottles, which are the equivalent of two to three shots of hard liquor since stores clerks rarely think twice about selling hand sanitizer products to adolescents, says Marvin.
Adding to its accessibility is the plethora of videos that demonstrate “recipes” for using products that can heighten the effect of drinking hand sanitizer. Videos show teens drinking the product as well as demonstrating how to make the product stronger and more tolerable to drink. For example, one YouTube video demonstrates how to heighten the potency of hand sanitizer by using salt. Another demonstrates straining the alcohol from the product using a slice of bread.
“The bottom line with this – and all the other ‘new’ ways to get high that are sure to follow – is to create the desire for abstinence,” says Marvin.
“Through education and support, each of our therapists therapeutically create and support that desire through all of the programs that we offer to our clients. We focus on promoting life without mood or mind altering substances – a life that is free of drugs and alcohol and all their variations. That’s our job.”
Terry Marvin is Program Director for The Recovery Team in North Palm Beach, FL where he brings a diverse background of strong leadership and management, which includes more than 30 years’ experience in law enforcement. He is a certified police officer in the State of Florida and has completed his education hours toward his CAP certification.