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Sweden Is Facing a Crisis of Teens Getting Drunk on Hand Sanitizer

Yesterday, Swedish police official Stefan Sund told public broadcasting station Swedish Radio that teenagers are actually making bastardized Screwdrivers with hand sanitizer by mixing it with orange juice.
Hilary Pollack
Los Angeles, US

Flip on the ol' telly, and every other week, there seems to be an alarmist news report about the zany new ways that buzz-craving teenagers are getting fucked up. Butt chugging! Vodka-soaked tampons! Eyeball shots! Jenkem!

One of the most pervasive freakouts of this type has surrounded common hand sanitizer, which, as you probably know, is mostly just alcohol. Alcohol kills germs, which is why it's also the main component of other commonly abused household products such as mouthwash. In order to be effective, alcohol-based hand sanitizers must contain at least 70 percent alcohol. But until recently, we haven't had such a strong idea of how much and how often young people are actually drinking the stuff, or whether, like jenkem, it's largely just the fodder of urban legends.

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Hospital statistics speak to the fact that kids really are trying to get lit off Purell; US poison-control centers have seen a four-fold increase in calls relating to hand-sanitizer-drinking since 2010. And it turns out, the problem isn't limited to the States: In Sweden, it might be even worse.

Swedish police forces have asked pharmacists in Sweden's western Värmland region to take sanitizer off of their store floors and restrict it to behind-the-counter sales due to the uptick in teenagers becoming dangerously ill from drinking the hand cleaner. According to RT, New Year's Eve was when the issue reached a new peak, sparking numerous emergency room calls and alarming authorities. It's winter, and hand wash sales are through the roof as citizens try to avoid contracting a seasonal cold or the flu, making it hard for pharmacists to predict a buyer's intentions if they're loading up on sanitizer.

READ MORE: Young Children Love Getting Drunk on Hand Sanitizer

Apoteket AB, Sweden's biggest national pharmacy chain, has notified all staff to exercise caution in the sale of alcoholic disinfectants in respect to the rash of alcohol poisonings among young people.

The legal age to purchase alcohol in Sweden is 20, and liquor stores are operated by the state, making it difficult for minors to get their underage boozing on the old-fashioned way. (Namely, using fake IDs or getting an older friend in the group to buy for them.)

Yesterday, Swedish police official Stefan Sund told public broadcaster Swedish Radio that teenagers are actually making bastardized Screwdrivers with hand sanitizer by mixing it with orange juice.

Yikes. Sounds even worse than a shoplifted bottle of warm Smirnoff Ice mixed with 20-year-old peach schnapps from your parents' liquor cabinet. Ah, the good old days.