Why Is Drinking Rubbing Alcohol Bad?

Addressing the frequently asked questions dealing with addiction.

Question:

I lived on the street for a time after I lost my job.  Out there, if they can’t get anything else, some people drink rubbing alcohol.  What is in rubbing alcohol that is so bad?

Answer:

Rubbing alcohol is not ethyl alcohol (beverage alcohol), but isopropyl alcohol, a totally different chemical than the alcohol of beer, wine, or liquor. The lethal dose of isopropyl alcohol by mouth in adult humans is about 8 ounces. Another kind of poison is wood alcohol. This is methyl alcohol and it breaks down in the liver to formaldehyde. Those who survive after drinking it often suffer permanent blindness. As little as 2 ounces of wood alcohol can be fatal. 

"Sober Days" ran in the Palm Springs daily newspaper, the Desert Sun, for several years in the 1990s-2000s. The popular Q&A column was written by Dr. James West, the Betty Ford Center’s first medical director. He remained with the Betty Ford Center until 2007, when he retired at age 93.
Read More
Older man in glasses smiling

Substance Abuse Among the Elderly

By 2020, the number of older adults with substance abuse problems is expected to double. Read More >

Read More
Men talking and walking away on a path

What Can I Say to Get You to Stop?

How to talk to someone who abuses alcohol or other drugs Read More >

Read More
Couple together on porch

Understanding a Loved One's Twelve Step Recovery Program

Basic Twelve Step philosophy and language Read More >