Teen Alcoholism and Hand Sanitizer make Strange, but not uncommon, Bedfellows

KTLA reported today that six teens were taken to emergency rooms after drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk. This might be shocking to some, but ask anyone who has ever dealt with teen alcoholism, and you can hear some remarkably ingenious stories regarding how young alcoholics and addicts are able to feed their addictions. Necessity is the mother of all invention, but craving is the mother of all obsessions.

As someone who got clean and sober at 18, I can tell you that some of the methods my friends and I took to get drunk and/or high were as brilliant as they were stupid. I won’t get into the specifics of these methods for obvious reasons, but needless to say, we did things that were horrifically dangerous in retrospect, but they didn’t seem to be at the time. For me personally, all my money went to feeding my prescription drug addiction and keeping the crystal meth effects at their peak at all times, which left money for alcohol a rarity. Usually that meant stealing, but sometimes, if we had a rare moment of forethought and some patience (something even more rare than forethought), we would make our alcohol ourselves. It wasn’t great, but it got the job done and meant a lower risk of getting arrested.

It wasn’t just alcohol that we would steal, though. No, we stole items ranging from the standard apple, to light bulbs, 40’s, and beyond. We routinely cleaned up the cleaning isle–pun completely intended–on a regular basis. We were the bane of supermarkets and home improvement giants alike. Sure, much of this could have been chalked up to teen antics, but this was no longer a case of simple alcohol abuse. This wasn’t drinking with the guys after a game, or socially on the weekends at a kickback or before an event. This was full-blown alcohol addiction. Whereas most people were able to stop and say, “I’m not willing to do something like that just for a drink,” that thought hadn’t occurred to me. Not because I didn’t like the idea, mind you, but because it wasn’t an option in the first place.

This isn’t a trip down memory lane for the sake of nostalgia. Instead, I share these memories to show that age plays no role when it comes to getting alcohol addiction treatment. I believe few would argue that teens going to the lengths that I did, or that those who ended up in the news report, weren’t exactly drinking the way most normal human beings do. In a sense, for me at least, it was almost a sort of survival mode; “I absolutely need this. How do I get more of it?” It didn’t really matter how I got it, or what the consequences were, so long as I got what I was pursuing in the end. Everything else was a minor footnote, if that.

If this mindset sounds familiar, or if you know someone who bears striking similarity to the description above, our Orange County drug treatment center is particularly adept at handling issues surrounding teen alcoholism and addiction. If you have had a similar experience and would like to share, we’d love to hear your story!

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