The Dangers of Drinking Rubbing Alcohol

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Drinking rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol, is not safe for human consumption and is highly toxic.

There are three main types of alcohol classified by chemists: isopropyl, methyl, and ethyl alcohol. These alcohols have different properties and applications, and it is essential to distinguish them for safety reasons.

  1. Isopropyl alcohol, commonly known as rubbing alcohol, is mainly used as an industrial solvent, paint remover, and photocopier developer. It is also utilized as a fuel for internal combustion engines due to its ability to prevent freezing. 
  2. Methyl alcohol, or methanol, is often referred to as wood alcohol and is used as an industrial solvent as well. It serves as a fuel additive and is commonly found in windshield wiper fluid and canned fuels for boats or camp stoves. 
  3. Ethyl alcohol, also known as ethanol, is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages and has recreational uses. Ethanol is the only type of alcohol safe for human consumption, while the other types are toxic and not suitable for ingestion.

This guide to the dangers of drinking rubbing alcohol explores the following issues:

  • Can you drink rubbing alcohol?
  • is rubbing alcohol safe to drink under any conditions?
  • Can drinking rubbing alcohol kill you?
  • Why can’t you drink rubbing alcohol?
  • What happens if you drink rubbing alcohol?
  • What is the difference between drinking alcohol and rubbing alcohol?
  • How can you connect with alcohol addiction treatment in Ohio?
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What Happens if You Drink Rubbing Alcohol?

Some individuals, particularly those struggling with alcohol addiction, might be tempted to consume rubbing alcohol to achieve intoxication. If you are wondering, “Can I drink rubbing alcohol”, it is extremely dangerous due to its toxic nature. Isopropyl alcohol is not metabolized in the same way as ethanol and is broken down into acetone, a harmful chemical found in nail polish remover. Consumption of rubbing alcohol can lead to acetone poisoning, resulting in severe gastrointestinal issues, central nervous system depression, and other life-threatening consequences.

Drinking rubbing alcohol can have severe and life-threatening consequences. Rubbing alcohol is typically isopropyl alcohol with concentrations of 68% to 99% alcohol in water. It is not the same as the ethanol found in alcoholic beverages and is extremely toxic to the human body. If ingested, even in small amounts, rubbing alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal.

Composition and differences

Rubbing alcohol is composed of isopropyl alcohol, which is commonly used as an industrial solvent, paint remover, and antiseptic in medical settings. It is colorless, has a bitter taste, and smells like fingernail polish remover. The ethanol found in alcoholic drinks, by contrast, is known as ethyl alcohol and is safe for human consumption when consumed responsibly. The two types of alcohol have different chemical compositions and metabolize differently in the body.

Isopropyl alcohol poisoning

When isopropyl alcohol is ingested, it is rapidly absorbed by the body, leading to a peak in blood levels between 30 minutes and 3 hours after ingestion. The body metabolizes isopropyl alcohol differently from ethanol, converting it into acetone, a toxic chemical found in nail polish remover. Acetone is a gastrointestinal irritant that can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, bleeding in the stomach and intestines, and even bladder rupture. Additionally, it triggers severe depression of the central nervous system, leading to dizziness, headaches, inebriation, and potentially coma.

Increased risk of alcohol poisoning

Rubbing alcohol is much more potent than ethanol found in alcoholic beverages. It is more intoxicating at comparable concentrations and more likely to produce impaired consciousness, dangerously low blood pressure, and even cardiopulmonary collapse if you drink rubbing alcohol. Drinking rubbing alcohol can lead to a range of life-threatening conditions, including internal bleeding, depressed cardiovascular function, shock, organ damage, and death.

Treatment and prevention

If someone ingests rubbing alcohol, seek immediate medical attention by calling 911 or contacting the local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. Early medical intervention can be life-saving in cases of alcohol poisoning. It is essential to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking rubbing alcohol, especially for those struggling with alcohol addiction. Seeking professional help and treatment from a reputable rehab center is the safest and most effective way to overcome alcohol addiction.

Isopropyl alcohol is not meant for human consumption, and its ingestion can result in alcohol poisoning and organ damage. The risks associated with drinking rubbing alcohol far outweigh any potential benefits, and it should never be used as a substitute for alcoholic beverages.

Drinking rubbing alcohol is extremely dangerous and can lead to severe health complications and even death.

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Rubbing Alcohol Vs. Drinking Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol and drinking alcohol are two distinct substances with significant differences in their composition, uses, and effects on the human body.

  • Composition: Rubbing alcohol is mainly made from isopropyl alcohol, often mixed with water. It may also contain other alcohols like methanol, added at high concentrations to deter consumption. It is denatured, making it poisonous and toxic to humans. Drinking alcohol, also known as ethanol, is the alcohol found in alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, and spirits. It is produced through the fermentation or distillation of sugars and is relatively safe for human consumption when used responsibly.
  • Concentration: Rubbing alcohol is close to 100% alcohol, typically containing concentrations of 70% isopropyl alcohol. It is highly potent and dangerous to ingest, even in small amounts.
  • Drinking alcohol: The concentration of ethanol in alcoholic beverages varies depending on the type. For example, beer typically contains 4% to 12% alcohol by volume, wine contains 8% to 14%, while spirits can have alcohol concentrations of 40% or higher.
  • Use and safety: Rubbing alcohol is not intended for human consumption and is toxic to ingest. Drinking even a small amount of rubbing alcohol can lead to severe health issues, including alcohol poisoning and organ damage. Ethanol in alcoholic beverages is intended for adult consumption in moderation. When consumed responsibly, it may provide some social and recreational benefits. However, excessive and irresponsible drinking can lead to health problems, addiction, and other negative consequences.
  • Effects on the body: Ingesting rubbing alcohol affects the central nervous system and can lead to coma, painful throat and airway burns, swelling, seizures, dangerously low blood pressure, and heart attack. Ethanol is a central nervous system depressant and can cause intoxication with symptoms such as slurred speech, sedation, and unsteadiness. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to impaired judgment, motor skills, and coordination.
  • Toxicity and poisoning: Rubbing alcohol contains toxic alcohols, such as methanol, which are hazardous and can quickly cause brain damage or death if ingested. While excessive consumption of drinking alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning, it is less toxic than the alcohols found in rubbing alcohol, and its effects are rarely life-threatening in typical drinking scenarios.


Why do people drink rubbing alcohol?

People may drink rubbing alcohol as a substitute for regular alcoholic beverages due to its high alcohol content, low cost, and accessibility. Some individuals with alcohol use disorder might seek stronger forms of alcohol to achieve a desired level of intoxication, leading them to consume rubbing alcohol. However, drinking rubbing alcohol is extremely dangerous and can quickly lead to alcohol poisoning.

Can you die from drinking rubbing alcohol?

Yes, consuming rubbing alcohol can be lethal. Rubbing alcohol contains isopropyl alcohol, which is a powerful solvent and is toxic to the human body when ingested. Drinking rubbing alcohol can lead to severe health consequences, including alcohol poisoning, organ damage, shock, and even death.

Is it safe to drink rubbing alcohol?

No, it is not safe to drink rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol, is not intended for human consumption and is highly toxic. Consuming rubbing alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning, gastrointestinal issues, central nervous system depression, and other severe health problems.

Can you dilute rubbing alcohol with water to drink?

Diluting rubbing alcohol with water does not make it safe to drink. Rubbing alcohol, even when diluted, remains toxic and should never be consumed. The ingestion of rubbing alcohol can lead to a range of dangerous effects, including damage to organs, impaired consciousness, and even death. Drinking rubbing alcohol is a life-threatening practice and should be avoided at all costs.

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Get Treatment for Alcohol Addiction at Ohio Recovery Centers

At Ohio Recovery Centers, we provide specialized addiction treatment programs for individuals struggling with alcohol addiction, prescription medication dependency, or illicit drug abuse.

Our comprehensive approach combines pharmacological, behavioral, and holistic therapies to support your journey towards recovery. Whether you are dealing with mild or moderate addiction, our IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and outpatient programs are designed to cater to your specific needs while ensuring flexibility and affordability. Throughout your treatment, you will acquire relapse prevention strategies, coping techniques, and access to ongoing therapy if necessary.

For personalized assistance and immediate support, please contact our admissions team at 877-679-2132.

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn