What Happens If You Drink Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol?
Alcohol use disorder affects 7.2% of the adult population in the United States, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). That is about 17 million people ages 18 and older.
Sometimes, people may be unable to get beer, wine, or liquor, causing them to resort to other substances. In some instances, a person’s body may develop such a high tolerance that they begin to seek out stronger forms of alcohol to consume, hoping to achieve their original level of intoxication. While drinking too much ethanol—the alcohol chemical at the base of alcoholic beverages—can cause serious harm to the brain and body, consuming other types of alcohol can be even more toxic. One of these dangerous forms of alcohol is isopropyl alcohol.
Is Isopropyl Alcohol the Same as Rubbing Alcohol?
Isopropyl alcohol is often called rubbing alcohol because it is a powerful solvent that can clean up chemicals like paint or grease. It comes in several purity levels, as high as 99% isopropyl alcohol. Household versions are often between 60% and up to 95% alcohol.
What is Rubbing Alcohol Made of?
Most rubbing alcohol is a mixture of 70% alcohol (isopropyl) and 30% water. While it is a useful chemical and found in many households and stores, it is imperative not to confuse isopropyl alcohol with consumable alcohol. Drinking rubbing alcohol is extremely dangerous.
Isopropyl Alcohol vs Ethyl Alcohol
Both isopropyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol (ethanol) can kill germs, and both may be used in disinfectants or antiseptics. However, Isopropyl alcohol has a different chemical structure than ethanol and have different uses.
Ethyl alcohol is found in most gasoline sold in the United States, whereas isopropyl alcohol is more often found in lotions and face washes.
Ethanol is produced naturally from the fermented sugars of yeast. While ethyl alcohol is found in alcoholic beverages, this does not mean all ethanol is safe to consume. Drinking hand sanitizer—even when the label says ethyl alcohol—is extremely dangerous.
Isopropyl alcohol is created by combining water and propene or through the hydrogenation of acetone. It is never safe to drink.
Can You Drink Rubbing Alcohol?
No, industrial solvents like isopropyl alcohol are never intended for human consumption.
Drinking rubbing alcohol can quickly lead to alcohol poisoning. People have reportedly died after ingesting one pint of isopropyl alcohol.
Despite the extreme risk, people who struggle with alcohol use disorder sometimes consume rubbing alcohol or other kinds of non-consumable alcohol to reach an expected level of intoxication. One report on the problem in Canada notes that one 500-milliliter bottle – the equivalent of almost 17 ounces or just over one pint – in one 24-hour period is the same as drinking 30 beers.
What Are the Effects of Drinking Rubbing Alcohol?
Drinking rubbing alcohol carries all the same risks as drinking liquor as well as additional serious dangers.
According to National Capital Poison Control (NCPC), people who consume rubbing alcohol may act drunk. Signs of consumption include:
- Slurred speech.
- Loss of physical coordination.
This industrial alcohol is very irritating to the stomach and intestines, so side effects from consuming this dangerous chemical include:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Pain in the gut.
- Bleeding in the stomach and intestines.
Bleeding, nausea, and other damage from consuming rubbing alcohol may cause dehydration, which can lead to seizures. It can also cause low blood pressure from internal bleeding and the effects of alcohol as it is metabolized. A person who consumes rubbing alcohol may go into shock.
Isopropyl alcohol is metabolized very quickly, so the effects will impact the central nervous system all at once. Since alcohol is a depressant, involuntary actions in the body may slow down or stop. The heartbeat will slow, breathing will become depressed or irregular, and the gag reflex may not act. This can lead to oxygen deprivation or choking on vomit. Poor circulation from heartbeat changes can also cause damage to organ systems.
Since this chemical is extremely potent, it can cause internal burns. Mucous membranes in the mouth and nose, the back of the throat, the esophagus, and the upper respiratory area can all receive chemical burns on contact. For a person who has consumed rubbing alcohol, symptoms of these burns will include intense pain and cramping.
If a person ingests a lot of rubbing alcohol all at once, they may experience inflammation of the lungs and pulmonary swelling (excess fluid in the lungs). This can make breathing difficult and cause oxygen deprivation.
Overdosing on Rubbing Alcohol
Toxicity from consuming rubbing alcohol, also called overdose or poisoning, is not only possible but very likely. Rubbing alcohol poisoning begins to set in within 30-60 minutes after ingestion. Immediately after a person consumes rubbing alcohol, they may feel intoxicated, and they could even black out. They are likely to suffer poisoning after that.
Not only does a lack of oxygen and blood circulation damage organ systems, but alcohol has blood thinning properties, so there are fewer red blood cells to transport oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Hypothermia is a symptom of alcohol poisoning, even with ethanol-based beverages like whiskey, and it is more likely to occur in people who consume rubbing alcohol to get drunk. Heart attack becomes more likely, and because blood sugar levels also drop, seizures are likely to occur.
Symptoms of isopropyl alcohol poisoning include:
- Slurred speech.
- Low body temperature.
- Low blood pressure.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Slowed breathing.
Treatment for Isopropyl Alcohol Poisoning
People who experience an overdose of rubbing alcohol may pass out very quickly, so they cannot relay symptoms as they get worse. It is extremely important to call 911 and get the person emergency medical help right away. While consuming a small amount of isopropyl alcohol accidentally may not result in poisoning or death, it is still important to receive prompt medical attention.
This product is not intended for consumption at all, and drinking rubbing alcohol is extremely dangerous.
Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment in Florida
People who struggle with this condition are unable to moderate how much they drink, crave alcohol, and may be physically dependent on alcohol. To overcome alcohol use disorder, many require medical detox and rehabilitation. We offer comprehensive care at our Miami Metro alcohol rehab center, Recovery First.
Recovery First, as well as American Addiction Centers’ other locations across the U.S., could be a good fit for your alcohol addiction recovery. Give us a call at to talk to one of our knowledgeable and compassionate admissions navigators for more information about addiction treatment in Fort Lauderdale Florida or at one of our other facilities in the U.S.
Recovery from alcohol addiction is possible. Admissions navigators can help you start addiction treatment today or answer questions on the types of addiction treatment offered at Recovery First, ways to pay for rehab, and using insurance to cover rehab costs. You can also verify your insurance coverage at Recovery First using the confidential .
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