Hand sanitizer appears to be the latest dangerous trend among teenagers looking for a cheap thrill.
Over the past few months, six teenagers have shown up in Los Angeles area emergency rooms with alcohol poisoning after drinking hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizers contain 62 percent ethyl alcohol to kill germs and can be made into 120-proof liquid. One 8-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer with 63 percent alcohol content is equivalent to about five shots of hard liquor.
"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."
"It is kind of scary that they go to that extent to get a shot of essentially hard liquor," said Rangan.
This is not the first over-the-counter product that kids have used for a quick high. Teens have done the same with mouthwash, cough syrup and even vanilla extract, doctors said.
Although there’s only been a few cases reported in Los Angeles, health experts are concerned that this might become a growing trend. Hand sanitizer is easily accessible, and anyone can find distillation instructions on the Internet.
In fact, at least two homeless people in Albuquerque, NM died after drinking a mix of distilled hand sanitizer and mouthwash, reported KASA-TV.
Health effects from the drink reportedly include diarrhea, memory loss and even blindness and irreversible organ damage. Health experts recommend parents buy the foam version of hand sanitizer since it’s harder to extract the alcohol, and teens may be less inclined to drink it.