Hey Parents: Teens Getting Drunk (and Poisoned) on Hand Sanitizer

Posted on April 26, 2012


So apparently, teens have started drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk.  KTLA Los Angeles reports that six teens recently ended up in the emergency room with acute alcohol poisoning, and so doctors are trying to warn parents of the danger.   Warnings are good things, but this advice is not:

“If parents buy hand sanitizer, they should purchase the foam version rather than the gel type because it is harder to extract the alcohol and teens may be less likely to drink it.  Parents also shouldn’t leave hand sanitizer around the house, and should monitor it like any other liquor or medication.”

Hello?  First of all, hand sanitizer does no good if it is locked up.  If you are that scared of it, ditch it entirely and just use soap.  And secondly, why do we repeatedly try to deal with abuse of legal substances by banning, or locking up, or changing, or boycotting one substance at a time, as each substance becomes the latest target of abuse?  We are not talking about hiding bleach or rat poison from a toddler; the problem here, as the doctors themselves note, is that some teens are actively looking for ways to get drunk or high, and if it’s not hand sanitizer, it will be (and has been) something else:  cough syrup, salvia, cold medicine, glue, vanilla extract, mouthwash.

The solution is not to lock up common household items.  The solution is to be an observant, proactive, involved parent.  And single parents don’t get a pass for the (typically) fewer hours that they have to spend with their kids.  They are still the most important figure in their kids’ lives, especially early on, and can lay the foundation for good decision-making long before kids get to the age of experimentation.  What these kids are doing is stupid and dangerous, but they do it because they want to.  It’s the parents’ job to make them feel that they have done a stupid, dangerous thing, and to not want to do it anymore.  Or better yet:  to never want to try something so patently stupid in the first place.