Reports across the internet from the LA Times to MSN bring to light a new and rather disturbing trend among teenagers. Teens have abandoned raiding their parents’ liquor cabinet to raiding their supply of hand sanitizer. The attraction is the content of ethyl alcohol that most sanitizers contain. Sometimes upward of 60% of the product is ethyl alcohol.
Internet sites lurking about in cyberspace contain instructions on how to distill the alcohol from the sanitizer, ostensibly to avoid drinking other inactive ingredients. Some teens use salt, while others use slightly more sophisticated ways to get something that resembles a shot of liquor.
Teens who are seeking to have a bit of alcohol-induced fun know that alcohol is decidedly difficult for them to procure. If they do manage to procure alcohol in its normally used form, they risk being caught and charged with minor in possession of alcohol.
The alcohol that they get from hand sanitizer cannot be detected by smell on a person’s breath. There is no legal statute to prevent them from purchasing or possessing hand sanitizer. Therefore, to teens, it’s the perfect crime and ranks high in alternative ways to get messed up with abusing cough syrup, stealing pills from their parents’ prescription bottles, purchasing pure vanilla extract, and huffing nitrous oxide propellant from pressurized air dusters.
By the very same token, it is also monumentally stupid.
Teens are turning up in hospitals with all the classic symptoms of alcohol poisoning, but no telltale sign of alcohol on their breath. However, their blood alcohol percentages tell the truth their breath betrays. Since the alcohol content of these “sanitizer shots” is so high, it only takes a few to get completely loaded.
teenagers are also obviously not aware of the relationship between alcohol content and the speed at which it affects you. Therefore, they believe that they can treat it like any other alcoholic beverage and consume a lot of it. After several shots of what amounts to 120 proof liquor, they soon find out the inconvenient truth.
Meanwhile, responsible adults are required to provide age verification to these very same teens standing at cash registers for such items as pure vanilla extract, cough syrup, allergy medicine containing pseudoephedrine, and pressurized cans of air designed for dusting one’s electronics. All of these things have at one point in time or another been used and abused by teens seeking alternative ways to get high without getting caught.
I am personally sick and tired of being asked for ID every time I want to purchase one of these items to use it for its intended purposes. I suppose that I, as well as many others, will loathe reaching for our driver’s licenses yet again to purchase gel hand sanitizer. Foam sanitizer will most likely be exempted because it is all but impossible to extract anything remotely drinkable from it.
That is, until some enterprising teen with no job and a decent knowledge of chemistry figures it out.
I implore any teens out there who have turned to hand sanitizer to please stop being stupid. Go back to the tried and true methods of standing outside a liquor store and asking people to buy you a six-pack or begging a co-worker who is older to purchase alcohol for you. At the very least, it will take you longer to get drunk, which may result in you not winding up in the emergency room.
Then again, perhaps these future candidates for the Darwin Awards are on to something: Naturally selecting themselves for extinction because they find it necessary to turn ordinary household products into drugs and alcohol.
Perhaps the next generation can show Chong how to turn borax into cocaine for an “Up in Smoke” reboot.