Chemists classify alcohols into three groups: Isopropyl, methyl, and ethyl. In general, Rubbing Alcohol is made from isopropyl alcohol and has 70-99 percent alcohol concentration in water. Isopropyl alcohol is in hand sanitizers, many beauty products used to sterilize medical instruments, and is found in antifreeze, household cleaners, and paint thinner. Unfortunately, it is the number one alcohol that causes poisoning.
Is Rubbing Alcohol a Drinkable Alcoholic Beverage?
No! The type of alcohol used in rubbing alcohol is not the same type of alcohol used in alcoholic beverages, which is ethanol. Yet, ethanol can be found in some brands of rubbing alcohol. When ethanol is an ingredient in non-beverage products, it has been denatured. The purpose of denaturing is to prevent people from drinking it because it will taste awful and be very strong. Often, methanol is the bad-tasting ingredient used, which is what harms someone the most. Isopropyl is found in many types of mouthwash and lotions.
What is Rubbing Alcohol Exactly?
Rubbing alcohol is a chemical type of alcohol used in various industries, including medical, but it is not meant for human consumption and this method of use is extremely dangerous and toxic to the human body. Due to its ease of availability and no restrictions on purchasing, it is sometimes used as a substitute for ethanol alcohol (beverage alcohol). Despite this, isopropyl is often consumed and does get a person drunk.
Isopropanol ingestion is the most common toxic alcohol ingestion reported to the United States poison control centers each year. (NIH)
When & Why Do People Drink Rubbing Alcohol?
People who struggle with alcohol intake are attempting to self-medicate. Some people who over-consume alcohol may not be addicted to it but still, use it to feel different or better. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that makes someone feel relaxed and at ease. Alcoholics lose control of how much alcohol they drink because they are in mental and emotional pain, and alcohol is what quiets their minds and helps them. Still, the only reason anyone would intentionally drink rubbing alcohol is to treat their alcoholism.
Why Do Alcoholics Need to Drink Alcohol to Feel Better?
Alcoholics who drink every day will develop a physical dependency on alcohol. Physical dependence happens due to too much alcohol in the system over time. These people have disrupted the normal functioning of the central nervous system, and essentially their brain and body rely on alcohol to keep them regular. The symptoms of alcohol dependence include alcohol withdrawal symptoms which are very severe and considered a medical emergency. Not only are alcoholics physically in need of alcohol to feel emotionally better, but they must also have it to keep alcohol withdrawals away. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms begin in as few as three hours for the most severe alcoholic they include:
- Tremors or shakes
- Very high blood pressure
- Panic attacks
- Hallucinations (visual, auditory)
- Terrible Insomnia
- Heart Attacks
- Brain aneurysms
- Suicidal thoughts and attempts
What Will Happen if I Drink Rubbing Alcohol?
Alcohols such as liquor, beer, and wine do not contain rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol). Alcoholic beverages only contain Ethyl alcohol (ethanol). Still, rubbing alcohol is cheaper than liquor and causes intoxication. The poison control center explains what drinking rubbing alcohol will do to someone.
Someone who swallows isopropyl alcohol may appear drunk. Effects include sedation, slurred speech, unsteadiness when walking, and vomiting. Isopropyl alcohol is also extremely irritating to the digestive tract. Drinking this will cause vomiting, diarrhea, pain, and bleeding in the stomach and intestines. This can lead to dehydration, low blood pressure, shock, and coma. (NCPC)
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