Q. I'm a 40-year-old recovering alcoholic who has not had an alcoholic drink in more than four years. Bizarrely enough, that last drink of mine was a store-brand mouthwash resembling Scope.

This last-ditch effort to resort to some form of alcohol that wasn't a "real drink" was what convinced me that I was a hopeless alcoholic. Though I had tried many times to tell myself that I could control my drinking–sometimes going months without a drink–it was that last gulp of generic Scope that finally made something click firmly in my thick skull that I should at all costs avoid drinking anything with alcohol for the rest of my days.

My life is now lovely–and I have Scope to thank, at least in a tiny part. It's pretty darned clear that only an alcoholic would drink mouthwash. If you know somebody who's doing it, you might want to very gently steer him to the nearest AA meeting. There he will meet others who, in their darkest hours, have also gulped mouthwash.

A. Thank you for sharing your story. You were smart to recognize that drinking mouthwash is a serious sign of addiction. Others may not. We heard from one grieving widow: “My husband died in February from drinking store-brand Listerine. He had been on a drinking binge for about four weeks. He walked off a loading dock.

“We're not sure yet if the fall or the mouthwash killed him. All I know is that my heart is breaking. I tried so many times to save him, but I couldn't. Drinking mouthwash is deadly. I advise anyone with this problem to PLEASE get help!”

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  1. kk

    I’m a recovering alcoholic, and prior to my current sobriety date I relapsed on mouthwash. The store brand with 21% alcohol in it. The only reason I did it was because I would smell like mouthwash instead of alcohol. I drank it on a somewhat regular basis, too… but only one bottle at a time. And yes, it had the exact same effect that drinking alcoholic beverages had. It just tasted horrible and sometimes upset my stomach. How horrible that was to put that into my body! Makes me sick just thinking about it. I’m so grateful to be in recovery!

  2. LL

    My heart is bleeding. I am in so much mental pain. My husband is drinking mouthwash. I don’t want lose him. He won’t get help.

  3. Halloween Jack

    Drinking mouthwash can be harmful, if not fatal–see Cecil Adams’ Straight Dope column at http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2582/can-you-get-drunk-on-listerine-how-about-vanilla-extract for details. Basically, the reason that mouthwash can be sold without being subject to liquor laws or taxes is that (like other ethanol-containing medicines and foods) it’s supposed to be adulterated to the point that it’s undrinkable, in this case by the menthol and other ingredients in it. They’re usually harmless if all you’re doing is rinsing your mouth out, but harmful if actually drunk, especially in the quantities that alcoholics consume.

  4. Jack R.

    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.
    Please help me…., I don’t know what to do.

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