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The Dangers Of Drinking Mouthwash - Comprehensive Wellness Center

Drinking mouthwash is very dangerous. It may sound silly to even think of drinking mouthwash, however, it is very common among people with alcohol use disorder. Mouthwash typically contains at least 10% alcohol by volume, which is more than enough to get someone drunk if they really want to get drunk. As a result, mouthwash is abused by many alcoholics – either when they run out of money or are desperate enough to drink anything they can get their hands on. 

Mouthwash is cheap and easy to get. Even minors can buy it, which puts underaged people at risk of abusing mouthwash as well. After all, they don’t need to get a fake I.D. as they would with regular beer or liquor to purchase it. In other cases, since it is a seemingly harmless household item, it’s also a convenient way to hide a secret booze stash. Most people wouldn’t suspect someone of getting drunk on mouthwash. Even though it seems convenient, drinking mouthwash has some serious health consequences. 

Why Would Someone Drink Mouthwash?

Although you may laugh at the thought, there are many reasons why alcoholics might decide to drink mouthwash. For some people, they might wake up in the middle of the night with the shakes and have no other source of alcohol in the house to relieve their symptoms. Consequently, people often use it as an alternative to conventional alcohol when they run out of other sources. 

Moreover, they could have run out because they drank all of their alcohol or because someone else found their stash and threw it out on them. It could also be because they are in a place where there is no alcohol, such as a prison or a hospital.[1] Mouthwash is easier to sneak into these institutions where alcohol is otherwise not allowed. This makes it more accessible to people in hospitals and prisons. Alcoholism is a vicious disease. It drives people to go to any lengths to get their next drink. When people are desperate enough, any type of alcohol will do. 

Mouthwash is also easier to hide than conventional alcohol. People expect to see mouthwash in someone’s bathroom and wouldn’t think twice if they saw it there. This makes it easier to hide a drinking habit as it doesn’t leave any evidence in the form of liquor or beer bottles. Mouthwash is also available to people of all ages, even teenagers can buy it. This makes it a tempting way for teenagers to get around the “21 and older” law.  

What Is In Mouthwash?

While alcohol is one of the main ingredients in mouthwash, it contains many other chemicals as well. These chemicals are not meant to be ingested in large amounts, which occurs when people drink it. In addition to alcohol, mouthwash also contains:

  • Flouride
  • Menthol
  • Eucalyptol
  • Benzoic Acid
  • Methyl Salicylate
  • Thymol

When consumed in large quantities, these other ingredients may cause metabolic acidosis. In extreme cases, this can result in death. [2] In some cases, the other ingredients in mouthwash exacerbate the effects of alcohol intoxication. [1] 

Health Risks and Dangers Of Drinking Mouthwash

The alcohol in mouthwash poses a health risk all on its own. When alcohol is ingested in large amounts, there is always the risk of drinking too much and developing alcohol poisoning – which can be deadly. Alcohol poisoning occurs when large amounts of alcohol are drunk over a short period of time. This results in a decreased breathing rate, decreased heart rate, and a potential coma. [3] With drinking mouthwash, there is the same health risks as long term alcohol abuse with typical alcohol like beer or liquor. This includes an increased risk of developing:[4]

  • Liver disease
  • Neurological damage
  • Cancer
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gastrointestinal issues

Drinking mouthwash also has some additional risks involved due to the other chemicals in mouthwash. Drinking large amounts of mouthwash also drastically increases fluoride intake. This can result in fluoride poisoning. In extreme cases, fluoride poisoning is fatal. [5] The most common symptoms of fluoride poisoning are :

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal Pain

Prolonged ingestions of fluoride also pose the risk of kidney damage and gastrointestinal irritation. Fluoride also able to cross the blood-brain barrier, negatively affecting neurological functioning which is especially dangerous in adolescents as their brains are still developing. [5] As a result, one of the dangers of drinking mouthwash is that it severely damages short term and long-term memory and cognitive function.

Giving Up Drinking Mouthwash

The only way to stop someone from drinking mouthwash is to treat the alcohol use disorder at its roots. Treatment for alcohol addiction includes detox as well as inpatient treatment, counseling, and rehabilitation. Comprehensive Wellness Center in Lantana, Florida is here to help. We have a full staff of licensed addiction treatment specialists to help develop an individualized plan to fit each and every persons’ unique needs. They work closely with clients to establish a treatment plan that is right for them. It may seem hard, but with the proper help and care, you will beat alcohol addiction. 



Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.