People who struggle with alcoholism will often go to any lengths necessary to maintain their addiction and avoid going into withdrawal. When an alcoholic does try to stop drinking, he or she may be met with intense cravings that ultimately encourage them to drink over-the-counter substances in a desperate attempt to get drunk. One substance that alcoholics may turn to is rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol).

Drinking rubbing alcohol is extremely dangerous and can be life-threatening. Not only that, but it may not even get you drunk in the first place! Whether you are considering trying to get drunk on isopropyl alcohol or you have an alcoholic friend, here is everything you need to know about the dangers of consuming isopropyl alcohol.

The Difference Between Isopropyl Alcohol and Regular Alcohol

When people get desperate enough to try drinking rubbing alcohol, they have likely either forgotten or were never made aware of the fact that the type of alcohol contained in beverages is different from isopropyl alcohol.

The mood and mind-altering substance contained in beverages like beer, wine, and liquor is ethyl alcohol. Ethyl alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that, when abused, can lead to physical dependence and addiction.

Rubbing alcohol, on the other hand, contains isopropyl alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol is colorless, tasteless, smells like nail polish remover, and is found in household cleaners, hand sanitizers, and paint thinners. It is commonly used in medical settings as an antiseptic.[1]

Most importantly, drinking as little as 8 ounces can be toxic because isopropyl alcohol is metabolized in the body differently and is more toxic. Low volumes of alcohol, such as those made for human consumption, are metabolized into ethanol in the body. However, rubbing alcohol contains a level of alcohol that is toxic to the human body. For example, beer contains 3-10% alcohol and wine liquor contains 40% alcohol. Rubbing alcohol, on the other hand, is usually at least 70% alcohol.

What Happens if You Drink Rubbing Alcohol?

Your body can sustain harm from consuming even a small amount of rubbing alcohol.[2] This is because the body metabolizes high levels of alcohol into acetone – a chemical that is toxic to the inside of the human body. If you drink isopropyl alcohol in excess, you could sustain organ damage.

In small amounts, rubbing alcohol irritates the digestive tract and depresses the central nervous system. Side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Inebriation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting blood

Will Drinking Isopropyl Alcohol Get You Drunk?

Drinking even a small amount of rubbing alcohol may be able to make you feel the effects of intoxication, however, the risks usually are not worth it. Since rubbing alcohol contains such a high level of alcohol, most people will drink too much too quickly and end up damaging their body or getting sick rather than actually feeling drunk.

Rubbing alcohol is not intended for human consumption under any circumstances. If you do attempt to get drunk on rubbing alcohol, beware you will likely blackout and there is a good chance you will suffer alcohol poisoning.

If you suspect someone has consumed isopropyl alcohol, whether by accident or on purpose, and they are showing signs of alcohol poisoning, you should call 911 immediately. If you or someone you know has accidentally swallowed a small amount of rubbing alcohol but is showing no symptoms, you should call poison control (1-800-222-1222) just in case.

Dangers of Drinking Isopropyl Alcohol

Drinking any amount of rubbing alcohol can burn the sensitive tissue that lines and protects the throat and airway causing extreme pain. Large doses can even lead to seizures, plummeting blood pressure, and heart attack.

Even though the early signs of isopropyl alcohol intoxication may look like regular intoxication (slurred speech, inebriation, etc), rubbing alcohol may also cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and intestinal bleeding.

As previously mentioned, drinking too much isopropyl alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning. Rubbing alcohol poisoning symptoms will begin 30-60 minutes after consuming the substance. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:[3]

  • Sedation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Shock
  • Respiratory failure
  • Internal burning sensation
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Hypothermia
  • Coma

Left untreated, alcohol poisoning from isopropyl alcohol can lead to renal failure, heart attack, seizures, organ damage, bladder rupture, and even death.

Find Help Now

Drinking rubbing alcohol, no matter how much or how little, is never a good idea. If you or someone you know has resorted to rubbing alcohol, whether due to a lack of access to real alcohol or in an attempt to quit drinking, it is time to find an alcohol detox program near you.

Are you ready to face your addiction once and for all? Your first step to freedom starts with a toll-free call today!