Substance Use

Drinking Mouthwash: Side Effects, Dangers, & Treatment

woman drinking mouthwash

Drinking Mouthwash: Side Effects, Dangers, & Treatment

Mouthwash may contain up to 26% ethanol (ethyl alcohol), so it can get you drunk, but its other ingredients can also produce extremely harmful side effects and lead to overdose.

It’s safe to swallow a small amount of mouthwash, but someone trying to drink mouthwash in excess due to its alcohol content could find themselves at risk of poisoning.

Here’s what you need to know about the risks of drinking mouthwash and some important information on alcohol use disorder.

If you or someone you love is taking serious risks, Zinnia Healing can help. We offer treatment for alcohol abuse to help individuals overcome addiction and get on the path to living a long, fulfilling life. Ready to learn more? Call our free alcohol addiction hotline at (855) 430-9439 and get answers to your questions.

Does Mouthwash Contain Alcohol?

Most mouthwashes contain ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol. While this type of alcohol is found in alcoholic beverages, mouthwash formulations containing ethanol are not meant to be consumed.

Some mouthwash formulations can be as strong as 26% ethanol. Drinking large amounts can lead to blood toxicity and overdose. For comparison, many brands of gin (which is a distilled alcoholic beverage) have a 26% alcohol by volume (ABV).

So, mouthwash does contain alcohol, but it is “non-beverage alcohol,” which means it’s not fit for consumption.

Is Mouthwash Safe to Drink?

If you accidentally swallow a small amount of mouthwash, like the cap full you use for rinsing, it’s not considered dangerous. However, if you swallow a lot of mouthwash, you are at risk of toxicity from the various ingredients often added to the mixture.

Some of the most common ingredients found in mouthwash can have harmful effects throughout the body, such as:

  • Hydrogen peroxide: This chemical can harm the gastrointestinal tract and lead to an upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
  • Chlorhexidine gluconate: This chemical can raise blood pressure and potentially interfere with your cardiovascular function. It also destroys beneficial bacteria.
  • Methyl salicylate: Also known as menthol, this chemical is responsible for the refreshing minty flavor found in some mouthwashes, but it should not be ingested. Drinking it can trigger a condition known as rapid-onset salicylate poisoning, which is especially risky for individuals taking blood-thinning drugs like warfarin.

Are you worried about alcohol addiction? Zinnia Healing can help. Our team of addiction specialists can answer your questions on substance abuse and alcohol use. If you’re ready to take the next step, call our helpline at (855) 430-9439 for more information.

Risks of Drinking Large Amounts of Mouthwash

According to the NIH, some of the dangers of drinking mouthwash include:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Stomach upset, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and changes in urination
  • Dizziness, drowsiness, and headache
  • Rapid heart rate and shallow breathing
  • Low body temperature
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low blood sugar
  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

Due to the high amount of alcohol most mouthwashes contain, you could also experience signs of intoxication like slurred speech if you drink enough of it. 

How to Prevent Mouthwash Overdose

Ingesting mouthwash in large quantities can lead to a mouthwash overdose, which consists of alcohol poisoning and/or toxicity resulting from any of the mouthwash’s other ingredients.

If you suspect that someone is overdosing from mouthwash, call the National Poison Control Center right away at 800-222-1222. Even if a person does not display symptoms, you should contact emergency services immediately to prevent severe and potentially deadly side effects. 

You should skip the poison control center and dial 911 instead if: 

  • The person is unconscious
  • They are having trouble breathing
  • Their chest hurts
  • They feel drowsy
  • They’re vomiting
  • They are having seizures

What you do while waiting for medical help to arrive can save a life. Make sure to remove any excess mouthwash from the person’s mouth. Try to identify the brand of mouthwash and any other substances that person consumed, including drugs or alcohol.

If the person isn’t breathing, start CPR. Until you’re directed to do so by emergency services personnel, do not give them any medication, do not try to give them water and do not try to induce vomiting.

Overdose and toxicity, if not treated promptly, can lead to serious and permanent side effects, including organ damage and organ failure.

Safer Alternatives to Mouthwash with Alcohol

If you or a loved one is currently dealing with alcohol addiction or a mental health disorder that puts them at a higher risk of misusing a product like alcohol, it’s important to take precautions to keep them safe.

Some of the best ways to prevent alcohol poisoning from mouthwash include:

  • Locking your mouthwash in a secure medicine cabinet and monitoring them when they use it to make sure they do not swallow mouthwash in large amounts
  • Comparing different brands of mouthwash to avoid those with high alcohol content
  • Opting for an alcohol-free mouthwash that use cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) or chlorhexidine gluconate instead of alcohol
  • Looking into alcohol rehab and addiction treatment options, including outpatient services to help prevent relapse and help them through recovery

If you’re not sure what alcohol use disorder looks like, or what the treatment process is, you can always reach out to a team of specialists using a free helpline provided by a treatment center like Zinnia Healing

Getting Help With Alcohol Addiction

Attempting to drink household products like mouthwash in large quantities can be a sign of alcohol addiction or dangerous and risky experimentation.

If you or someone you love is thinking about trying to use mouthwash to get drunk, it’s important to get help before you suffer irreversible side effects.

Alcohol treatment looks different for everyone and it’s important to note that it doesn’t necessarily mean enrolling in a treatment center.

At Zinnia Healing, we advocate for personalized addiction treatment services that treat the whole person.

Our facilities offer:

  • Professional, caring staff who believe in offering tailored services
  • Customized treatment pathways designed to align with your needs and goals
  • Support and treatment for co-occurring disorders, like ADHD and PTSD
  • An LGBTQ+ friendly facility that is safe and confidential for everyone

Overcoming alcohol addiction can feel impossible to do on your own, but you don’t have to keep trying to go it alone. With our team by your side, you can get back to focusing on the things that matter to you while getting the support you need to make it through recovery and get on the path to long-term remission.

Ready to take the next step? Zinnia Healing is standing by to help. Our team is available 24/7 to answer your questions. Just dial (855) 430-9439 to get started.

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