Drinking Rubbing Alcohol

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, rubbing alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol, is a simple, synthetically produced alcohol, comprised of eight hydrogen, three carbons, and one oxygen atom. It has numerous medical, industrial, and household uses, and is not to be confused with ethanol alcohol found in liquor or wine.

Can You Drink Rubbing Alcohol?

The short answer is no! It is poisonous, and since it is a clear liquid that children may mistakenly drink as water, even small amounts can be harmful, or even lethal. For adults who try drinking rubbing alcohol as a substitute for ethanol alcohol, they could face some serious side effects, including alcohol poisoning.

Why Is It Bad?

  • Damages the Nervous System: Drinking rubbing alcohol will have an immediate effect on the central nervous system (CNS), including dizziness, nausea, hypotension, and hypothermia. The critical effect is the irritation of the respiratory system, eyes, and the heart. These effects could include difficulty breathing or an irregular heartbeat, and because isopropyl alcohol slows down these functions, it could eventually lead to coma or death by shutting them down altogether.
  • Causes Internal Burns: Isopropyl alcohol consumption could also lead to (ARDS), or acute respiratory distress syndrome. This severe and acute lung dysfunction affects most or all of both lungs that occur as a result of internal burns or injury. The symptoms may include breathing difficulties, rapid breathing, hyperventilation,aspiration of food into the lung,or insufficient levels of oxygen in the circulating blood.
  • Leads to Irregular Heartbeat: Drinking rubbing alcohol can also have some adverse effects on your heart and blood pressure. This might include an irregular heartbeat called arrhythmia, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, sweating, nausea, and vomiting. The conditions may last from 30 to 60 minutes or longer and chronic use can lead to disease of the heart muscle called cardiomyopathy that could lead to heart failure and death.

What If I Accidentally Drink Rubbing Alcohol?

The first thing you should do if someone accidentally ingests rubbing alcohol is to contact a poison control center and seek immediate medical attention. Before calling the poison control center or emergency health care professional, try to determine the following information: Patient's age, weight, and condition, the name of the product and strength, and the time and amount of the product consumed. Don't try to induce vomiting unless told to do so by an emergency care professional.

If the patient doesn't develop symptoms such as convulsions, vomiting, or is alert enough to swallow, milk or water may be the first treatment. How well you can help depends on the amount of isopropyl alcohol accidentally swallowed, and how quickly the patient receives treatment. The quicker you seek medical help, the better the chance at recovery.

For Isopropyl Alcohol Poisoning

Give the doctor as many details as possible. This will help the physician make the best decisions. The health care provider will measure and monitor your vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. You may receive:

  • Dialysis, in very rare cases
  • An electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Intravenous fluids (IV)
  • Intubation or ventilator to help breathing
  • Oxygen therapy

Ethyl Alcohol vs. Isopropyl Alcohol: What's the Difference?

The principal difference betweenethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol is that ethyl alcohol is found in liquor, beer and wine, whereas isopropyl alcohol is primarily used as a topical application used for sterilization.

1. Uses

Isopropyl alcohol is alcohol that is used for external use to kill germs and is a common ingredient found in shampoos, soaps, and cleaning products, such as a hand sanitiser. Drinking rubbing alcohol may cause serious illness or even death. Ethyl alcohol, on the other hand, is mainly used in alcoholic beverages for drinking, and is usually sold in a diluted form for safety.

2. Manufacturing

Isopropyl alcohol from fossil fuels is easily synthesized from the reaction of propylene with sulfuric acid, and then followed by hydrolysis. The hydration of propylene is in some cases carried out in one step, using water and a catalyst at high pressure. Isopropyl alcohol is then mixed with water for use as a rubbing alcohol antiseptic for topical use.

Ethyl alcohol for drinking, on the other hand, is made through fermentation and distillation. The three major types of alcoholic beverages are fermented, distilled, and fortified. Fermentation occurs when the sugars in grains and fruits combined with yeast to yield ethanol.

3. Available Forms

Isopropyl alcohol for industry is used as an inexpensive solvent for drugs, gums, shellacs, and cosmetics, as well as ethanol, to help to prevent separation and freezing of water added to wet gas. Isopropyl alcohol is easily oxidized to acetone, used for paint strippers and thinners and in its purest form is referred to as grain alcohol. Ethyl alcohol for drinking can be found in beer, wine and liquor that can be purchased through a merchant or produced as a homemade product.

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