Most brands of mouthwash contain alcohol. This can be very tempting to people who struggle with an alcohol use problem. Alcoholism is a desperate disease — it takes over logic and principle and can make any person resort to trying to find alcohol by any means necessary. People with alcohol use disorder may turn to mouthwash and other household alcohols to try to ease cravings, despite the fact that consuming these substances can be dangerous.
People who are actively in the midst of alcohol use disorder are not the only ones who may misuse mouthwash. People who have been in recovery from alcoholism may have removed all other forms of alcohol from the home only to fall to the temptation to drink substances like mouthwash, which constitutes a relapse. Also, those who are too young to buy alcohol may attempt to get drunk by drinking mouthwash, cough syrup, or other household substances.
Drinking mouthwash to intoxication means ingesting toxic amounts of chemicals like chlorhexidine gluconate, hydrogen peroxide, ethanol (ethyl alcohol), and methyl calicylate.
The Toxic Ingredients in Mouthwash
Mouthwash is not meant to be swallowed. Although mouthwash contains alcohol, it is usually denatured alcohol, which is unfit for human consumption. It may also contain methyl alcohol, which, in large quantities, is poisonous and can cause blindness, organ failure, or even death.
Mouthwash is intended to be expectorated (spit out), rather than swallowed, and ingesting even a small amount can be detrimental. Ingesting amounts large enough to cause drunkenness can be extremely toxic and may lead to serious consequences. Mouthwash contains other ingredients that are also toxic and may be harmful if ingested.1
Most brands of mouthwash contain these dangerous ingredients:
- Hydrogen peroxide: Causes damage to the gastrointestinal tract and may result in symptoms such as upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
- Chlorhexidine gluconate: Leads to an increase in blood pressure that can disrupt heart and circulatory function. This chemical also kills the good and necessary bacteria in our bodies that keep blood pressure down.2
- Ethanol (ethyl alcohol):This type of alcohol is, indeed, also in alcoholic beverages. However, ethanol that is formulated for mouthwash is not meant to be ingested. It can lead to blood toxicity and overdose.
- Methyl salicylate: This chemical is often responsible for that “minty fresh” feeling, but it is not meant to be consumed. This chemical can lead to a condition known as “rapid-onset salicylate poisoning.” It is especially not recommended for people who are on blood-thinning drugs such as warfin or Coumadin.3
Finally, drinking mouthwash may be dangerous in the same ways that drinking large amounts of alcoholic beverages is dangerous. Large amounts of mouthwash can produce intoxication and may lead to any number of consequences such as arrest, injury, or death from drunk driving, liability for the injury or death of another. Just like beer or liquor, drinking mouthwash will impact the most important relationships in your life, your health, and your goals.
“I am an extremist at times,” writes Vanessa at HeroesInRecovery.com. “So no hand sanitizers, mouthwash…you name it. If it had any ounce of alcohol in it, it was my kryptonite.”
To find out how Vanessa and others like her succeed in their recovery journey, go to HeroesInRecovery.com.
Treatment for Alcohol Abuse and Addiction
It is likely that anyone who drinks mouthwash has a drinking problem. Alcohol use disorder covers a number of conditions that range from compulsive drinking, binge drinking, and full alcohol addiction and dependence. The time to seek help is not always clear, but consumption of household products is a clear indicator that it is time to accept support and recovery.
The causes behind alcohol abuse are varied, and the answers to recovery are not always clear-cut. Michael’s House offers a highly experienced, dedicated team of wellness professionals that are waiting to help you. If you would like to learn more, please call our 24-hour helpline today at 760-548-4032.
1 Medline Plus. Mouthwash Overdose. 30 Apr 2018.
3 Chan T. Potential dangers from topical preparations containing methyl salicylate. Hum Exp Toxicology. 1996. 15(9):747-50.