The fact that in today’s society, teenagers use and abuse alcohol is no great surprise. Historically this has always occurred, as teens from every generation have gone to great lengths in the pursuit of alcohol. Using fake I.Ds, stealing alcohol from the house of a parent or clubbing together and asking someone older to buy them drink are just some of the ways teenagers have found to buy and consume alcohol illegally. However, as common as it is, and as sometimes harmless as it is, we also know that abusing alcohol can, and does, occasionally have devastating consequences for teenagers. This article will look at some of the more bizarre ways our teens use and abuse alcohol today.
Many adults who present with an alcohol use disorder reportedly started drinking as a teenager. This fact, confirmed in a report by The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found alcohol abuse before the age of fifteen made alcohol addiction six times more likely than those who began to drink after the age of twenty-one. The lure of alcohol has always seemed to outweigh the apparent dangers among youth group. Our young people today are now, more than ever, pushing the boundaries concerning alcohol, inventing seemingly more and more bizarre ways to feel its effects.
New trends around ways to consume alcohol can spread quickly today, through easy internet access and social media, as well as by the more traditional word of mouth. These accelerated forms of communication provide a platform for new products and new methods, and with them come dangerous trends that many parents and caregivers aren’t yet aware of.
Jellied candies are something you would expect to see kids eating at break time in school. However these days, all too often the candies kids have at school are not the traditional kind. Children have started to modify the common candy by following instructions available on YouTube, they have been able to create what are now known as ‘drunken gummies’ or ‘boozy bears’. These are pre-soaked alcohol gummies. Spirits such as vodka lace the candy, providing cover and secrecy for alcohol consumption in schools. Since the invention of these gummies, school officials have noticed an increase in alcohol related incidents in schools describing alcohol as pervasive. It’s always worth discussing the potential consequences of what your child may see as harmless fun, especially if you start noticing their candy consumption increase dramatically!
As online tutorials spread, giving clear instructions on the best way to ingest hand sanitizer to get drunk, as did the numbers of children admitted to poison control centers. With an alcohol content of around 95%, hand sanitizer can be highly dangerous when abused. Kids today are increasingly being treated for intentional ingestion with presenting symptoms of stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and in some cases coma or seizures. The ease at which young people can obtain this substance is worrying, and it remains a problem among children of all ages. Switching to non alcohol based hand sanitizers has helped in schools but other alcohol based products are still available in most stores. As parents and caregivers, we need to be cautious when buying alcohol based products and ensure that if we are using them, they aren’t being abused.
By inhaling the vapor produced by pouring alcohol over dry ice, directly or with a straw, kids have developed a new way to bypass the process of metabolizing alcohol that usually happens within in the stomach and liver. Using this process, the vapor passes through the lungs and goes directly to the brain. Users smoking alcohol in this way describe a more potent and direct hit. The dangers of this are that the alcohol doesn’t enter the system via the stomach. Therefore, if too much is consumed, consumers are not able to vomit to expel the substance. A teenager could thus be at risk of alcohol poisoning and possible overdose. Doctors warn ‘Your lungs are not meant to inhale something that can turn back into a liquid. When you think of liquid in the lungs, you think of drowning.’
Freeze dried powdered alcohol offers yet another variation on traditional alcohol consumption. Easy to hide and portable, these small packets only require water to transform into ready made ‘on the go cocktails.’ Approved by the FDA, there are many concerns for this form of alcohol including the idea that teens may be tempted to snort it alone, or combine it with other powder form drugs such as cocaine to get high. Many states in America have already banned the product, however it is still available to buy in some places, and of course – online, making it still relatively easy for resourceful teenagers to get hold of.
Another of the more bizarre ways the youth of today have invented to bypass the metabolic process of alcohol consumption, is Vodka tampons. Tampons soaked in alcohol are inserted into the vagina and reported to speed up the process of getting drunk. The validity of this is untested, but what is known is that alcohol, when used this way, can cause significant damage to soft tissue. In addiction, much like inhaling alcohol, the risk of overdose and alcohol poisoning is heightened, given the bodies inability to vomit if needed.
Butt Chugging, another name for what is essentially an alcoholic enema, is another practice conducted by college aged teens in order to speed up the process of intoxication. Known to have serious negative consequences such as tachycardia and hypertension this practice, like others we’ve mentioned, negates the body’s natural way of dealing with excessive alcohol use, and can cause overdose and poisoning.
A disturbing new trend, gaining traction on many American college campus sites, is a form of abuse known as drunkorexia. Excessive exercise or fasting prior to alcohol use, followed by the purging of alcohol from the system with laxatives, is surprisingly popular today. According to a study of ‘1,184 college students, mostly from Texas, who said they had drunk alcohol heavily at least once in the past 30 day. More than 80 % had engaged in at least one drunkorexia-related behavior in the preceding three months.’
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Fact Sheets—Underage Drinking. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm accessed 11/12/2019
Donaldson James, S., ABC News. (2011). www.abcnews.go.com/Health/drunk-gummies-boozy-bears-latest-teen-alcohol-craze/story?id=15018412 accessed 26/11/2019
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6608a5.htm?s_cid=mm6608a5_e accessed 26/11/2019
Doheny, K., WebMD. (2015). healthland.time.com/2013/06/05/smoking-alcohol-the-dangerous-way-people-are-getting-drunk/ accessed 26/11/2019
Brophy Marcus, M., CBS News. (2016). https://www.cbsnews.com/news/drunkorexia-drinking-alcohol-eating-disorder-college-trend/ accessed 29/11/2019