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The ‘buzz’ involving hand sanitizers

As journalists, we have a duty to inform when writing about a topic, even when that topic seems impossible to mentally digest. Such was the case when I began to read about the latest ‘trend’ teenagers are participating in: drinking hand sanitizers to get the same buzz alcohol provides.

After my initial gastrointestinal disgust just at the thought, I tried to reach back in time to when I was a teen and think about what was ‘trendy’ to ingest at the time. The only thing I could come up with was a distant memory of a six-pack of Old Milwaukee and a severe rash that covered my entire upper body, which indicated to my parents that something was definitely amiss and forced me to admit to them what I had done. So, it was at the ripe-old age of thirteen, I discovered that I was allergic to cheap beer (thank God) and that I shouldn’t assume that just because my friends did it, it was cool.

And if I am to be honest, there were many dangerous things being done when I was a teen too, certain household inhalants being used and many beverages being drank, other than beer, that were very hazardous and potentially fatal to those kids who did it.

So, it was with that mindset that I approached this latest form of recreational experimentation and tried to fathom why these teens would swallow the gooey, gel-like substance I use to de-germ my hands, just to catch a buzz. Shaking my head would be a phrase of understatement. 

The article I read was from CNN.com and said that poison control centers nationwide are reporting that usage of 60 percent ethanol-based products are on the rise. In the piece, Dr. Robert J. Geller, a medical toxicologist and Emory University pediatrician, said that the 60 percent ethanol content makes these substances similar to drinking 120 Proof Alcohol. The article stated that while no deaths had been reported, there were serious consequences for teens using the sanitizers repeatedly, such as sedation, vomiting and slowed breathing. As for how they can stand to drink the stuff, according to the article, teens are finding recipes online to make the substance more palatable, like adding ingredients to separate the alcohol from the gel, or simply diluting it down.

The question as to why teens are choosing this unappealing form of ‘drinking’, I think, is the real issue here. Is there more to the problem than just the availability of the product? The article agrees that there may be underlying substance abuse issues at play here, and while every generation has its, no-way-to-understand-unless-you’re-a-teenager situations; the thought of my kid swallowing hand sanitizer just to get drunk terrifies me. Is the chasm that separates the adult world from that angst-filled realm known as teenage-dom really that wide? Or are we, as parents and adults, missing something here?

Either way, it’s seemingly un-definable and absolutely frightening.


Angela Rogalski is a print journalism senior who lives in Abbeville. Follow her on Twitter @abbeangel.