Can You Get Drunk From Drinking Vanilla Extract?

Vanilla extract contains a high amount of alcohol, and teenagers are reportedly drinking it to get a “buzz.” Getting drunk from drinking vanilla extract comes with health risks and other risks, and parents can use this opportunity to talk to their kids about alcohol.

A cooking ingredient and flavoring agent commonly used in baking, vanilla extract is essentially made by soaking vanilla beans in a solution of alcohol, or water and ethyl alcohol. The amount of alcohol in vanilla extract can cause intoxicating effects, but getting drunk from drinking vanilla extract comes with serious risks, especially among teenagers.

Why Do People Drink Vanilla Extract?

Despite being a cooking ingredient, vanilla extract has a considerably high alcohol content. Commonly used in recipes for cakes, cookies, and other desserts, it’s considered a staple in many household kitchens.

Because vanilla extract can be purchased without identification and is readily available in many households, teenagers in particular are experimenting with it. However, people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) may also be tempted to drink vanilla extract due to the alcohol content.

People who are dealing with an addiction to alcohol may consider drinking unconventional household products that contain ethyl alcohol, such as vanilla extract or other flavored extracts, cooking sherry, cough syrup, and mouthwash. Reasons for doing so may include the desire to ward off withdrawal symptoms, strong cravings for alcohol, and/or lack of access to alcohol as a result of being underage or lacking the funds.

The Reported Trend Among Young People

Drinking vanilla extract with the intent to feel a buzz or become intoxicated seems to be a current trend among teenagers. Though vanilla extract is about three times the price of standard liquor, it is readily available in many households and can be purchased at most grocery stores without an ID.

One reported trend among teens is to mix a bottle of vanilla extract with coffee, drink it, and then go to school mildly intoxicated. This supposedly started at a high school in Georgia, where students frequently purchased vanilla extract from a local Trader Joe’s, mixed it with coffee from a nearby Starbucks, and then walked to school. Some high schools may be aware of this behavior and warn and educate both faculty and parents accordingly, but in other areas, it may be happening unaddressed.

Widespread social media use has prompted drinking-related “challenges.” Getting a buzz from drinking vanilla extract is currently a TikTok challenge among young people, with teenagers and other young people filming themselves experiencing the intoxicating effects of vanilla extract in an effort to gain popularity or go viral. Even if your teen is not aware of this behavior, it’s easy to stumble upon these videos on social media.

Vanilla Extract’s Alcohol Content

The amount of alcohol in vanilla extract, 35% alcohol by volume (ABV), is equivalent to one shot of 70-proof vodka or other liquors like rum, gin, tequila, or whiskey. The ABV of vanilla extract is considerably higher than a standard beer (5% ABV) and table wine (10% ABV). Vanilla extract is typically sold in 1-ounce bottles, which is equivalent to one shot. Recipes typically call for one or two teaspoons of vanilla extract, which only contains about 1% ABV.

The sale of vanilla extract is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Among the requirements, vanilla extract must contain 35% ABV, at minimum, to be categorized as vanilla extract (and 100 grams of vanilla beans per liter).

Popular brands of vanilla extract sold in U.S. grocery stores include:

  • McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract, available in 1 fluid ounce or 16 fluid ounces, 35% ABV
  • Nielsen Massey Madagascar Pure Vanilla Extract, 4 fluid ounces, 35% ABV
  • Great Value Pure Vanilla Extract, available in 1 fluid ounce, 2 fluid ounces, or 4 fluid ounces, 41% ABV

How Vanilla Extract Is Made

Vanilla extract is made using two ingredients: vanilla beans and vodka or bourbon. The beans are left to soak in the alcohol for several days or up to a year, a process that allows the alcohol to absorb the flavor and aroma of the vanilla. Some store-bought vanilla extract also contains other ingredients, such as corn syrup.

How Much Vanilla Extract Is Dangerous?

When vanilla extract is used in small amounts in recipes, it isn’t dangerous. The amount of vanilla extract added to recipes is minimal and nearly all traces of the alcohol burn off during the cooking process. When people drink it, however, it can cause intoxication.

Keep in mind that 1 fluid ounce of vanilla extract is equivalent to one shot of alcohol. Two shots of alcohol can produce intoxicating effects in most people. If a person were to drink several bottles of vanilla extract, or one bottle of 4 fluid ounces, they may become intoxicated.

People who are new to drinking alcohol, such as teenagers, can quickly and easily consume an excess amount, which can lead to disorientation, poor decision-making, and even alcohol poisoning.

Risks Of Drinking Vanilla Extract

Drinking vanilla extract for intoxication can cause unpleasant side effects in the short term. Getting drunk from drinking vanilla extract and driving could lead to driving under the influence (DUI) charges. Being intoxicated also puts people at a greater risk of experiencing accidents, injuries, and assault.

Short-Term Health Effects Of Drinking Vanilla Extract

Although desserts flavored with vanilla extract are typically sweet, the ingredient is harsh-tasting and bitter, which can cause stomach upset. The effects of drinking vanilla extract in large quantities can mirror that of alcohol intoxication.

Short-term side effects of drinking vanilla extract may include:

  • allergic reactions, e.g., itching, hives, breathing difficulties, and/or swelling of the face, lips, or throat
  • difficulty sleeping
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • stomach pain

Unlike standard alcohol, some brands of vanilla extract also contain coumarin, a clear compound that resembles the scent of vanilla. In high doses, coumarin can be toxic to the liver. Although the FDA banned coumarin in 1954, it remains legal in Mexico and is used in Mexican vanilla extract, which can be purchased in the U.S.

Vanilla Extract And Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning occurs when a person consumes an excess of alcohol in a short time.

Alcohol is processed by the liver as a toxin. When there is too much alcohol in the body, the liver is unable to process it quickly, causing alcohol levels in the blood to rise. The amount of alcohol in the blood is referred to as blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If a person consumes high quantities of vanilla extract, they can suffer alcohol poisoning.

Signs of alcohol poisoning may include:

  • bluish tint to the skin, lips, or fingertips
  • confusion
  • loss of consciousness
  • reduced body temperature
  • slow and/or irregular breathing
  • seizures
  • vomiting

DUI And Other Risks

It is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher in all U.S. states, with the exception of Utah, where the legal limit is 0.05%. A BAC of 0.08% is the equivalent of four standard drinks. If a person consumes 4 ounces of vanilla extract and chooses to drive, they will risk driving under the influence and possible legal ramifications. In fact, there have been reported cases of people being arrested due to driving under the influence from drinking vanilla extract.

Studies show that people who are under the influence of alcohol also have a greater chance of experiencing accidents, injuries, and violence.

Signs That Your Teen May Be Experimenting With Vanilla Extract

If you suspect that your child is experimenting with vanilla extract, there are a few telltale signs to look for. Many of these signs are akin to those of general alcohol use, with a few exceptions.

Some of the signs of vanilla extract consumption include:

  • smelling strongly of vanilla
  • noticing that vanilla extract is missing from the kitchen and/or running out of vanilla extract faster than usual
  • finding empty vanilla extract in your teen’s room or in the home
  • disorientation
  • dilated pupils
  • slowed reaction time
  • slurred speech
  • vomiting

If your child is experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol, they may also exhibit behaviors in attempts to conceal their use.

They may also change friend groups, frequently ask for money, isolate themselves, avoid eye contact, act secretively, and lose interest in school or other activities.

How To Prevent Misuse Of Vanilla Extract

If you are concerned about your teen experimenting with vanilla extract, or if you live with a family member with a history of substance abuse, there are a few precautions you can take.

Buy Smaller Quantities

Vanilla extract is typically sold in smaller quantities. You can choose to buy the smallest bottle available to discourage consumption.

Keep Track Of Use

When using vanilla extract, you might also discretely mark the bottle to indicate the amount that’s left. Doing so can help you monitor use of the product.

Keep Out Of Reach

As a general precaution, Poison Control recommends keeping all alcohol-containing foodstuffs like extracts out of children’s reach.

Purchase Alternatives

The safest option may be to purchase imitation vanilla extract. Imitation vanilla extract is commonly sold in the baking section of grocery stores alongside pure vanilla extract. Unlike the pure product, imitation vanilla extract will not cause intoxication, even if consumed in large quantities.

Talking With Your Teen About Substance Abuse And Addiction

There are many benefits to the internet and its wide accessibility. However, there are also downfalls, and social media trends involving underage drinking are one of them.

While teens, in particular, may view these behaviors as “risky” and “fun,” and associate them with the general experimentation, they may be unaware of the dangers involved. As a parent or guardian, it is important to educate your teen on alcohol, intoxicating substances, and the short- and long-term effects of use.

It can be difficult to have these discussions, as it can elicit emotion when your teen partakes in risk-taking behaviors. However, the best way to prepare them for positive decision-making is to start an ongoing conversation in the home, and encourage them to approach you with questions, comments, and concerns.

When talking about alcohol, drugs, and addiction with your teen, consider the following strategies:

  • Approach the topic in a relaxed, calm environment.
  • Be factual; talk about how drug and alcohol use can be dangerous, especially for young people whose bodies and minds are still developing.
  • Actively listen to your teen and do not interrupt them, regardless of whether you agree with their opinions or not.
  • Set clear expectations for your teen’s behavior and repercussions when these expectations are not met.
  • Express that you are setting these boundaries out of love, concern, and care for their safety.
  • Share your own experiences with drugs and alcohol use, if you feel comfortable doing so.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options

If you are having a hard time controlling your alcohol use, you may be facing an addiction.

Resources, such as the programs available at Bedrock Recovery Center, can help you start on a journey of recovery or get back on the path.

Treatment options available at Bedrock Recovery Center include:

  • medical detox
  • inpatient rehab
  • medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • behavioral therapy
  • peer support groups
  • case management
  • wellness activities
  • aftercare planning

Inpatient treatment is among the most effective forms of treatment for people who are new to addiction recovery, for people who have relapsed, and for people who are seeking a fully supportive environment with 24-hour care.

At Bedrock Recovery Center, medical detox is available during withdrawal to clients who need it, prior to entering inpatient treatment. Clients with addictions to alcohol may consider medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which uses FDA-approved medications and therapy as a proven method for maintaining recovery.

Clients also have access to evidence-based therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and peer support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). These supports provide education about the disease of addiction and help with identifying the root causes, as well as equip clients with the tools needed to manage emotions in a healthy way, practice positive decision-making, and maintain a sober lifestyle.

Find Freedom From Addiction

Contact Bedrock Recovery Center today for more information about our addiction treatment plans.

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: June 21, 2024

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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