I don’t know about you, but after a long week, I like to kick back and relax with a nice cold glass of Purell.*
A disturbing(ly stupid) trend amongst teenagers in California looking for an easy way to get a buzz is slowly spreading across the country. In March and April, there were 16 cases in Los Angeles County of teenagers falling after drinking hand sanitizer. They’re hoping to get some level of drunk from the ethyl alcohol present in the sanitizer, which helps to kill germs. Some wannabe lushes are even getting scientific in their approach and using salt to help separate the alcohol from the gel.
This kind of thing is nothing new. Young people with a similarly narrow perspective have long turned to things like cough syrup, vanilla extract, and mouthwash to help them achieve some level of amateur crunk. I can remember people in my high school doing things like snorting nutmeg (it actually can get you high if you consume enough) and smoking catnip, which always seemed pretty stupid to me. Aside from the obvious, I went to a large high school in the city and there were plenty of people around who were both over 21 and possessing questionable morals. In other words, lack of access wasn’t really an issue. The problem with these, uh, creative alternatives, of course, is that these substances are not meant to be ingested in large quantities and are toxic.
In response to these risky attempts, mouthwash now contains far less alcohol and cough syrups that could be qualified as “sizzurps” are now kept behind the pharmacist’s counter. Or they contain a vomit-inducing substance that prevents one from consuming too much of it. If this hand sanitizer becomes enough of public health safety issue, it could be the next thing to have stricter regulations placed upon it. At about 60 percent alcohol, or 120 proof, hand sanitizer is similar to vodka in strength. Personally, I don’t really care too much about the availability of the stuff going down. I think its omnipresence actually does a disservice to immunity in most public places.
Regardless of how liberal we consider ourselves to be, as parents and/or as people who were also once teenagers, I think we can all agree that the urge to rebel and do things that are somehow wrong is natural. Many/most teenagers in our culture want to get drunk to see what it’s like and to break the rules. And they will go around any boundaries to scratch that itch. The question is how to be pragmatic about this issue while still protecting their health and safety. Some parents allow their older children to try alcohol in small quantities to try to “demystify” it and remove that forbidden fruit appeal. Others take a more hard-line approach and demonize alcohol, setting up harsh consequences should their kids be caught getting shwilly. But that seems to ignore the fact that all people, even the most obedient children, have free will and will make decisions outside of the parameters of well-meaning, strict parents.
My son is 10 and we’ve talked to him pretty openly about alcohol and drugs so far. However, we’re getting to the point where we need to realistically be aware of what pressures and temptations will be facing him soon and arm him with the ability to make good and, most importantly, safe decisions.
How do you plan to or how did you approach the topic of alcohol with your kids?
*This image made me think of the “Crystal Gravy” skit on SNL back in the day that spoofed Crystal Pepsi and dammit I can’t be the only person with Van Halen stuck in their head now so here: