10 Ways People Get Drunk Without Drinking

Alcohol is the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States. An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes every year. But not all of these alcohol-induced deaths are from drinking alcohol. Some people get dangerously drunk without actually drinking beer, wine, or liquor.

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There are many ways that people get drunk without drinking alcohol. If you’re wondering how to get drunk without alcohol, it’s important to understand that none of these methods of getting drunk are considered safe. Drinking too much alcohol and using the methods below to get drunk without alcohol are dangerous to your health:

Vaping Alcohol
  1. Snorting alcohol (snorting powdered alcohol, also known as palcohol, through the nose)
  2. Inhaling vaporized alcohol (vaping alcohol)
  3. Injecting alcohol (injecting alcohol directly into the bloodstream)
  4. Inserting alcohol-soaked tampons (inserting alcohol-soaked tampons into the vagina)
  5. Inserting alcohol enemas (inserting alcohol into the rectum, also known as “butt-chugging”)
  6. Eyeballing (inserting alcohol into the eyes)
  7. Using sublingual absorption (placing an alcohol-soaked item under the tongue)
  8. Eating alcoholic food items (i.e. alcohol-drenched gummy bears, alcoholic popsicles, Jell-O shots, etc.)
  9. Breathing in gasoline or aerosol sprays (inhaling products that contain certain types of industrial alcohol). This is also known as ‘huffing.’
  10. Drinking household products that contain alcohol content (i.e. rubbing alcohol, mouthwash, cough syrup, hand sanitizer, etc.)

Many people choose these alternative methods of alcohol consumption to avoid certain side effects of binge drinking, the carbs in alcoholic beverages, the taste of alcohol, the smell of alcohol on their breaths, and for other reasons. But these methods of getting drunk can still give you a hangover or worse — alcohol poisoning. The side effects of getting drunk without alcohol can ultimately claim your life.

Can you Get Drunk off Rubbing Alcohol?

Yes, you can get drunk from drinking rubbing alcohol but it can also kill you in the process. Because rubbing alcohol is toxic and full of poisons, drinking rubbing alcohol can be fatal. 

Your body metabolizes rubbing alcohol differently than it processes drinking alcohol. Rubbing alcohol is made up of about 70 percent (or more) isopropyl alcohol. This is different from the ethyl alcohol (also known as ethanol) derived from fermenting carbohydrates in fruit and grain that beer, wine, and liquor are all made of. Isopropyl is found in a lot of consumer products, including various lotions and cosmetics, and it is not intended for drinking.

While drinking too much ethanol can raise your blood alcohol level to dangerous heights, consuming even a small amount of isopropyl can cause rapid intoxication, poison you, and even lead to death.

Auto-Brewery Syndrome

Auto-brewery syndrome, also known as gut fermentation syndrome, endogenous ethanol fermentation, or simply "drunkenness disease," is a rare condition that can cause you to get drunk without drinking alcohol. If someone has this disease, fungi found in the small intestine can convert sugar or carbohydrates into ethanol. This disease is extremely rare and can usually be treated with anti-fungal medication or a change in diet.

Dangers of Getting Drunk Without Alcohol

Getting drunk without drinking alcohol can be incredibly dangerous and rapidly raise your BAC to fatal levels. Getting drunk from drinking alcohol can be dangerous, too. If you have an underlying medical condition, the above methods of alcohol use can be especially dangerous.

Snorting, inhaling, and injecting alcohol, for example, almost instantly deliver the alcohol to the bloodstream and brain. Even a small amount of alcohol can lead to rapid intoxication. The same can be said of inserting alcohol or alcohol-soaked objects like tampons in the sensitive mucous membranes of the vagina, rectum, and under the tongue.

Drinking products that contain alcohol that are not intended for drinking is dangerous not only because the alcohol will reach your bloodstream and brain, but also because of the poisons in these products.

If you or a loved one has consumed rubbing alcohol or another toxic product, immediately call the Health Resources & Services Administration’s toll-free Poison Help Line (1-800-222-1222) to connect with your local poison center. 

You can also visit www.PoisonHelp.org to answer a questionnaire about your situation and retrieve advice. The American Association of Poison Control Centers supports the country’s 55 poison centers in every state and United States territory, which means that there’s help available wherever you are.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or an alcohol use disorder, addiction treatment is also available. Reach out to your local alcohol rehab center for help or learn more about your options here.

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Resources

“Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 18 Feb. 2020, www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

“American College of Emergency Physicians.” ACEP // American College of Emergency Physicians, www.acep.org/how-we-serve/sections/toxicology/news/june-2015/palcohol-and-ethanol/

Bartlett, Jeremy A, and Kees van der Voort Maarschalk. “Understanding the Oral Mucosal Absorption and Resulting Clinical Pharmacokinetics of Asenapine.” AAPS PharmSciTech, Springer US, Dec. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3513449/

Bosmia, Anand N, et al. “Vodka Eyeballing: a Potential Cause of Ocular Injuries.” Journal of Injury & Violence Research, Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences, July 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4009175/

“The Dangers Of Alcohol Soaked Tampons.” Scottsdale Recovery Center, 2 Aug. 2020, scottsdalerecovery.com/the-dangers-of-alcohol-soaked-tampons/.

“Dangers of Drinking Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol.” Recovery First Treatment Center, www.recoveryfirst.org/alcohol-abuse/rubbing-alcohol/

“Drinking Rubbing Alcohol: Can You Do It Safely? Ocean Breeze Recovery.” Ocean Breeze Recovery, 19 Mar. 2020, oceanbreezerecovery.org/alcohol/rubbing-alcohol/.

“First Steps in a Poisoning Emergency.” First Steps in a Poisoning Emergency | Poison Help, 18 Mar. 2019, poisonhelp.hrsa.gov/faq/first-steps-poisoning-emergency.

Foy, Chris, and About Chris FoyChris Foy is a content manager and webmaster for FHE Health with years of experience in the addiction treatment industry...read more. “Is It Possible to Get Drunk Off of Rubbing Alcohol?” FHE Health – Addiction & Mental Health Care, 25 June 2020, fherehab.com/learning/high-off-rubbing-alcohol.

“Inhalants.” Inhalants - Alcohol and Drug Foundation, adf.org.au/drug-facts/inhalants/.

Mahdi, Ameera S., and Andrew J. McBride. “INTRAVENOUS INJECTION OF ALCOHOL BY DRUG INJECTORS: REPORT OF THREE CASES.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Nov. 1999, academic.oup.com/alcalc/article/34/6/918/192717.

Mekonnen, Serkalem. “Rubbing Alcohol Only Looks Like Water.” Get Poison Control Help Online or Call 1-800-222-1222, National Capital Poison Center, 21 Apr. 2020, www.poison.org/articles/2012-dec/rubbing-alcohol-only-looks-like-water

Reid, Nicole. Inhaling Alcohol Is Dangerous, National Capital Poison Center, 29 Apr. 2020, www.poison.org/articles/2013-sep/inhaling-alcohol-is-dangerous.

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Updated on: January 21, 2021
Author
AnnaMarie Houlis
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Medically Reviewed
Annamarie
Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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