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How to Get Rid of Alcohol Breath Fast

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What Causes Alcohol Breath?

Halitosis is the medical term for bad breath. It occurs when someone has a noticeable and unpleasant odor in their mouth.

Many people aren't aware of their bad breath until a loved one mentions it. In some cases, the smell is persistent, but it comes and goes in others.

Almost every person experiences bad breath at some point in their lives. It can come from problems in the mouth (e.g., poor dental hygiene, rotten teeth, or a dental abscess) or the digestive tract (from the stomach down).

Excessive drinking can also cause bad breath. Alcohol is treated as a toxin by the body, so it tries to transform it into a less harmful chemical. A side effect of this process is an unpleasant odor in the mouth.

Overindulgence in alcohol can also lead to an unpleasant smell originating from the stomach. The smell is particularly noticeable after belching.

Ninety percent of alcohol changes into acetic acid during metabolism. However, some of it is released through the respiratory system and sweat. This process results in alcohol-related bad breath. 

Keep in mind: Sometimes bad breath is mistaken as being caused by alcohol when a condition like diabetes is actually to blame. Dismissing bad breath can mean overlooking symptoms of another condition that could be serious.

How to Get Rid of Alcohol Breath Fast (Myths vs. Truths)

There is no real way to get rid of alcohol breath. Fortunately, there are some methods that can cover up the smell.

Some tips are effective, while others are myths:

Myth: Using Menthol and Minty Products

The odor caused by drinking alcohol doesn't really come from the mouth. It comes from your lungs, where alcohol in the blood enters the air you exhale. This is how breathalyzers detect blood alcohol levels.

Using peppermint chewing gum, floss, mainline mints, or mouthwash may cover the smell of alcohol breath temporarily. But the effects won't last.

Truth: Consuming Something Smelly

While you cannot replace the smell of alcohol with a fresh smell, you can consume something equally as potent to cover up the odor of alcohol breath.

Try eating foods with a strong smell such as garlic, fish, or blue cheese.

Myth: Trying Breath Perfume

Many cultures finish a meal with a herbal chew to perfume away unpleasant breath. Mukhwas in India, for example, freshens the breath with ingredients like anise, fennel, and coconut. 

These breath perfumes and mouth fresheners are unlikely to keep your breath fresh for long.

Truth: Brushing Your Teeth

Alcohol breath doesn't live in your mouth, but bacteria do. Bacteria thrive in your mouth after alcohol consumption. Brush your teeth with toothpaste to scrub out the bacteria and reduce bad breath.

Be sure to brush your teeth, tongue, and the roof of your mouth.

Myth: Drinking Neutral-Smelling Alcohol

Some people believe that drinking neutral-smelling alcohols like vodka or herbal digestifs won't cause unpleasant smells from digestive breakdown.

But as the scent originates from your lungs, all alcoholic beverages create a similar unpleasant booze breath, no matter the smell of the drink.

Truth: Helping Your Body Process Alcohol

You can't speed up the hourly rate at which your liver metabolizes alcohol. But you can help your body process the alcohol more efficiently by staying on top of your wellness. 

Be sure to consume a healthy diet, stay active, and drink plenty of water. The more you help your liver stay healthy, the more it will help you.

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How to Get Rid of Alcohol Odor from Skin Pores (Sweat)

As some alcohol leaves the body via the skin pores, a noticeable odor while sweating can occur. 

Here are some ways to make this odor less noticeable:

  • A long, soapy shower
  • Changing into fresh clothes
  • Drinking lots of water to help flush out the alcohol through the urine
  • Deodorant
  • Staying on top of your skincare routine and keeping your body clean

How Long Does it Take to Get the Smell of Alcohol Off Your Breath?

The presence of alcohol in your breath depends on how much you have consumed and other biological factors.

The typical rate of alcohol elimination is one unit per hour. At this rate, traces of alcohol disappear in relation to the amount of alcohol you consume.

If you consumed one large glass of wine, it would usually take your body three hours to eliminate any alcohol it has absorbed. During those three hours, your breath may smell of alcohol.

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Is it Possible to Consume Alcohol Without Your Breath Smelling of Alcohol?

Prevention is always going to be better than the cure. 

If you want to consume alcohol without your breath smelling, consider:

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Link Between Alcohol Odor and Alcoholism

If someone regularly smells like alcohol, it could be a sign they're suffering from alcoholism.

Some people experience periods when they drink alcohol heavily but manage to reduce their intake before developing a physical addiction. Others progress to alcoholism and develop physical and psychological addictions.

Some people with alcohol problems try their best to disguise their drinking. In many cases, people suffering from alcoholism are unaware they may smell like alcohol. 

Confronting someone with concerns about their alcohol odors and potential addiction can lead to denial, but it can also encourage them to seek help.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

There are many treatment options available for alcohol use disorder (AUD) and addiction, including:

Inpatient Programs

Inpatient treatment takes place at a licensed residential treatment center.

These programs provide 24/7 comprehensive, structured care. You'll live in safe, substance-free housing and have access to professional medical monitoring. 

The first step of an inpatient program is detoxification. Then behavioral therapy and other services are introduced. These programs typically last 30, 60, or 90 days, sometimes longer.

Most programs help set up your aftercare once you complete the inpatient portion of your treatment.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) provide similar services to inpatient programs.

Services include medical care, behavioral therapy, and support groups, along with other customized therapies. 

However, in a PHP program, you return home to sleep. Some services provide food and transportation, but services vary by program.

PHPs accept new patients as well as people who have completed an inpatient program and require additional intensive treatment.

Outpatient Programs

Outpatient treatment is less intensive than inpatient treatment or partial hospitalization programs.

These programs organize your treatment session based on your schedule. The goal of outpatient treatment is to provide therapy, education, and support in a flexible environment.

They are best for people who have a high motivation to recover and cannot leave their responsibilities at home, work, or school. Outpatient programs are often part of aftercare programs once you complete an inpatient or PHP program.

It is important for people undergoing treatment to have a stable and supportive home environment. If family members/roommates drink or use drugs in the home environment, it will be extremely difficult for the person to maintain abstinence when they return home after treatment. It is extremely difficult to undergo successful outpatient therapy if you are living in a home environment with ready access to drugs and alcohol.

Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT)

Sometimes medications may be used in alcohol addiction treatment.

Some medicines can help reduce the negative side effects of detoxification and withdrawal.

Others can help you reduce cravings and normalize body functions. Disulfiram (Antabuse), acamprosate (Campral), and naltrexone are the most common medications used to treat AUD. 

When combined with other evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), MAT can help prevent relapse and increase your chance of recovery.

Support Groups

Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Self-Management And Recovery Training (SMART) are open to anyone with a substance use disorder.

They are peer-led organizations dedicated to helping each other remain sober.  Support groups can be the first step towards recovery or part of a long-term aftercare plan.

Updated on March 29, 2022
6 sources cited
  1. Bad breath (halitosis), NI Direct Government Services, https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/conditions/bad-breath-halitosis
  2. Smelling Sickness, NIH News in Health, September 2018, https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/09/smelling-sickness
  3. Bragulat, Veronique et al. “Alcohol sensitizes cerebral responses to the odors of alcoholic drinks: an fMRI study.” Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research vol. 32,7 : 1124-34, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2905852/
  4. Maurage, Pierre et al. “Olfaction in alcohol-dependence: a neglected yet promising research field.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 4 1007. 3 Jan. 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3879530/
  5. Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), 2014, https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/treatment-alcohol-problems-finding-and-getting-help
  6. Alcohol withdrawal, MedlinePlus, February 2021, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000764.htm

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