The Use Of Rubbing Alcohol And Hand Sanitizer Is On The Rise With Alcoholics: Why? And What Can Be Done?

A surge in alcohol poisoning cases is related to an increasing rate of hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol consumption by alcoholics. Why would those who suffer from an alcohol addiction turn to these items? And what can be done to help anyone who does?

Why Would Anyone Drink These Items?

People who drink either rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer are desperate for an intake of alcohol. Hand sanitizer uses a very potent and concentrated form of alcohol that can cause very quick onset of alcohol poisoning symptoms. Sadly, 2014 suffered a 400 percent increase in alcohol poisoning caused by hand sanitizer. Unfortunately, the alcohol in hand sanitizer and that used in rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) is different than that in alcoholic beverages (ethanol).

So while it is possible to drink both and experience many of the same effects, both are highly dangerous. Drinking rubbing alcohol can cause dehydration, low blood pressure, diarrhea, vomiting, bleeding in the stomach, and other serious problems. Most alcoholics don't turn to these items as their primary form of alcohol ingestion, but in desperation when they want to avoid delirium tremens.

Understanding The Dangers Of Delirium Tremens

Delirium tremens (or DTs) occurs in severe cases of alcoholism, typically in the first 72 hours after the last drink. It causes a wide range of problematic reactions, including:

  • Confusion
  • Excitement
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Heart concerns
  • Seizures
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Depression

In the past, this condition had a fatality rate as high as 35 percent. While this rate has decreased, it is still a dangerous situation that many alcoholics want to avoid any way that they can. As a result, they may turn to hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol to stave off DT symptoms, especially if they are in a situation in which they cannot drink ethanol alcohol.

Treatments To Use Instead

If you suspect a loved one is suffering from extreme alcoholism and may be using hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol to avoid DT, you should get them on a medical withdrawal program immediately. Typical treatments use a safe dose of benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Ativan, to alleviate DT symptoms and make alcohol ingestion unnecessary.

It may be necessary to check them into an alcohol rehab center that can use helpful processes like cognitive-behavioral therapy to help your loved one get over the psychological need to drink. These centers can also utilize a variety of alcohol poisoning medical treatments to protect their health from deteriorating to dangerous levels.

Inpatient alcohol addiction treatment can help get your loved one back on their feet. It can also be a useful way for you to work with them through emotional problems that may contribute to their addiction. It also helps you keep them from drinking hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol ever again.

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