Mouthwash and Alcoholism: How to Prevent A Relapse and Hospital Visits

Last Updated: August 7, 2019

Alcohol in Mouthwash
For many people, mouthwash is simply an addition to their oral hygiene. For the drinking individual, however, mouthwash is more insidious – data shows that around 10-15% of alcoholics that end up in an emergency room land there after drinking mouthwash or other products not originally designed for drinking.

Important Facts About Your Mouthwash

Some alcoholics are unable to cope with desire to drink and sometimes try to reduce alcohol craving by drinking something available at home. Many brands of mouthwash contain high levels of alcohol, with an average of 22% alcohol. For instance, the popular Listerine brand contains 26.9% alcohol. While other products have lower levels of alcohol (Scope – 18.9%, Cepacol – 14%, etc.), they are still much more toxic than a single beer (usually between 3% and 7%).

What is more, buying mouthwash is easy. One can get it when their local liquor shop is closed, for example. Note that many young drinkers turn to mouthwash as nobody will ask for an ID, will they? The accessibility of the substance is one of the major causes and effects of alcoholism.

Additionally, mouthwash is relatively cheap. Let’s not forget that it’s easy to steal from a drug store as well. News revealed that stores in Alaska had moved their mouthwash products behind the counters to prevent theft.

Last but not least, one can easily abuse mouthwash – at home, at work, even in the hospital. And, hey, you don’t need to explain anything because your breath is always fresh.

Can you get drunk on mouthwash?

Yes; the popular Listerine mouthwash is 26.9% alcohol. In fact a number of household liquids contain alcohol and can be used to get drunk, including hand sanitizer, hair spray, and perfume. Using mouthwash or other substances, however, can cause serious bodily harm.

While some people argue that manufacturers should sell products that don’t contain any alcohol believing that mouthwash is one of the triggers of alcohol abuse, drinkers admit that there’s nothing that can stop the drinking individual. If it’s not mouthwash, they can get their mouthwash alternative to alcohol from hand sanitizers, hair sprays, or perfumes.

Is drinking mouthwash dangerous?

Yes, drinking mouthwash is very dangerous as in might contain the other types of alcohol than ethanol. What is the alcohol content in the mouthwash? Basically, it is either ethanol or methanol, but other chemicals can also be present.

The ethanol in the mouthwash can cause ulcers and liver problems. Some brands contain methanol, which is poisonous. Other chemicals present in many mouthwashes can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, and headaches.

Drinking mouthwash is a common phenomenon among every of the 3 stages of alcoholism. Although all the side effects of drinking mouthwash are stated on the labels, and many studies show cases of mouthwash intoxication, alcoholics still abuse mouthwash, which is dangerous. Unfortunately, alcoholism is a disease that can force a person consume even the dangerous substances.

The main danger is the ethanol (ethyl alcohol), which can be found in many spirits. Consumed in excess, it can cause ulcers and liver problems. Another danger is the wood alcohol, known as methanol: it’s poisonous and lethal. Other chemicals that are present in many mouthwash products can cause mouth cancer. Drinking mouthwash can also cause diarrhea, vomiting, and headaches.

Therefore, more awareness should be raised about the possible fatal outcomes of drinking mouthwash.

How to prevent a relapse from mouthwash?

Drinking mouthwash is dangerous. To prevent a relapse after problem drinking treatment and fatal outcomes:

  • Pay attention if someone has too many mouthwash bottles at home.
  • If someone smells of mouthwash too often, note that they might have an addiction.
  • Buy only alcohol-free mouthwash products.
  • Ask for professional help.

If you think you or your loved one has a problem with alcohol or drinks mouthwash to get drink, it is a time for an intervention. Get the reference to the center for alcohol treatment and find the immediate help.

Recovery is a long process, so don’t let your “fresh breath” ruin it!


Brian Obinna Obodeze

Brian Obodeze

Content Writer

Brian Obinna Obodeze is a professional health-niche content developer for with six years of experience as a research writer. He is an expert in medical content development, especially in the field of addictions, general health, homeopathic medicine, and pharmaceuticals.

Brian has a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the University of Benin and has worked as a Lab Scientist and as a public healthcare officer. His hobbies include physical fitness, reading, and social entrepreneurship.

Medical review by Dr. Gregory Okhifun

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  • I am doing research on recommendations of non-alcohol mouthwashes to use in a lecture and research project. Some alcohol free rinses substitute the alcohol with Propylene Glycol. Is this safe for recovering alcoholics. I read where it belongs to the same chemical class as alcohol. So wondering we should recommend products with the Propylene Glycol to recovering alcoholics Please advise Thanks