Gummi Bear Menace Threatens Teen Sobriety

By Jeff Forester 10/06/11

Vodka-infused "boozy bears" pack a powerful punch and are difficult for parents and teachers to detect.

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Teenagers in the Detroit area—and many others—have recently found a new way to fool parents, teachers and even cops, enabling them to "drink" any time without arousing suspicion: "boozy bears." Gummi bears or worms—or even rats in honor of the Halloween season—are soaked overnight in vodka. The candy absorbs the booze remarkably well and becomes a high-octane treat. Just as vodka has always been favored by teens because it has relatively little tell-tale smell, these drunken Gummis are surging in popularity because only careful inspection—or tasting—will enable adults to discover that they contain anything more dangerous than sugar. Just a few handfuls can be enough to get drunk—and a major concern is that kids have no way of telling how much they have consumed. What's more, it's easy to consume a lot very quickly, posing serious health risks to kids. How-to sites are full of instructions for making boozy bears and YouTube instructional videos have also been popping up for at least the past few months. But the trend is on the rise, and earlier this week the story was featured on NBC in Detroit. However, a Detroit teenager, "TheNikbagtvZone," recently asked in a YouTube video whether all the publicity generated wouldn't simply power the problem further: "Why would y'all do a story on this? You know kids are like, 'Word? Gummi bears and vodka?  Never thought about that. We're doing that right now!'"

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Jeff Forester is a writer in Minnesota. His book, Forest for the Trees: How Humans Shaped the North Woods, an ecological history of his state's famed Boundary Waters, came out in paperback in 2009. Jeff is the Executive Director of MN Lakes and Rivers Advocates MLR and you can follow him on Twitter.