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Drunken Gummy Bears


The  latest teen scandal: getting drunk on gummy bears.

I heard it this way, from CBS Newspath (Salinas CA):

They’re a sweet staple of any kid’s afternoon pick me up. But now Hollister police—who posted this warning on their facebook page today—and the San Benito County Health Department want you to know gummy bears aren’t so innocent anymore. [Teens] are soaking gummy bears with vodka and the bears soak up all the alcohol so its undetectable.

Hankla says, “teens are very creative and intelligent and can think of ways to sneak alcohol past adults. They can ingest more than they know theyre ingesting because they are taking handfuls of candy and they don’t know how much they’ve ingested so they can become pretty intoxicated pretty quickly.”

Urban legend radar on high alert: kids getting drunk on candy, sounds like oh so many other candy=drugs stories, which invariably turn out to be about 99.9% fantasy.

In this case, it’s a bit more complicated.

My first thought was that this was impossible: gummy bears, like any candy, would dissolve in the vodka. I figured that maybe the story got started when some gang of drunk teens were eating gummy bears, and a candy-hating adult drew her own conclusions.

But my candy biases might be swaying me too far in the other direction. To the laboratory! My assistant and I picked up some vodka and gummy bears on the way home last night, and some candy corn and skittles for comparison.

We doused all the candy in vodka, and here are the results (L to R: candy corn, skittles, gummy bear):

As you can see, the gummy bears are still in tact, some 12 hours after their vodka splash, and the vodka that was in the bowl has disappeared. They don’t dissolve, they absorb. And this absorbent quality has captured the imagination of kids looking for ever new ways to deliver alcohol to the brain. In this video from Detroit, investigators pour a liter of vodka on a full pan of gummy bears. The next day, vodka-plumped bears.

So against my skepticism, this time I credit the story. It’s possible, it’s appealing, it’s probably true.

Related post: Ecstasy Candy Hearts? I doubt it.



Filed under: Children and Candy, Myth Busting

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