Q. My sister is drinking mouthwash on a daily basis. What internal damage would be done from drinking 20 or 30 ounces of mouthwash every day for a year?
She had her gallbladder removed two months ago but she hasn’t stopped drinking the mouthwash. I am quite worried about her.

A. Mouthwash can contain quite a lot of alcohol, 25 percent or more. Consuming 6 or 8 ounces of ethanol a day is bad enough, but imbibing the other “phenolic compounds” such as eucalyptol, thymol, methyl salicylate and menthol in various types of mouthwash may also be dangerous.
Other readers have reported similar problems: “My girlfriend is a hopeless alcoholic. She lied about drinking and I found her passed out with an empty bottle of mouthwash in her hand. As I looked around the house, I found many empty bottles of generic mouthwash. I don’t know what to do.”
We have heard from people whose loved ones have died as a result of abusing alcohol-containing mouthwash. Fighting alcoholism is a difficult task, and you will need a lot of help if your sister is willing to try. AA and AlAnon can be helpful. A prescription for naltrexone (ReVia) or acamprosate (Campral) along with behavior modification might also make a difference.

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  1. Joe H.
    Reply

    I cannot speak for others, but I would say that drinking mouthwash to get high is a sure sign of alcohol dependance. My first “treatment” program was in the Toledo State Hospital at the age of 14. It was there that I learned I could drink Aqua Velva shaving lotion to get “high”. At the age of 16 I was rushed by ambulance to St. Vincents Hospital with alcohol poisoning. By the age of 20, I was drinking anything and everything in South Viet Nam. At 22 I was again in “treatment” in Battle Creek Michigan at the Government “January House” for veteran alcohol and drug abuse patients.
    In 1975, once again alcohol and drug re-hab. This time at the Colorado State Hospital. Here is where I learned to drink “Listerene” A large bottle a day. In 1982 on the 12th day of January, I took my last drink of anything that contained more than .05% alcohol. (I occasionally drink a can of Bush N.A.) I personally think that anyone that drinks Mouthwash, shaving lotion, cough syrup etc., needs intervention. I am not an expert, that is just my opinion.

  2. CB
    Reply

    I have worked many years as an alcohol rehab nurse. Many alcoholics drink mouthwash on a daily basis (usually when at work or away from home) since it has a high content of alcohol. This is a “sneaky” way for alcoholics to drink and think no one knows what they are up to. Long term alcohol abuse is very damaging to the liver and rest of the body.

  3. ECC
    Reply

    The comment on drinking mouthwash brought so many memories back for me — way back when I was in college (1962-66 ie: the Dark Ages according to Historians!) I had a very, very good friend who not only drank mouthwash, but after-shave lotion, cologne, you-name-it: as long as it had some form of alcohol in it.
    Cooking wines (cooking rice wine or cooking sherry) were also favorites in spite of the sodium content because they were so easily obtainable. This was a very, very intelligent, gifted person, but so addicted that anything with alcohol in it was fair game.
    Stealing from a liquor/grocery store was a common occurrence if money was tight not to mention taking fellow students’ toiletries if there was an immediate need for a drink.
    Please accept my good wishes for a positive outcome.

  4. Paul43
    Reply

    Your sister really needs some help. I know because I was a very serious drunk but never made it to the Mouthwash stage but had a girlfriend who did.
    Her best help is AA— it saved my life. You can talk to your sister about going to an AA Meeting but I’m afraid she will deny being a drunk and refuse to go.
    You can also join AlAnon yourself where you will get some help and ideas on how to help your sister.
    If you love your sister give it a shot (just look in the YELLOW PAGES for their main number in your area).
    It’s worth a try because I know from experience that all the preaching you do to an Alcoholic does almost nothing.
    You should be able to get some Ladies from AlAnon to come over and talk to her or tell you what to say.
    God Bless you– you are facing a big problem.

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