Alcoholics often overlook the dangers of drinking mouthwash to get high. But what exactly happens if you drink mouthwash? Find the answer in this Buzzle article, which explains if drinking mouthwash can indeed kill you, due to its long- and short-term side effects.
Did You Know?
Simply gargling the mouth with an alcohol-based mouthwash can make one fail a breathalyser test even 20 minutes after use.
It is a well-known fact that alcohol addiction has the potential to destroy lives, break families, and affect society negatively. The key is to identify and rehabilitate addicts, and keep the youth away from the clutches of alcohol. While stringent laws forbid the sale of alcohol beyond a certain time limit, and to underage youth in most places, the problem is far from over. This is because, addicts and underage teenagers have chanced upon other sources to quench their ‘thirst’. These include syrup bottles, window cleaners, aftershave lotions, and the latest addition – mouthwash. Mouthwash has become popular, because it has a high alcohol content, is cheaper, and is available without age or time restrictions. But, is drinking mouthwash bad for you? Let’s find out, by examining the various effects of drinking mouthwash, as are given below.
Harmful Ingredients in Mouthwash
An alcohol-based mouthwash contains ethyl alcohol, in percentages as high as 14% to 26.9%. While this is the same type of alcohol that is found in beverages like wine and beer, these drinks contain a far lower amount. Moreover, to discourage people from consuming their products, and avoid paying extra tax, mouthwash companies add toxic or unpleasant substances to their products. These include the highly-toxic methyl alcohol, which is commonly known as wood alcohol. Apart from this, they contain essential oils like thymol and eucalyptol, which are antiseptic in nature, and toxic if consumed in large amounts. Other toxic substances include fluoride, methyl salicylate, and hydrogen peroxide.
Effects of Drinking Mouthwash
Ingestion of Small Amounts
If a small amount of mouthwash is ingested, either accidentally or intentionally, it generally has no adverse effects. At the most, minor side effects like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may be observed, though they should last only for a couple of hours. Other symptoms like sleepiness, irritability, and loss of consciousness may be experienced.
Chronic Use or Consumption in Large Amounts
- The above symptoms of nausea and vomiting will also be seen in cases of excess consumption, though it may be accompanied by uncontrolled diarrhea, where the person completely loses control of his/her bowels. Apart from this, mouthwash consumption can also cause excessive, or scanty urination.
- Such extreme diarrhea can lead to a rapid loss of body fluids, eventually leading to dehydration, where hospitalization may become necessary.
- Some mouthwash brands add methyl alcohol to their products to denature the alcohol, i.e., to make it unfit for drinking. This is a highly-toxic substance, which can cause blindness, organ damage, multiple organ failure, or even death. While blindness can be caused by as low as 10 ml of methyl alcohol, 30 ml is sufficient to cause death.
- Apart from alcohol, other mouthwash ingredients too are acidic in nature, and may cause ulcers, or chemical burns in the mouth, throat, and stomach, which may lead to internal bleeding (gastritis). Extreme thirst may result from the dehydration caused.
- Its consumption can interfere with the metabolism of the body, leading to a drop in blood sugar levels, when the body bypasses the regulation of blood sugar to focus on removing alcohol, which it recognizes as a toxin. Apart from this, it can cause metabolic acidosis (acid buildup in the body), and a drop in potassium levels, because of ingredients like thymol and methyl salicylate.
- The ingestion of mouthwash affects the circulatory system, causing rapid heart beats and a low blood pressure.
- Mouthwash ethanol, like ordinary alcohol, modifies the breathing rate by suppressing the respiratory center in the brain. This leads to a rapid breathing rate, and in extreme cases, it can also result in death due to asphyxiation.
- It causes other symptoms of alcohol intoxication, like drowsiness, slurred speech, trouble in walking, delayed reflexes, unconsciousness, and hysterical behavior. Convulsions may also be experienced.
- The suppression of the nervous system may cause reckless behavior and a lack of inhibitions. In the case of teenagers, this may contribute to high-risk sexual behavior due to poor judgment.
- Since mouthwash contains alcohol, excess intake can cause alcohol poisoning. In such a scenario, the body is unable to metabolize the excess alcohol, and treats it like poison. This can lead to kidney, liver, or heart failure, thus resulting in death. Chronic consumption of mouthwash can cause liver cirrhosis, where the liver becomes fatty and scarred.
Doctors advise that anyone showing adverse symptoms after consuming mouthwash should receive emergency medical care. However, before calling the emergency services, it is vital to obtain details like the patient’s age, weight, the amount of mouthwash consumed, and the ingredients in the product.