Don't Drink the Hand Sanitizer
Doctors Warn Against Using Hand Sanitizer to Get Drunk After Reports of Men Drinking It for Alcohol
WebMD News Archive
Jan. 31, 2007 -- Hand sanitizer isn't a drink, but doctors report two cases
of men who drank it for its alcohol.
Both men survived, but doctors say drinking hand sanitizer could be
The cases are described in The New England Journal of Medicine.
The first involved a 49-year-old prison inmate in Maryland who got drunk one
night by drinking a hand sanitizer containing ethyl alcohol.
Other inmates and prison staff reportedly saw the man drink from a gallon of
the sanitizer over the course of an evening, write Suzanne Doyon, MD, and
Christopher Welsh, MD.
Doyon works at the Maryland Poison Center in Baltimore; Welsh is on staff at
the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.
The man, who hadn't had any other alcohol or drugs that night, recovered
with medical care.
The second case involved a 43-year-old alcoholic in Cincinnati who was
admitted to a hospital for chest pain.
By the time the man was treated and discharged, he was delirious.
He was readmitted for tests, but before the results came back, "the
patient was seen in the bathroom drinking the alcohol-based hand wash from its
dispenser," write Ashkan Emadi, MD, PhD, and LeAnn Coberly, MD, of the
University of Cincinnati.
"When asked why he ingested the hand cleaner, he pointed to the label,
which read, 'Active ingredient 63% v/v isopropyl alcohol.' He explained that
this percentage is higher than that in vodka," write Emadi and Coberly.
"Perhaps changing the description on the container from isopropyl
alcohol to isopropanol or propane-2-ol would decrease the attraction of these
hand sanitizers for potentially dangerous abuse," write Emadi and
Doyon and Welsh say health care workers and administrators in hospitals and
prisons "should be aware of this potential misuse of the products as
intoxicants and should take steps to minimize such use in high-risk