On a recent episode of Mad Men, a teenager breathlessly admitted to feeling a little drunk after chugging vanilla extract with a friend. But modern teens have discovered a new, seemingly innocuous household item to get a dangerous buzz going: hand sanitizers.
The Wall Street Journal reports that medical experts in Los Angeles are warning parents to keep watch over the liquid sanitizers, which are used everywhere from hospitals to offices to household kitchens to disinfect hands. (Some schools even recommend students store a bottle at their desks to prevent germs from spreading during flu season.)
According to the Los Angeles Times, six teenagers brought to emergency in San Fernando Valley in the past few months have been diagnosed with alcohol poisoning after drinking the liquid sanitizer.
Liquid sanitizers contain alcohol, and teenagers are using salt to purify the content to make it even stronger, the WSJ reports. Cyrus Rangan, a medical toxicology consultant for Children's Hospital Los Angeles, is quoted as saying that liquid sanitizer contains 62-per-cent ethanol. He warned parents to put hand sanitizers out of reach of kids – just like medication. (In addition to teenagers, children have been seen at hospital after accidentally drinking it.) As a precaution, hospital officials have recommended that parents purchase foam-based or no alcohol sanitizer.
"All it takes is just a few swallows and you have a drunk teenager," Dr. Rangan 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."
Hand sanitizer is just the latest over-the-counter product that teenagers have adapted for a quick high – but it's also a reminder to parents to talk to their teenagers about the potential serious health risks of consuming these easily accessible products.
"Over the years, they have ingested all sorts of things," Helen Arbogast, injury prevention co-ordinator in the trauma program at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times. "Cough syrup had reached a very sexy point where young people were using it. … We want to be sure this doesn't take on the same trend."
Do you worry about your kids using household products such as sanitizer to get high? Have you talked to them about it?