They’re drinking what?

Kids seeking a quick high are downing hand sanitizer

They're drinking what?The best way to drink hand sanitizer is straight, like whisky, and down it “like a shot,” explains Tyler, a Grade 10 student who lives in Toronto. Undiluted, the alcohol-based liquid tastes a little like “vodka and bug spray,” he adds.

The alarming comment from the 15-year-old mirrors a growing number of news reports about teenagers and children drinking the antiseptic hand-cleaning products. Most hand sanitizers have an alcoholic content between 60 and 90 per cent, which means that even small amounts have led to a number of cases of alcohol poisoning in younger children. That percentage is much higher than even that of most hard liquors, giving it an appeal to kids looking for a quick high, explains Jane Wells, a drama teacher at Toronto’s after-school Care Program. Wells has come to know a lot about this subject: she discovered that a group of eight- and nine-year-olds drank hand sanitizer at school just before she took them on a school walk. When she noticed them acting strange and giggling, they first told her they had been drinking alcohol, but after some probing, confessed it was really the hand cleaner. They told her they’d been enticed by the promise of alcohol “right on the bottle,” she says.

This kind of situation creates a problem for schools. The liquid, jokingly called “booze ooze” on parenting blogs, is one of the best defences against H1N1 and other colds and flus, says Jonathan Kerr, a Belleville, Ont.-based family doctor and member of the board of directors for the Ontario College of Family Physicians. But with reports of children drinking it or setting it alight (it’s flammable), Kerr says, schools face an “interesting dilemma.”

A number of Canadian schools have banned alcohol-based hand sanitizer from the premises. In some schools in Cape Breton, it isn’t allowed in the classroom, and provided to children only when there isn’t soap and water. Parents are discouraged from giving bottles to kids, although it’s not confiscated unless it “causes problems” at school, explains Ambrose White, director of operational services for the Cape Breton-Victoria school board. Lee County schools in Florida initially banned the substance, but then relented last month because of the threat of swine flu. Winnipeg schools won’t use the alcohol-based kind for safety reasons, but have introduced non-alcohol-based sanitizers, which are about as effective, according to studies, but can be more expensive.

Ossington/Old Orchard Junior Public School in Toronto allows kids to use it in the classroom, but the bottles are kept under close scrutiny on the teacher’s desk or within eyesight. “Teachers have control over it,” says someone who works at the school but did not want their name used. Kids are allowed to use it, but they are watched “as they squirt so they don’t lick it.”

The preference among kids who have tried it, according to an informal poll done by Maclean’s, is to drink hand sanitizer straight. It dries out the throat, and tastes bitter and foul—in short, nothing like the fruity flavours it promises, such as warm vanilla sugar, Japanese cherry blossom, coconut lime verbena, cucumber melon, midnight pomegranate and nectarine mint. These not only sound enticing, they come in “pretty bottles” that are seductive to young children, explains Christine Crosby, a grandmother who publishes Grand, an online magazine about grandparenting. Crosby, who has two grandchildren aged five and eight, is hyper-vigilant around the product—she’s heard of children being rushed to hospital with alcohol poisoning after taking a swig. “It’s everywhere at the moment,” she says, “and it can be scary.”

Eighteen-year-old Kyle, who did not want his last name used, lives in Barrie, Ont. He drank strawberry-flavoured hand sanitizer on a dare at a party, but he draws the line at sniffing, because it would “burn your nose right out.” That’s not to say it isn’t done: online footage of kids sniffing hand sanitizer makes it look painful. But it might be more common than its enjoyment factor would suggest: a Texas teen was accused of sniffing the hand sanitizer to “induce a condition of intoxication, hallucination and elation,” according to a Denton County court petition. The charges were dropped because hand sanitizer is not an abusive inhalant under the Texas Health and Safety Code. His father, Richard Ortiz, claimed his son sniffed only because he liked the smell.

Having had one scare already, Wells is extra careful and vigilant with it now around her students. “It’s worrying,” she says. “You are loath to say ‘Don’t drink that!’ because they might not have thought of it until you said it.”




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They’re drinking what?

  1. Fears of abuse of the alcohol content are reasonable. Anyone remember a certain uproar over hesitation to ship a whole bunch of sanitizer to locales where alcohol abuse is a social scourge?

  2. This is not really new. My mother works in emergancy ward as a nurse and they have to keep it under lock and key to ensure that patients are not drinking it. Addiction makes people desprate. Desprate enough to drink mouthwash and room deoderant, and now hand sanitzer. Very sad

  3. i like the coconut flavoured sanitizer

  4. The Federal Department of Health was roundly criticized for not wanting to send hand santizer to reserves for exactly this reason. (How could they be so callous??!!) Turns out they had legitimate concerns. Dry reserves don't even allow such products to begin with until H1N1 hit. I know guys who have worked up north, and they were warned that since they were landing on air strips on reserve property, they couldn't so much as bring mouth wash with them. The dry reserves are very serious about enforcing their dry policies, and for good reason.

    • so why are we putting it in other places where solvent abuse is also an issue?

  5. What a sad, sad commentary on the state of our society today.

    Of course, the media recently just hammered the Harper government, when it came out that Health Canada was reluctant to send hand sanitizer to Northern reserves, where alcohol and drug abuse is rampant. Outrageous, they said! Racism, they ranted! Haven't heard a peep from the media on that now, though, have we?

    • What does this have to do with "the state of our society today?" You think that if there was something around kids with 60% alcohol content in the 50s,60s,70s, etc. that they wouldn't have drank it? Stop the hysterics.

  6. I just tasted a (very) little dab of it. Not exactly a sommelier's dream, but surprisingly inoffensive. Slightly tart with a somewhat bitter aftertaste, the jelly quickly melts on your tongue, and goes down with only a very mild burn.

    Now my throat is swelling. I'm seeing double. It's hard to breathe. Is that blood?! Jesus Chr……

    • hahahahahahahaa

  7. How absolutely stupid do you have to be to drink or snort HAND SANITIZER?

    Is the world out of alcohol and cocaine?

    • They're kids. Thegrown-ups left it within reach. What's so hard to understand?

      • "They're kids" is the lamest excuse ever. It might be appropriate for young kids but teenages should know better and we shouldn't be giving them excuses. Personal-responsibility is suprisingly absent amongst the younger set because we keep making up excuses for their misbehaviour. and no, I'm not old. I belong to this generation and it's embarrassing!

        • "[T]eenage[r]s should know better" is the lamest expectation of a group of people notorious for risk taking, defying authority, and a sense of invincibility. Not all youngsters & teens. But a goodly number.

        • Don't be so quick to judge…. children and teens lack the ability to truly evaluate the consequences of their actions until it is too late. The part of the brain that evaluate's consequences isn't fully developed until age 25. I realize this is not an excuse, but it is a factor in their decisions to engage in risky behavior. My 10 yr old son, who is on the honor roll, was "sniffing" the hand sanitizer in his classroom. I am outraged at his behavior…. but after researching this topic, it unfortunately is happening too frequently. Let's be the adults her and help be a part of this solution instead of calling our kids stupid.

  8. Hey, if they are dumb enough to drink, hopefully they will drink enough to kill themselves, and there will be a few future welly bums in the shallow end of the gene pool

    • right on!

    • dude more people is better cuz they're be more people to think up somethin to save the world gosh

  9. This is the craziest thing I think I've heard this entire year. It brings to mind the term 'Kids today'….only on a whole different level.

  10. it is unfortunate we have a nation of fas/fasd children to rule this country when their turn comes now this article will keep the chemists who concoct these get high chemicals to produce the cheapest quickest high…may this craziness come to an end….this dopamine and feel good chemicals present in our bodies can be self induced if one practises but who has the personal discipline to do it? only the monks of tibet! the saviors of this troubled planet….

  11. Mix 10 oz strawberry or blueberry flavoured hand sanitizer with a dash of orange juice, a dash of pineapple juice and a slice of lime.

    Pour over crushed ice, add some grenadine, a splash of chocolate milk and serve…makes a delicious tasty drink that goes well with any meal and will definitely please your party guests.

    it's called the "Cleaner"

  12. Latest hand sanitizer to hit the market is Alda Pharmacueticals T36 – Now the official supplier to the Vancouver Winter games & the games of 2012 in London. It is comprised of 70% Alcohol,plus a 0 .15% BZK (Secondary germ killer) & has a bitterant added that induces vommiting within seconds of injesting. Also contains Aloe vera so you get softer hands after repeated use. Not the strpping effect that Purrell leaves. Avail. at Shoppers Drug Mart & London Drug so far.

    • great now the next big thing to complain about is going to be a rise in bulimia in young girls drinking hand sanitizer to puke now that its easier than jamming fingers down there throat. people will never win. just be good parents. even if they weren't drinking this crap they'd still find a way. they always do and they always will. its just a matter of how often you can prevent them from it.

      • How does this story even connect to eating disorders?
        That is a very sweeping assumption.

  13. A tiny fraction of kids abuse hand sanitizer like in these stories, but imagine the benefits for the majority who use it properly. 80% of illnesses that kids and adults catch are passed by hands infected with germs, and alcohol hand sanitizers are extremely effective at eliminating this threat. Diseases like staph are a whole lot scarier than a few giggling kids drinking Purell!

  14. Oh man, thanks so much for this article. I never would have thought of using hand sanitizer to get crunk. I hope CVS is still open!

    • Come on, Nick! You should know most CVS stores are open 24 hours, so you can continue to get your buzz on long after the bars are closed!

  15. I guess kids these days don't have enough money to buy or get someone to buy them beer or other hard liquor that they had to resort to this.

  16. The most hilarious thing is that hand sanitizer ISN'T "one of the best defences against H1N1 and other colds and flus".
    influenza is spread primarily thorough people coughing and sneezing on each other, and the best defence against it is upkeep of personal health and hygiene, and avoiding contact with people with symptoms.

    Covering your hands regularly with alcoholic goo is NOT going to help, despite the near-religious belief of North American parents in this useless stuff.

  17. Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, drinking alcohol or grain alcohol, is a flammable, colorless chemical compound, and is best known as the alcohol found in alcoholic beverages.
    Hand sanitizers or Denatured alcohol is ethanol which has been rendered TOXIC or otherwise undrinkable, and in some cases dyed. It is used for purposes such as fuel for spirit burners and camping stoves, and as a solvent. Traditionally, the main additive was 10% methanol, which gave rise to methylated spirits. There are diverse industrial uses for ethanol, and therefore literally hundreds of recipes for denaturing ethanol. Typical additives are methanol, isopropanol, acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, denatonium, and even (uncommonly) aviation gasoline.
    In the phrase denatured alcohol, denatured means "a specific property of ethanol, its usefulness as a beverage, is removed". The ethanol molecule is not denatured in the sense that its chemical structure is altered.
    So, if they DO drink it, they get sick and may die, GREAT ! I say "think of it as evolution in action"

  18. The problem is, That this world is not child proof. All we can do is educate them to the best of our ability. But once they leave the house the PEER pressure kicks in. G-d save the children.

  19. Dear Alexandra Shimo,

    I recently read your article about children sniffing or drinking hand sanitizer, and I wanted to let you know you did a good job of raising awareness, but a terrible job of bringing up the real point behind all of this. The problem isn't the alcohol based hand sanitizer, that's been a safe product to keep around for generations of kids – there is something wrong with the youth of today that's causing them to want to get “messed up” so badly that they're willing to cross untold thresholds of chemical indulgence to find a thrill. That problem is over-protective parenting that's removing any sensations of life from the kids, forcing them to retreat to any means necessary to create new enjoyments.

    This is serious, first it was glue, then it was aerosol products, and now it's HAND SANITIZER?! The problem isn't the kids; the problem isn't the product; the problem is the parents, the media, and the society we live in today. This is a problem that can't be “child-proofed” until a problem is actually resolved, not corrected. Maybe you should address an article about that.

    Thank's for listening,
    Amin Aburomi.

    • You are absolutely right on the money on that one. It is so sad to see that kids are so bored out of their skulls that they resort to this stuff and where are the parents when there kids are doing all of this crap. It seriously makes you wonder. There are probably the parents that are unaware that there child is doing poorly in school and has social problems. Also probably the parents who don't have their childrens friends over to the house and get to know who their children are hanging out with. Children need to be busy doing something to keep them engaged and out of trouble. There weren't these problems when I was a child I had all kinds of ways of entertaining myself. We actually knew how to play outside….what a novel concept now. We actually went hiking and cross country skiing with my parents. We went camping on the weekends or swimming or some kind of family event. No one has the time or interest any more for this stuff.

  20. Hand sanitizer isn't nearly as bad as jankum- a drug composed of human waste. When left to ferment for three days, methanol is let off and inhaled by the jankum or butt hash user to induce a hallucination that lasts for three days.

  21. This is the dumbest news story I've ever read. There are better ways for minors to get alcohol than to eat soap. That's like wanting to hallucinate so you go and eat every wild mushroom you see and hope for the best.

  22. Had a person come into our clinic with a foley – drank rubbing alcohol screwed up his kidneys severely, he wanted us to take the foley out,(we didn't) the doctor that put it in at a different hospital has to give the order to remove it. I think he should have been placed in a psych ward for this, it's not normal behavior.

  23. I drank two bottles of it and fuck does it burn your stomach. Then you throw up over and over again. I ended up having it with beer and I got so fucked up I ended up attacking a police officer and getting thrown in a holding cell where I spent the entire night hearing music that obviously wasn't playing and people talking about me. I'd rather huff gas than this crap. My buddy was like "hey man, look, this shit has alcohol in it. Fucking 70 %. Worst mistake ever.

  24. i used to steal it from the police station in hamilton….it worked 4 a month til i got caught…………………..aaaaawoooooooooooooooooooooooooo….water it down and it does the trick…….frig rubbin alc…….ya i got caught in kitchener hospital drinkin it…….they put me 4 a 72 hour lock down…………i got out in 24 hours…then steal from lcbo

  25. Yeah, it seems as though alcohol can get you wasted, who woulda thunk it? Also, it does have the capability of killing germs if used correctly. Problem is, once the stuff dries, it doesn't do any good. Started using this Non-alcoholic hand sanitizer called Meditize that I got at a 7-11 that doesn't have an overpowering scent like the alcohol based stuff.

    Check out the website, this one seems to work for us! http://www.meditizehandsanitizer.com

    Hand sanitizer shouldn't get you wasted, it should clean your hands!!!

  26. Oh no! Too much alcohol dries out your hands anyway. Now you have drunk kids with dry flaky hands. That's never good.

  27. The best way to drink hand sanitizer is straight, like whisky, and down it like a shot, explains Tyler, a Grade 10 student who lives in Toronto. Undiluted, the alcohol-based liquid tastes a little like vodka and bug spray, he adds.

  28. I just tasted a (very) little dab of it. Not exactly a sommelier's dream, but surprisingly inoffensive. Slightly tart with a somewhat bitter aftertaste, the jelly quickly melts on your tongue, and goes down with only a very mild burn.

    Yeah RagingRanter. I too had the similar feeling like this.

  29. Enough is enough when it comes to cutting K-12 education. It seems that the new governor is not willing to cut anymore education, but you never know with these politicians. http://www.resurrectingthechamp.com/

  30. I have read this recently that there was a case of kids drinking hand sanitizer in Germany. My friend Jessica from the schmuck ratgeber told me about this and I was quite shocked that these kids would do something like this. So far however it seems like it was the only case of this issue and I hope it stays like this.

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