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The answer? Teens drink hand sanitizer to get drunk. You may think "yuck," but they're apparently thinking "yum."
Well, before they end up in the emergency room. In recent months, six teenagers in the Los Angeles area have been hospitalized for drinking hand sanitizer. The teens all presented with symptoms of alcohol poisoning and had to be monitored.
The inexpensive, accessible substance is made of 62% ethyl alcohol, according to the Times. The teens reportedly used Internet directions explaining how to use salt to separate the alcohol from the sanitizer's other ingredients. When distilled, they were left with 120-proof liquor.
With such a high percentage of alcohol, just a few shots of the stuff can cause a teenager to become sick enough to need emergency treatment.
Some suggest that drinking hand sanitizer is a new trend amongst teens, a group known to huff aerosols, drink vanilla extract and eat copious amounts of nutmeg. The Los Angeles incidents were the first of their kind, according to CBS News, and at least one New York doctor has had patients chug the liquid cleaner. His patients, however, only did so after being dared.
Health officials are therefore asking parents to buy only foam sanitizer and monitor it like any other liquid medicine. But the reality is that, if your kid wants to drink hand sanitizer, he can go down to the corner store and buy a bottle and some salt.
It may therefore be better to take WebMD's advice. Talk to your teen about drugs, including over-the-counter products; watch for risky behavior and friends; and pay attention to how they are doing in school. And if you think your teen is drinking hand sanitizer, just ask.