Q. You had a question from parents concerned about their son using more than three big bottles of mouthwash in a week. Shame on you for soft-pedaling the use of Listerine.

My dad dried out and then restarted on mouthwash. Alcoholics lie and deny. The son is drinking a half-bottle of 50-proof mouthwash a day and your wishy-washy response is not helping the clueless parents.

A. Thanks for your concern. The parents were convinced their son was ingesting mouthwash, since he had already gone through detox once. They wanted to know the consequences of drinking Listerine.

Original formula Listerine contains 26.9 percent alcohol. Clearly, anyone using 5 liters of Listerine in eight days needs professional help.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. caroline

    My 23 year old daughter has started drinking mouthwash. Good old Listerine (how I hate you). I found 7 empth 1.5 litres bottles the other day. She has managed to get another 3 litres today no point asking how because she has. She is high as a kite already on 3/4 litres and slowly killing herself. She has spent 7 of the past 11 months in rehab and still here we are with the lies and deception. I love my daughter but I hate the alcoholic.

  2. Terry

    I have been through the Listerine wringer and come back. I am sure that I did a lot of damage to myself in my 2 or 3 yrs. of drinking Listerine. People find their way to the Listerine jug in a had variety of ways which are all quite common and typical for a person whose alcohol addiction has deteriorated to an advanced degree.

    I am not a health care professional or a doctor, just an ex-drunk with a hell of a lot of experience in the addict’s role in this tragedy. The truth is that most people who end up going this route are simply people whose progression in this disease finally has led them to the Listerine experiment.

    If there is one thing a seasoned, hard core alcoholic fears, it is withdrawal, as well it should. It is truly a thing to fear, especially without medical assistance. It kills a lot of people outright. So a stolen bottle of Listerine isn’t such a bad alternative to this horror, and one does get used to drinking it in a pinch. I’ve known a couple of people who preferred it to alcohol. There is no humor here in this. My experience has led me to conclude that this is simply another, and often final step, in the progression of alcoholism.

    The only way to reduce, if not altogether stop this practice, is to stop the progression of the disease where it is so it doesn’t escalate to this point. It’s a tall order. I’ve been sober three years now, and I know if I ever started again it would lead me back down that path at some point. It would be pointless to try to regulate Listerine sales or to control its use. If a drunk needs a fix he’s gonna find one no matter what.

  3. Kim J

    My mother was an alcoholic my whole life, but my family always stuck their head in the sand. No one ever said a word to her b/c she wanted us to be the “perfect” family. I first noticed 2 liter bottles of wine coolers then it progressed to warm beer hidden behind the spices then vodka and then that fateful call one morning it had progressed to mouthwash. Every time she ended up in the hospital they always treated the physical ailment never the mental issues that caused the drinking in the first place.

    I would always pour her drinks out and never say anything and that is my fault. I was hoping I was sending a statement. I was just a kid and didn’t know what to do. My whole childhood she was in/out of hospitals as well as my adulthood. I moved away as to not have to deal with it. Every time she was supposed to come and visit me it never happened. There was always an excuse, but it was always that she was too drunk to board the plane. Can someone please explain what goes through and alcoholics head that they must drink when something is so important. I have been let down so many times and have so many questions. My mom organized a girls cruise and the day that she was supposed to come she was to drunk to even leave the house to catch a plane to see me. That is the morning she admitted that she had been drinking mouthwash. I was appalled to say the least.

    After a lot of thought I realized that I had always seen mouthwash in our cabinet and wondered if it had been going on for longer than I had thought. This occurred in March and she died in August! She was forgetful all the time and she didn’t go anywhere, but she would tell us that she did. My dad lived under the same roof and did nothing. I went home for the funeral and the house just reeked of death. How could he not have known. It has been 8 years and obviously I am still bitter. How can one just drink their life away. I know when I say this people are going to hate me, but when she died it made our lives much easier. I hate the drama that came with it all. My life is more peaceful now. I have no idea how to stop someone from drinking, but please stop before you pick up that bottle of mouthwash and digest it. It REALLY does kill you!!!

    • Eddy Ford
      Beckley WV

      You are very wise. Alcohol is the great remover. Will take away stains, family, friends, careers, and your life.
      Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly in an agonizing death.
      Hurting the ones closest to you the most. Bill W. and Dr. Bob had it right in 1934: “Only a Higher Power can heal us.” Only 3 out of 100 will make it. God bless us all. One day at a time.

  4. Deborah

    I have a sister who lives with me and my husband and a couple years ago the dr told me if she didn’t stop drinking she would be dead in a couple years,well she stopped drinking vodka only because I would t take her to buy it and since she doesn’t know drive she has no way of getting it herself
    So not long ago I couldn’t figure out how she was getting high and found out she was drinking listerine. Without my knowledge she had been stealing it from the store when we would go. Just small enough to put it in her purse so one day while at the store I knew she was up to something and that’s when I discovered what she had been doing. So I told her she could no longer take a purse into the store when we went and she agreed, but now she is asking for money which is her money and so I gave her $20 and now she has been buying listerine. So now since thats all she can get that’s what she is drinking on a regular basis at least until it’s gone and then she has to figure out her next move as how to get more.
    So I told her that I have done all that I can physically do for her and she refuses to get the help that she needs. So I pray that the Lord will deliver her because he is the only one who can .it can be very stressful for me knowing the state that she has been in and she really knows that what she is doing is only going to lead to further drinking. She thinks she is in control. I try to get her out the house as much as I can but I know that I cant

  5. nik

    Running across these comments have only confirmed what I already knew. it saddens me because I am afraid of what is to come. I understand the struggle, because I am in recovery. I discovered over a year ago that my 25 year old fiancee was drinking mouthwash, on days he couldn’t buy vodka, or when he didn’t have enough money for vodka. even after being hospitalized for acute pancreatitis, and getting out of rehab recently, he is still doing it. he won’t admit to it, period, just works harder to destroy the evidence. but as you all know, there is NO concealing the smell. i have threatened numerous times to leave, but keep giving him chances. not going to watch the love of my life kill himself. also threatening my sobriety at this point. I came to this page today, and now know how common this is. over and out today, or else I will lose it… Prayers

  6. Concerned

    My wife is fantastic, the nicest person I have ever known. But she has suffered from anxiety and it has led to alcoholism and depression. For a long time I didn’t realize the roll that alcohol was playing because she hid it. Since I discovered what was going on there has been an ongoing cycle of sobriety and the return of my best friend, and then the slow descent into hiding alcohol, lies, and the angry, depressed, anxiety plagued person she becomes.

    For a long time she would deny she had a problem, and put the blame on various things. The never ending “I’ll stop drinking if…” But of course there’s always another if. Recently she has come to terms with the fact that she is an alcoholic, but is unwilling to get help. She buys vodka or gin, puts it in water bottles, and then she hides them. I got better at catching her, and she got better at hiding them. We would go through this ritual where I would see signs of the cycle returning, but I would be positive. I would ask her about it, and she would look me in the eye and lie. Eventually I would catch her, and she would apologize (after a fight in which she wanted a divorce) and swear she was done with it.

    We have recently had a few weeks of the return of my sweetheart, but I have been sure for several days that the cycle was beginning again. Finally tonight I discovered that she was drinking mouthwash. She confessed again blaming other things, refused to get help, she is relieved that she was discovered because now the last temptation is supposedly removed. When she is sober she admits that alcohol reduces her to a depressed shell of herself. I’m watching her slowly kill herself. We have four daughters and she’s a fantastic mother when she’s sober, and even through most of the cycle. But at the worst of it she can’t cope with life or her children. I’m afraid she’s going to kill herself with alcohol, probably leaving us with expensive medical bills, and leaving me without my best friend and my daughters without their mother. And for what? Somehow despite all the evidence the contrary, she still believes that alcohol helps her to cope when is actually prevents her from coping. I am begging her to get help, and I really don’t know what to do.

    • JenniferS

      @concerned – I’m an alcoholic in recovery, and my advice to you is get your butt to an ALANON meeting ASAP

      • Concerned

        Thank you for your reply. Things got worse since my original post. After I got wise to the mouthwash my wife switched to hand sanitizer. It honestly never occurred to me that anyone would drink that. After lots of turmoil I gave her an ultimatum that she had to go to AA. I was prepared to go to any length in terms of intervention but much to my surprise she agreed before I had to spell out what I was willing to do. We have been going to open meetings together, and she has a sponsor and is working through the steps. It’s two weeks of sobriety so it’s not time to celebrate yet, but it’s the first time I have real hope that we are moving on a different path. Time will tell.

    • francis

      I have been sober for 14 months now and counting! (I drank vodka)
      A rehab co- client I ran into last night just stank of Listerine, he can’t kick the booze/afford it so he drinks that stuff? If you ask me it’s brain, stomach and liver poison! As he puts it: “the first sip makes you puke, then it goes down fine!” Its not just the booze, its the flavoring in it (read up! Its scary!).
      It was never, EVER designed to be ingested! Seriously!
      PLEASE! If you do drink it and can’t stop, switch to cheap wine or beer and try quitting again. Go to an AA or S.M.A.R.T. meeting.
      I’m finally free after years of misery!
      Good luck and God speed- seriously!

      Francis K

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.