Teens Abusing Hand Sanitizer Sends them to the ER

Teens Abusing Hand Sanitizer Sends them to the ER

By Lakeview Health
Lakeview Health
Published: April 26, 2012

Desperate Teenagers Abusing Hand Sanitizer to Get Drunk

Desperate teenagers are turning to drinking hand sanitizer in order to feel the euphoric effects of alcohol. Recently, 6 teenagers were in the news  after being hospitalized for getting drunk off hand sanitizer. Reports stated that they had burning sensations in their stomachs and needed to be under supervision as they were too drunk to be left alone.

Who is Abusing Hand Sanitizer?

The main focus of recent news reports on hand sanitizer abuse is curious teens exploring ways to achieve euphoric effects, but this method of intoxication has been seen before. Teens have easy access to hand sanitizer in dispensers at schools, over the counter at drug stores and around the house. Consumption of products containing alcohol that are not alcoholic beverages is a tactic used by chronic alcoholics. Chronic alcoholics have been known to drink household cleaning products, rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer in order to continue their alcohol dependency.

Symptoms of hand sanitizer intoxication include:

  • Erratic behavior
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of balance
  • Red eyes
  • Odd speech

What is the Prevalence of Hand Sanitizer Abuse?

The New England Journal of Medicine documented a prison inmate using hand sanitizer to achieve drunkenness, drinking from a gallon container over the course of several hours. Officials reported that he became combative, loony and highly intoxicated. In the Journal of Critical Care Medicine, a report was published documenting that from 2005 to 2009, the number of individuals who swallowed hand sanitizer increased by 1,894 per year. The American Association of Poison Control Centers’ combined data that in 2006 there had been more than 20,000 exposures to hand sanitizer poisonings.

Effects of Hand Sanitizer Abuse

A label on all hand sanitizer products warns that they are for external use only and, if ingested, the Poison Control Center should be called immediately. What is not listed on the label is the harmful impact of consuming hand sanitizer in your body.

Hand sanitizer abuse can cause:

  • Central nervous system depression
  • Gastric irritation
  • Hypoglycemia in young children
  • Vomiting
  • Tongue irritation

Most young people are not concerned with the negative physical effects of drinking hand sanitizer. In their opinion, the affordable euphoria outweighs the consequences. No further research has been conducted about the long-term damage from hand sanitizer abuse. Although this article discusses teen substance abuse, substance abuse if not addressed directly will graduate into addiction. A teen’s perception of a good time may lead to more hardship as a young adult and the need for drug and alcohol addiction treatment. No matter a person’s age, alcohol abuse and addiction cause significant distress to educational, occupational and social functioning.