Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

The Not-So-Typical Ways Teens Get Drunk

Laws National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and while the restrictions vary from state to state, most communities require young people to abstain from either purchasing or ingesting alcohol until they reach age 21. By this time, the thinking goes, young people have reached an age at which they’re better able to control their impulses and make good decisions, and as a result, they’re less likely to do something rash regarding drinking. Unfortunately, many teens choose to skirt these laws, anad the methods they use simply prove how impulsive teenagers can be.

Unusual Substances

Since teenagers can’t legally walk into a store and pick up an alcoholic beverage, it might be reasonable to suspect that they can’t take in any drinks either. If the drinks can’t be purchased, they can’t be consumed.

Teens have been following this method for decades, swilling down cough syrups and cold medications for their alcohol content. Some teens even take in huge amounts of mouthwashes, due to the alcohol they contain. Parents who may have taken in alcohol via this method during their youth might be quite careful about the products they allow inside the family home, and they might perform random sniff tests during goodnight kisses, just to ensure that their children aren’t drinking these noxious potions in order to get drunk. Some teens continue to evade detection, however, as they take in substances their parents might not even consider drinkable.

Liquid hand sanitizer seems to be a common target among teens who want novel drinks, and it’s unlikely that these teens are taking in these substances due to the way the fluids taste. These products aren’t made to pass through the mouth, and even when they’re distilled and mixed with other substances, the taste leaves much to be desired. But the alcohol content of these products is quite staggering.

For example, an article produced by ABC News suggests that a standard liquid hand sanitizer has an alcohol content of 62 to 65 percent. This means the fluids are 120 proof, where a standard bottle of vodka is 80 proof. Teens who take in these drugs could be obtaining an intense alcohol kick, and they don’t need to rob a store or steal in order to get it.

Strange Methods

While taking in alcohol in strange formats might be appealing to some teens, there are others who manage to purchase or otherwise attain regular alcoholic drinks. They could simply drink these beverages and wait for the effects to take hold, but some find that sipping and gulping doesn’t provide them with the intense sensation they desire. These young people may use novel techniques in order to take in alcohol, and these new procedures may be intensely dangerous.

Some unusual methods teens use for drinking include:

  • Soaking tampons in alcohol and inserting them rectally
  • Placing a beer bong tube in the rectum
  • Exposing the tissues of the eyeball to alcohol
  • Snorting alcohol through the nose

In some cases, these techniques seem to have a firm footing in science. Exposing alcohol to the rectum or to the eye tissues might be an effective way to get drunk quickly, for example, as the alcohol can move directly into the bloodstream without being processed by the liver. None of the alcohol is neutralized via this method, so it might be a much more efficient way in which to get drunk. But these methods can also be intensely damaging. For example, in an article produced by USA Today, ophthalmologists report that alcohol can permanently damage the issues of the eye. Teens may not be aware of the dangers of these methods, or they may feel as though the pain they go through as they drink is somehow part of the experience. They may even dare one another to participate, making the activity an opportunity for bonding and friendship.

Teens who want to evade detection, without necessarily putting their health at risk, might also take cues from their adult counterparts.

Teens might ingest alcohol-spiked chocolates or cakes, for example, or they might soak gummy treats in alcohol and pack them in their bags for ingestion during the school day.

It’s hard to know how many teens might be taking these kinds of steps, but it is clear that at least some teens think that eating alcohol is safer than drinking it, and that these methods might allow them to drink without getting into trouble with either parents or school officials.

How Do They Get These Ideas?

Teens have traded tips on alcohol and drugs for decades, and it’s not surprising that these social creatures might steal ideas from one another when it comes to acting out and getting drunk. But the Internet seems to make swapping tips and tricks just a little easier, and it might be responsible for some of these new trends in teen alcohol consumption.

According to CNET News, the website YouTube is intensely popular among teenagers, as 64 percent of them even prefer to use this channel to listen to new music. Rather than leaning on older techniques, like radio or telephone, young people tend to click on their computers when they’re looking for information. If these seekers turn to YouTube for information about drinking, they might be rewarded with hundreds of videos that depict teens drinking in new ways. Participants in these videos might seem as though they’re having a wonderful time, and that might inspire teens to do some experimenting of their own.

Some videos even contain step-by-step instructions teens can follow in order to do things like:

  • Distill hand sanitizer
  • Build a beer bong
  • Prepare an eyeball shot
  • Vaporize alcohol

Not only do the videos suggest how much fun the activities might be, but they also can help teens figure out how to do these activities on their own. With just a few clicks, a teen’s night might be well planned and ready to go.

Teens may also be inspired to take on these acts when they watch popular television shows or movies. The show Jackass, for example, depicted the practice of using a beer bong in the rectum, according to ABC News. Shows like this may make the acts seem painful or somehow undesirable to adults, but again, teens can be inspired by acts that cause other people pain. They may think it would be fun to try the same action and experience no pain at all. They may also think it might be amusing to force their friends into painful situations. Their definition of fun might be quite different than the definition an adult might use, but it can be an important factor in the decision to experiment with alcohol.

What to Do

Parents might believe that their teens would never use such strange techniques in order to take in alcohol. Some parents, in fact, might insist that their children would be too wise to do something that might be considered silly and strange. It’s important to remember that teens just don’t have the capacity to make reasonable decisions that incorporate future harm from current pleasure. Their brains are rewiring and remolding during adolescence, making teens much more vulnerable to acts of impulsivity and randomness. They just can’t behave like rational adults, because they haven’t reached that stage.

Parents can help by reminding teens that rules regarding alcohol aren’t flexible. Crafty teens who claim that they’re not breaking alcohol boundaries because they’re drinking hand sanitizer, or because they’re not actually swallowing alcohol, might benefit from a stern talk in which parents define drinking as the entry of alcohol into the teen’s body, no matter where the alcohol originates and no matter how it enters the body. With these inflexible rules, teens might be less likely to claim ignorance or innocence. Teens might also need to be reminded that they can call parents when they’re in situations in which they’re being pressured to drink. A teen boy who is being pressured to do a vodka eyeball shot for inclusion on YouTube by his well-meaning friends might be reassured to think he can call his parents for backup, and avoid doing something that could cause him long-term harm.

While some teens will quickly curb their habits when they’re talked to by parents, there are some teens who simply can’t get control of their drinking. These teens might be drawn to hand sanitizers and other novel drinks out of desperation, simply because they can’t resist the call of alcohol and don’t know of other ways in which to get the drinks they need. These teens might also resort to alcohol-laced candy or alcohol tampons because they have a physical addiction to alcohol, and as a result, they might need to have access to the substance around the clock. These teens need more than just a talking to. They need the help of a treatment program for addiction.

At Muir Wood, we help teenage boys just like this. With our help, boys learn more about how dangerous alcohol can be, and they learn how to resist the temptation to drink, even when that temptation is incredibly strong. If you’d like to know more about how we bring those results about, please call us or download our packet.

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Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services is a Joint Commission-accredited mental health and substance use disorder treatment provider located in Petaluma, California. We provide integrated evidence-based care including psychiatry, psychotherapy, experiential therapy, wellness services, and milieu therapy for adolescents and teens, and their family members.