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Always Stretching the Limits

by Ned Wicker

It’s human nature to stretch the limits of any situation. You tell a three year-old not to touch the hot stove and what does he do? He touches the hot stove. Don’t go in the street: Don’t play too rough: Don’t pull the dog’s tail. You try to teach kids, but they do stupid things anyway. The latest stupid thing is drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk.

The news media ran stories on this activity recently, but I really can’t say I was surprised. Just the taste of that stuff has to be nasty, but the idea of trying to distill the alcohol out of it and the great lengths to which a teenager will do is amazing. Some kids were drinking it straight. The operative question becomes, “What were they thinking?”

The answer is simply they weren’t thinking, because the idea of drinking what is almost pure alcohol, or at least twice the potency of any booze on the market, brings on thoughts of people going blind drinking “White Lightning.” The hand sanitizer is 62 percent alcohol, so when you distill it, it becomes 120 proof or stronger.

Robo-Tripping new fad

Hand sanitizer is everywhere. You can get it at any grocery store, or buy it by the case on the internet. Teens find so many ways to abuse products, like guzzling cough syrup or mouth wash. This is sometimes called “robo-tripping” and as one fad fades, another begins. Kids don’t see the danger. Then again, teens will live forever and they are invincible. Any mention to the contrary will likely be greeted with an eye roll and a scoff.

The reality is kids wind up in the emergency room, dead, because they acted stupidly. Alcohol poisoning is deadly, but this is never thought of in the moment. They’re just trying to have a good time and get high. It’s the same mentality as “huffing” and the resulting brain damage is not the intended outcome.

Kids have always stretched the limits of reason. When I was a teen, the old “aspirin and coke” combination was supposed to give us a buzz. We sometimes smoked corn silk, and got very green doing it. When our parents had partiers, we’d go around the room and when nobody was looking, down a drink. Stupid stuff.

But sometimes stupid stuff turns deadly. Young people are apt to take unnecessary and unreasonable risks because they simply do not think through the entire sequence of potential events. The same thinking that goes into riding a skate board down the hand railing of a public building contributes to the idea that drinking hand sanitizer is a good thing to do because you can get high.

The frontal lobe of the adolescent brain is not fully developed, so sometimes the reasoning is very suspect. They’re just trying to have a good time, but they can wind up dead.

"A person who has never had alcohol before can get drunk instantaneously. It is very, very dangerous," said Dr. Calvin Lowe, of Children's Hospital of Los Angeles in an interview with KNBC. Several teens were hospitalized with alcohol poisoning recently in Los Angeles.

There are hand sanitizers that contain no alcohol, and there are the foam brands, which do, but the alcohol is much harder to distill.

Parents obviously need to be aware of this current trend and as silly as it may sound, they’ll have to treat hand sanitizer like liquor and take steps to ensure that their children aren’t allowed access to those products. Families may have to revert to old fashioned ways of cleaning their hands—soap and water.

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