Household substances put parents of teens on alert


Parents may not suspect some common substances teens become involved with.


We all know about the importance of limiting teen access to alcohol, prescription medications and similar substances around the house. However, some teenagers are finding ways to abuse products commonly found at home or easily purchased in the community.

The good news is most teens are not abusing these household products. But it’s important for parents to be vigilant and aware of the potential dangers.



Allergy medications contain antihistamines that are abused for the sedative effects. Repeated abuse increases the risk of seizures, glaucoma and heart disease.

Cold/cough medicines commonly contain the ingredient dextromethorphan (DXM) which, taken in sufficient quantities, can cause euphoria and hallucinations.

Computer cleaner, the cleaner used to blow dust out of keyboards and electronics, contains difluoroethane, a substance similar to Freon®. The high from the gas can paralyze the user, producing a feeling of euphoria. This practice, known as “dusting,” can create a heart arrhythmia that leads to cardiac arrest. It can displace oxygen in the user’s lungs, causing asphyxiation.

Hand sanitizer can quickly cause intoxication. One bottle of hand sanitizer is the equivalent of 5 shots of hard liquor. Teens either drink it straight out of the bottle or use salt to separate the alcohol from the sanitizer.

Nutmeg, a common spice, can be mood-altering. Consuming five teaspoons of ground nutmeg produces a stimulant-like effect. The ingredient myristicin can produce a numb sensation in the body, a feeling of euphoria, hallucinations and paranoia.

Vanilla extract in purer forms contains about 35 percent ethanol by volume, which is more than many alcoholic beverages.

Whipped cream dispensed in canisters contains the gas nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. Teens inhale the canisters to achieve dizziness, ringing in the ears, confusion and excitement. The nickname for this high is “whip-its.”



National Institute on Drug Abuse: Inhalants

Everyday Health: Personal Takes


This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities or medical advice. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service.

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