When we think about mouthwash, we usually consider it something people use to clean their teeth and gums. Few of us suspect that it could be a temptation to consume alcohol. Mintel mentions that the mouthwash industry has seen a 15% growth in the period 2012-2017.
While most of this growth may be due to legitimate use of mouthwash as a cleaning agent, there is a subset of users who consume it as an alcohol substitute. Many types of mouthwash use an active ingredient that is some form of alcohol.
The alcohol works to kill the harmful bacteria that remains on a person’s teeth after eating something. For the most part, it works. The big problem is that active ingredient.
When someone becomes dependent on alcohol, they seek out any possible way they get it. This consideration might extend to their grocery trips. Mouthwash might not seem like it has a large volume of alcohol in its composition. Since it’s used regularly, most people don’t even bother to check the alcohol content of their mouthwashes.
In reality, brands like Listerine can routinely show up as having 26.9% alcohol by volume (54 proof) – far more potent than a beer. For someone who has a lingering alcohol dependency that they need to take care of, these mouthwashes provide a cheap, available solution that no one would suspect as long as they’re smart where they buy their mouthwash.
Why Do People Drink Mouthwash?
Why do people drink any type of alcohol? When you use mouthwash as directed, it can be a valuable addition to your arsenal of tools to keep your mouth clean. Many of us have learned as kids that when you use mouthwash, you spit it out afterward.
Spitting it out isn’t only due to the burning sensation it creates but because of the massive alcohol content within their chemical compositions. People who drink mouthwash want that alcohol inside their bodies. They might be dependent on the substance or simply want to experiment with something they consider safe.
Very commonly, some people who start off ingesting mouthwash are kids who are now learning about drugs and alcohol. Because they can’t get to a store that’ll allow them to purchase alcohol on their own, they instead get mouthwash, which is an innocent substitute.
Kids are not the only demographic of people who consume mouthwash as a drink, either. Many people who have an alcohol dependency but are too ashamed or afraid to admit it might find themselves buying mouthwash as a substitute. Once they spread about their purchases, the chances of someone realizing that they’re drinking it are limited, allowing them to continue to support their habit.
Can You Get Drunk from Mouthwash?
People drink alcohol for several reasons. When a person is in a social environment that makes it easy to relax, they might consume alcohol. If a person is below the age of buying alcohol, however, it becomes an issue. Teenagers that want to experiment with alcohol consumption but don’t come from a family that supports that mindset might try mouthwash as an alternative.
Because of the massive alcohol content in a bottle of mouthwash, it doesn’t take long to get drunk on it. The alcohol quickly hits the bloodstream. Over-the-counter mouthwash brands might contain significantly higher doses of alcohol than even the highest alcohol content beer that someone could buy.
Some mouthwash manufacturers have added ingredients to make it less attractive to consume alcohol. Unfortunately, this “specially denatured alcohol” isn’t a very good deterrent for individuals trying to get drunk off mouthwash. These ingredients make the alcohol less palatable, which is not a good way to stop individuals from drinking it.
Mouthwash also contains several toxic ingredients that can cause harm to the human body. While accidentally swallowing a little mouthwash probably won’t damage your internal organs, drinking a whole bottle of it could lead to severe repercussions.
Because of the content, consuming several bottles in a short time is likely to lead to alcohol poisoning. Even in individuals who can “manage their liquor” consumption, drinking mouthwash is a bad idea.
How Much Alcohol Does Mouthwash Contain?
The average beer in the US contains about 5% alcohol by volume. Some states allow more, and some states allow less. When we compare the almost 27% alcohol by volume content of mouthwash, it’s apparent that getting drunk on mouthwash would require a lot less bottle than if someone was drinking beer.
Mouthwash contains five times the alcohol of a beer and almost three-quarters the alcohol content that one would be found in whiskey or rum. The alcohol that mouthwash contains is ethyl alcohol.
It’s different from the ethanol found in whiskey or rum and is not safe for human consumption. Other household items that use the same type of alcohol include hand sanitizers and wet wipes.
Teenagers And Mouthwash Abuse
As mentioned before, drinking mouthwash appeals to several demographics. Individuals trying to hide their addiction or dependence on alcohol are common users of mouthwash for this purpose. However, teenagers can also fall prey to it because it’s easy to obtain and doesn’t require an ID to buy.
Unlike typical alcohol drinks, consuming mouthwash doesn’t leave behind the tell-tale scent of alcohol. Instead, these teens get the fresh, sweet smell of mouthwash that can be easily explained by saying they used mouthwash after eating.
In homes that have alcohol, teens might be tempted to consume those drinks instead. While not acceptable, it’s at least less dangerous than having them drink mouthwash as their alcohol introduction.
Teenagers are likely to experiment with a wide range of drugs as they’re growing up. Even in the strictest home, there’s no definite way of stopping kids from trying things. There have been several cases where kids started by drinking mouthwash at home. After some time, they became dependent on the substance, much like an adult would.
As a result, they started taking mouthwash to school to “take the edge off.” Many schools ban the possession of alcoholic beverages, and suspensions followed after their peers reported them for their alcohol consumption. Mouthwash abuse, while not so common an occurrence in the US, still happens in certain situations. The biggest problem for kids consuming alcohol is mouthwash overdose.
Can You Overdose on Mouthwash?
As with any substance, overdosing on it requires consuming more of it than your body can handle. In the case of mouthwash, this critical mass is much lower than with other alcoholic beverages. Concentrated alcohol like mouthwash can get someone drunk in just a short space of time.
Because some consumers don’t know when enough is enough or believe that mouthwash is just like beer, they can quickly consume more than their bodies can deal with. Overdoses can be traumatic experiences for someone who drinks mouthwash. Even more so than alcohol poisoning, mouthwash poisoning can lead to lasting and irreparable damage to the body’s tissues.
Symptoms Of Mouthwash Poisoning
Mouthwash overdose is unlike typical alcohol poisoning. When someone consumes a large volume of alcohol over a short time, the body can’t cope with the influx of toxic chemicals. As a result, the person’s body starts to shut down. Alcohol poisoning can be a terrifying experience, but mouthwash poisoning can feel even worse. Some of the symptoms of this illness include:
- Low body temperature
- Low blood pressure
- Dizziness, drowsiness, or sleepiness
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Stomach pain
- Low blood sugar
- Changes in urination
- Sore throat
- Impaired coordination
- Slurred speech
- Losing consciousness or dropping into a coma
Some of these symptoms differ from the typical signs of alcohol poisoning because other toxic chemicals within mouthwash could negatively affect a person’s body. When symptoms like these arise, someone must contact an ambulance as soon as possible. If these symptoms continue without professional help, it could lead to permanent damage to the person’s body or brain.
Dangers Of Drinking Mouthwash
Alcohol in mouthwash can lead to overdoses, but consuming it regularly can also negatively affect a person. A person who drinks alcohol regularly will eventually become dependent on it – unable to function without the substance in their bloodstream.
However, this is an even worse situation when the alcohol comes from mouthwash. As mentioned before, many manufacturers of mouthwash use denatured alcohol in their products to stop people from drinking it. Some of the most severe consequences of consuming this denatured alcohol include:
- Cardiac or Respiratory Arrest
- Organ Failure
Drinking mouthwash to get high will create dependency after some time as the brain’s chemistry changes. When this happens, a person starts seeking out alcohol in any form they can get. Addiction occurs when someone starts taking more and more risky behavior to get the alcohol they need to function normally.
Reaching Out for Help With Alcoholic Mouthwash
If someone consumes mouthwash continually, they might be addicted to the substance. Younger consumers are at risk of damaging their home lives, social standing, and even how their bodies function. Older individuals might also face severe social stigma because of their use of mouthwash to get drunk.
Society is essentially accepting of alcohol consumption, but it draws the line at using mouthwash for drinking. Most times, when someone is consuming alcohol to support their alcohol habit, they might be addicted to the substance. Seeking help in this situation is the best way to overcome the problem of dependency and addiction.
Alcohol abuse treatment usually starts with detoxification. If someone is addicted to the substance, they have to go through a period of isolation from it to make sure that the treatment works. During detox, the urge to consume alcohol might be significant. Some people attempt to do detox on their own and have varying levels of success. Some of the other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Hallucinations: When going through detox, a person might face hallucinations between one and two days after starting the process. Most times, the hallucinations are minor, involving coins or insects, but there have been more substantial hallucinations in some cases.
- Seizures: People who are heavily addicted to alcohol may go through seizures as part of their detox. While the most common period of episodes during detox is between the first day and the third day, but it’s not uncommon to have someone suffering seizures throughout the first week of their treatment. The duration and intensity of these symptoms are based on how often the person consumes alcohol.
One of the most dangerous alcohol withdrawal symptoms is known as delirium tremens (DTs). DTs is far more hazardous than other symptoms of withdrawal, since it may lead to the person being unable to regulate their body temperature. Shifts in breathing and circulation mean that the person may feel as though they’re suffocating or experience symptoms similar to a heart attack.
Temporary constriction of blood vessels in the brain creates a situation where a stroke might happen. When detoxing from any sort of alcohol dependency or addiction, it’s always better to do so in a controlled environment.
Places like The Discovery House have staff on hand to care for people going through the struggle of addiction. Trained medical personnel are on call to ensure that if these symptoms occur, they will be dealt with professionally.
Seeking Treatment for Alcohol Misuse
Not every detox and recovery center is the same. California has quite a lot of them, but they differ in approaching the individual struggle of recovery. At The Discovery House, we see recovery as a personal journey. Each of our treatment plans is tailored to the individual.
From detoxification to therapy and long-term support, we provide all the necessary tools for each of our visitors to recover their lives from addiction. If you’re interested in experiencing how a professional recovery center operates, call us today and book an appointment.
We’ll be more than happy to walk you through our process and answer any questions you might have. You don’t have to go through this journey alone. Let us help you get your life back.