Teen alcohol use is a serious concern and, surprisingly, modern teenage alcohol consumption does not just include drinking alcohol. Understanding the different ways that teens drink without actually drinking can be helpful in recognizing teen alcohol abuse and getting help.

With access to endless information through social media and the internet, children and teens are learning alternative methods to intake alcohol. Modern teenage drinking does not just include the traditional practice of drinking beer, wine or spirits; on the contrary, many teens are resorting to alternative methods of getting drunk without drinking alcohol.

There are many reasons why teens are resorting to these alternative methods when struggling with teen alcohol abuse. Some are hoping to avoid detection, some are trying to get intoxicated more rapidly and some are giving into peer pressure to experiment with these alternative methods. 

Regardless of the reasons, these alternative ways that teens are using to consume alcohol can be very dangerous. Even though these alternative methods of getting drunk may not be extremely common, understanding the different ways that teens drink without actually drinking can be helpful in recognizing teen alcohol abuse and getting help.  

Alcohol Vapor

The practice of “smoking alcohol” is a recent phenomenon that is proving to be very dangerous.

Social media advertising has shown it is possible to heat up alcohol to inhale the vapors and pour alcohol over dry ice to inhale the “smoke” that is created. While these methods may seem cool and exciting to teenagers and young adults, inhaling alcohol can cause serious harm to the brain and lungs and cause significant intoxication very quickly. There are many young adults and teens inhaling alcohol in an attempt to prevent vomiting from excessive alcohol intake or to avoid the extra calories that come with consuming alcohol. Inhaling alcohol vapors is becoming increasingly popular; therefore, it is important for parents and teenagers to be aware of this phenomena and the dangers associated with it. 

Hand Sanitizer

In an attempt to avoid detection, some teens will ingest hand sanitizer and other household products with alcohol content. Hand sanitizer contains high concentrations of ethanol, the main ingredient in beer, wine and spirits. When comparing it in terms of “proof”, a bottle of vodka is 80-proof and liquid hand sanitizer is about 120-proof. Teenagers drinking hand sanitizer can result in serious liver and kidney damage.

As one would expect, hand sanitizer does not have a pleasant taste so some teenagers attempt to separate the gel of the hand sanitizer from the alcohol component using salt or other extraction processes.

Parents need to be aware of the trend of kids drinking hand sanitizer and other household products, such as mouthwash and rubbing alcohol. Having an open dialogue with your child can ensure that you are teaching them about the dangers and risks of ingesting household products. 


With the increasing availability of drug edibles, it is not uncommon to see or hear about teens using alcohol-infused candy, alcohol-infused whipped cream or other alcohol-infused food products to get drunk. While these products have been popular in nightclubs and bars for some time, it is becoming more common for teenagers to be ingesting these food concoctions of alcohol in order to become intoxicated. Hiding alcohol in food products that are commonly eaten by teenagers can help avoid detection while at home or at school. It is important for parents to be vigilant about what their teenagers are eating and where the food is coming from. 

Other Ways Teens Intake Alcohol

As crazy as it may seem for someone to inhale alcohol or drink hand sanitizer, teens are using these ways to consume alcohol. Some other less common ways that teens are intaking alcohol include:

  • Eyeballing alcohol 
  • Snorting alcohol
  • Using Vodka soaked tampons

Consumption of alcohol by a minor is dangerous no matter how it is done. Underage drinking is the cause of many deaths and injuries each year. Research has shown that people who start using alcohol before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.

Prevention of underage drinking is essential to reducing alcohol-related injuries and deaths and preventing alcohol and drug dependence.

Here are some tips for how to prevent teen drinking:

  • Provide consistent and clear warnings about the risks of underage drinking
  • Talk to your teen and maintain open and understanding communication
  • Do not encourage the use of alcohol by allowing underage drinking or activities that promote underage drinking
  • Monitor your teenager’s use of social media
  • Encourage positive peer relationships and intervene when negative peer relationships that are affecting your teenager’s attitude and activities
  • Address any concerns regarding teen alcohol use with your child’s doctor or healthcare provider

It is important for parents to be knowledgeable and vigilant. If you suspect your child is abusing alcohol, it is important to trust your instincts, closely monitor your teen’s activities and understand that privacy does not become the priority over ensuring your child’s safety. Advice from your child’s doctor, a guidance counselor, or one of the addiction specialists at The Recovery Village, can help you assess the situation and determine any next steps that should be taken. 

Help is always available and if you think your teen needs help, call The Recovery Village to speak with a representative about a teen alcohol treatment plan that best meets the needs of your child.

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Editor – Daron Christopher
Daron Christopher is an experienced speechwriter, copywriter and communications consultant based in Washington, DC. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Kathleen Oroho Linskey, PharmD
Kathleen is a licensed pharmacist in New Jersey. She earned her Doctorate of Pharmacy from Rutgers University. Read more

Glorioso, Chris. “Teenagers Use Gummy Candy to Hide Alcohol.” ABC News New York, November 8, 2011. Accessed August 26, 2019.

Hoberman, Sarah. “Teens Getting Drunk on Hand Sanitizer.” ABC News, April 25, 2012. Accessed August 26, 2019.

National Capital Poison Center. “Inhaling Alcohol is Dangerous: Know the Risks.” (n.d.) Accessed August 26, 2019.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Underage Drinking.” Updated February 2017. Accessed August 26, 2019.

Shute, Nancy. “Teenagers’ Latest Bad Idea: Drinking Hand Sanitizer.” NPR, April 25, 2012. Accessed August 26, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.