Disturbing trend: Teens are getting drunk on hand sanitizer

Dr. Cyrus Rangan, medical toxicology consultant for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles held a news conference yesterday about a scary trend teen trend: getting drunk on hand sanitizer.

Some teens mix salt with hand sanitizer gel in an effort to separate the alcohol from the gel, and then drink the potent results which can contain a higher concentration of alcohol than liquor (the proof is about 120-proof, compared to vodka’s 80 proof.) There’s a little more to the process than that, but we’re not going to go into it. Because the alcohol is so concentrated, teens often have no idea how much alcohol they are consuming, and within the last month six teens in California were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning, two just this past weekend.

Helen Arbogast, an injury prevention coordinator in the trauma program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, told ABC news that the trend was not just happening on the west coast: “It’s not just localized to us. Since 2009 we can see on YouTube it’s in all regions of the country. We see it in the South, in the Midwest, in  the East.”

Many teens try it on a dare (like the guy above, who didn’t even try to extract the alcohol from the other stuff,) but it can easily land them in the hospital. They often come in to the ER with slurred speech, pain in their stomachs, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting, but tell the health care providers that they haven’t consumed any alcohol. Dr. Robert Glatter and NYC ER physician told CBS News of cases he’s seen: “They denied drinking any ‘alcohol’, had no smell of alcohol on their breath, but when their blood alcohol was quite elevated, they later admitted to drinking the hand sanitizer.”

Glatter even proposed that warning labels should be put on hand sanitizer to warn of the alcohol content, and the dangerous of consumption. Purell put out a statement about the trend, saying “to discourage misuse . . . Purell contains ingredients that impart an unpleasant taste.”

Not helping things is the fact that John Cusack did a shot of Purell  on Jimmy Kimmel last night.