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How Teens Get Drunk Without Alcohol

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It’s no secret that teens often experiment with alcohol. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2014, more than 1.6 million between the ages of 12 and 20 drove vehicles under the influence. If you are in need of help, please contact us. We are here to help.

Since alcohol is plentiful in most homes, it’s relatively easy for teens to access the substance. While most parents are aware of the risk of alcohol use and abuse in their teens, and they may go to great lengths to keep their teens from accessing alcohol. As a result, parents may not know that teens become intoxicated through household items not normally considered alcoholic beverages.

By learning more about these substances, parents are able to prevent their teens from alcohol abuse.

Inhalant Abuse

Inhalants come in many shapes and sizes, and they are found in almost every household in America. In fact, most households have more than one item that could be used as an inhalant. Teens who want to experiment with inhalants can also easily buy the products at hardware stores.

Common inhalants include:

  • Paint thinner
  • Whipping cream refills
  • Glue
  • Gasoline
  • Spray paint
  • Nail polish remover

Some of these products contain volatile compounds that evaporate into the air, while others contain propellants that allow the contents to shoot through the air at a high speed. These ingredients can pack a powerful punch when teens inhale the fumes.

According to the Partnership at, these substances typically cause the same sorts of symptoms seen in people who drink alcohol. These include slurred speech, lack of coordination, dizziness and delirium. The feelings don’t last for more than a few moments, however, teens may attempt to prolong their pleasure by inhaling substances repeatedly over a very short period of time. This can lead to a lack of consciousness, or even death.

Inhalant abuse among teens is common, likely because teens may feel as though household products are safe.

Young Adolescent Inhalant Abuse

Inhalant abuse is a serious problem for adolescents. SAMHSA reports that 6.9 percent of 12-year-old children have used inhalants.  More children in this age group have used inhalants than cigarettes or marijuana.

Spotting inhalant abuse can be somewhat difficult, as teens don’t remain intoxicated for long periods of time. But, teens who do use inhalants on a regular basis may smell like chemicals, or they may have paint on their noses or fingers. Teens who inhale may also spend inordinate amounts of time in the basement or kitchen, and may scurry away when they see a parent coming.

Cough and Cold Medications

Most adults think of sticky, syrupy cold medications as a lifesaver when they’re sick. Teens, on the other hand, may turn to these substances in order to feel drunk without drinking alcohol.

Many cold medications contain dextromethorphan, also called DXM. This product is safe to take in 15- to 30-milligram doses, the Nemours Foundation reports, but teens often take as much as 360 milligrams at one time.

High doses of this drug result in hallucinogenic experiences.  Teens might also experience:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Paranoia
  • Sweating
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • High fevers

Despite all of these dangers, many teens still abuse these drugs. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, one in 11 teens has abused cough medicines or other OTC medications in this way.

Use of the drugs might also be on the rise, as manufacturers are thinking of new and innovative ways to help teens abuse the active ingredient in these drugs. Manufacturers are extracting the DXM from cough medications and selling pills of DXM on the Internet. Teens who want to get high can simply swallow or snort the pills. Some teens choose to take small cough pills, such as Coricidin HPB Cough and Cold, which contains DXM without the syrup stickiness. Unfortunately, this drug also contains an antihistamine, and teens who take high doses of this drug may face additional health risks due to large doses of antihistamines.

Cleansers, Sanitizers, Mouthwash and More

In their quest to get drunk without raiding the family liquor cabinet, some teens will ingest products in the home that contain alcohol but may not be considered true alcoholic beverages. For example, some teens choose to guzzle mouthwashes and breath fresheners that contain alcohol, in the hopes of obtaining a quick drunken high without getting into trouble.

Similarly, according to a report produced by ABC News, some teens choose to ingest hand sanitizers, as these products also contain large amounts of alcohol. Teens who are particularly adept at understanding alcohol strengths might be particularly prone to abusing sanitizers, as they may know about the strength of these products.

Teens who abuse household products in this way may do extreme damage to their kidneys and livers. And, they may also develop unforeseen medical complications due to ingesting substances that were never meant to be injected.

How Parents Can Help

Reading up on the dangers of illicit substances and realizing that teens might be using could lead some parents to panic and over-correct. For example, some parents choose to provide alcohol for their children, and supervise them as they learn to drink. According to an article published in the Wall Street Journal, 45 percent of children who drank alcohol got it for free at home. This is not the best way to educate teens about the dangers of alcohol abuse and addiction.

It’s best for parents to keep open lines of communication with their teens. By having open discussions about the dangers, and then staying on the alert for signs of abuse in their teens, parents can ensure that teens aren’t abusing alcohol.

Taking the Next Step

Those teens who are already addicted to alcohol or any of these other substances can also benefit from a teen alcohol rehab program. Here, they can learn more about how addictions change their chemical makeup, and how they can be combatted through the power of the mind.

We offer innovative treatment designed around the needs of teens at Newport AcademyTeen rehab can change someone’s life for the better. If your teen is struggling, please call us today to find out more.