Does alcohol detox cause body odour?

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Yes. Alcohol detox is likely to make you stink. The body odour as a result of detox is a side effect of the process, although it is one that shouldn't really cause any alarm, because fortunately, the odour does not linger for too long or even beyond the detox process. 

Any person who has been drinking alcohol for a long time will have developed some serious toxins in their body.

The process of detoxing from alcohol abuse and particularly heavy alcohol consumption is associated with body odour that does make you really sweat, at night and then start to smell. 

What is Detox? 

Detox is the process of eliminating alcohol from the body after a long drinking problem.

It is one of the first steps of alcohol detox, when one is trying to quit drinking. Your body at this stage is chemically designed to having the substance.  

One of the side effects of alcohol detox is withdrawal symptoms and detox tends to help through this. 

These symptoms can vary from one person to another, and they can be severe or mild depending on a variety of factors such as: 

  • How long you have been drinking or lifestyle. 
  • Whether or not you have a co-occurring condition. 
  • The intensity of your drinking.

Detox doesn't guarantee a life-long abstinence, but it is the first step towards a clean life and it is a treatment plan followed by most treatment centres, or even a hospital that deals with rehab treatment. 

Professional detox is the process where a person receives support and care while they are going through withdrawal symptoms.

This process can be a few days or even a few weeks, depending on the diagnosis and the drug in question. 

So, why the body odour during detox? 

Body odour from detox is common. This is because the person going through withdrawal tends to sweat a lot.  

Sweat then leads to body odour and profuse sweating for many days during the detox process is associated with the release of toxins from your body and although these smells are unpleasant, they are a signal that your body is going through the treatment, and it is cleansing itself.  

Is this body odour dangerous? 

No. In most cases this process of detox is not dangerous, but for someone who has been drinking for a long time, there are many other health conditions that are associated with addiction.

These include: 

  • Hangover symptoms,  
  • Heart attack,  
  • Skin conditions, 
  • Liver problems,  
  • Trouble sleeping, 
  • Feeling sick, 
  • Night sweat 

On the other hand, body odour or smell, could also be a sign of an advancing liver disease or another health condition, which is why any sort of addiction treatment must happen under the supervision of a health care provider. 

This smell is unpleasant, but it is also a normal part of the process. It will dissipate with time as the person adjusts to being alcohol free.

Rarely will it get worse, and it is a sign that you are headed in the right direction of releasing yourself from drugs and alcohol. 

Spend a lot of time taking some rest, and not just at night, plus if you have noticed that it is not getting better, invest in a healthy diet. That can help too. 

What happens to your body? 

As mentioned above alcohol detox will make you sweat, which leads to a bad smell, but this is just a side effect of the process, and one should be worried or have stress over it. 

Of course, there is some suffering involved, when friends, family, folks, and most people don't want to be physical with you during the process, but it’s a small cross to bear for the great results ahead, and there's hope of finally getting rid of your alcoholism. 

For someone who has abused alcohol and drugs for a long time, such as drinking every night, you will have a high build-up of toxins in your body, and blood.

Detoxing from alcoholism is therefore going to cause the person to have body odour. 

Taking a rest from drinking is quite hard, but you can get through this. 

So, this is what happens; As you well know, any substance that goes into your body needs to be broken down, just like solid food.

When you've had a drink, the toxins will pass through your body and get into your blood.

Therefore, blood tests are the only thing used in measuring the number of drinks you've had or the amount of alcohol content. 

Now, as this alcohol is flowing through the body, the body will automatically try to metabolize and break it down.  

When you continue drinking alcoholic drinks such as beer, or abusing drugs, then you are making your body work overtime trying to go through the drugs and alcohol to break them down, and this causes you to reek sometimes.  

Here are a few ways that alcohol detox causes you to have body odour:  

The alcohol is excreting through your pores 

Because to your body alcohol is a toxin, it tries to remove it. There are many ways in which it can do this, so as to push the toxins out, and one of them is through your gastrointestinal system.  

Most of the alcohol will be metabolized and then removed through your skin when you sweat.  

So, during alcohol detox, the sweat that comes through your skin will cause the body odours. If you find your body has a smell, and there is some odour emanating from your pores, this is what is happening. 

You could start getting worried, but there is really no need for this, and taking a shower, putting on clean clothes and changing your bed covers will help through this. 

Also, drinking lots of water can help you feel normal, and cause your urine to get a little diluted and have less smell. 

You have a dry mouth 

Your saliva helps in controlling the growth of bacterial and even neutralizing other acids that produce bacteria.

Unfortunately for you, alcohol notoriously causes your mouth to not only have a smell bad but end up dry most of the time. 

This creates the perfect avenue and environment for the bacteria to thrive. Taking a lot of water, will help in flushing out your system and hydrating your mouth to manage your oral health. 

You let yourself go 

Well, as much as body odour is a side effect of alcohol detox, we cannot forget the fact that substance addiction can also cause a person to forego their overall hygiene.

During a hangover or a drunken binge, it is advisable to always brush your teeth regularly, as they can easily fall off, and to take a shower. 

When its noticeable that people do not want to be physical with you, or they leave the room whenever you enter, then it is a sign that you stink , and you need to take matters into your hands and seek treatment.  

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How to cover up alcohol breath 

If your breath has a bad smell as a result of drugs or alcohol, then typically, for most people, the go-to is to eliminate the bad breath as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, in some cases, the smell of beer is severe, and you have such a bad odour coming from your mouth and nothing seems to work. 

This is likely to bring feelings of anxiety, which will get worse when people want to disassociate with you.  

Eliminating alcohol smell is not always easy and popping a breath mint, no matter how strong may not help much. 

Why is it hard to get rid of alcohol smell? 

Okay, to explain this, think about a toilet that has not been flushed yet. Using air freshener may cause the toilet to smell fresh for a short while, but unless you flush it, the stink will not go away, and will linger every now and then. 

This is the same thing with alcohol. You may try to use breath mints, to mask the smell, but, unless you flush out the alcohol from your body, that is the only way to eliminate the smell.  

The reason behind this is that the alcohol breath does not come from your mouth but comes from your lungs. Here's a rundown of this: 

  • When you really drink alcohol, to the point where you can barely stand, this alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream from your intestines and stomach. 
  • The enzymes then begin to metabolize it through the liver before it can eliminate it from your body. 
  • Next, the alcohol that is not metabolized, goes into your urine and then, your breath. Even deep breathing cannot help with this. 
  • Finally, the alcohol will get eliminated from your body.

This is why a breath mint will not help much in eliminating the odour. 

Can anything get rid of it? 

No. The alcohol breath will eventually go away on its own, and the toxins will eventually leave your body, but the answer to this is not something you will like - it needs time. 

Your body needs enough time to process the alcohol and eliminate it so as to remove it and the smell in your breath and get your body back to normal. All other remedies are just temporary and will give you false hope. 

Again, you may need to quit alcohol intake if you want to get past these incidences of terrible breath. 

What is it called? 

The medical term for alcohol breath is "halitosis." This is when a person has a noticeable unpleasant bad breath which can be persistent whenever they take a few drinks.  

Almost everyone will experience this at one point in their lives, but if it becomes too much, there could be a sign that there is a problem. 

Sometimes you may not even know that you have the condition, until a loved one or the healthcare providers tell you that you have bad breath.  

Halitosis will mostly occur after you've had a drink, or when you are suffering from alcoholism.  

Eliminating alcohol breath, the myths, and the facts 

As mentioned earlier, there is no simple way of eliminating alcohol breath, and over the years, there has been some myths told on how you can do this.

Of course, as we have told you above, these are simply temporary fixes and the best way of getting rid of the stink is to wait on the body to remove it. 

Myth: Use minty products and menthol 

The alcohol breath does not come from your mouth, but rather your lungs, and the alcohol in the blood then enters the air you exhale. Breathalyzers detect the blood in the alcohol levels.  

Using a gum made of peppermint or mainline mints or floss or even mouthwash will not really cover up the smell of alcohol. 

Truth: Consume something that's smelly 

It’s not possible to replace the odour caused by alcohol but, when you consume something that is equally smelly, it could help in covering up the odour. So, try eating some strong-smelling foods such as fish, blue cheese, and garlic. 

Myth: Use breath perfume 

In life, there's plenty of beliefs, and one culture believes that finishing a meal with a herbal chew with perfume can take away any unpleasant smells. 

Of course, that sounds funny, but these mouth fresheners are unlikely to get rid of alcohol breath. 

Truth: Brush your teeth 

Alcohol breath is not in your mouth, but there is bacteria. The bacteria thrive in there after you have consumed alcohol and brushing your teeth with toothpaste can scrub out the bacteria and help in reducing the alcohol breath somewhat. 

Myth: Drinking smelling alcohol 

Some people with a noticeable bad breath after having a drink will think that you can neutralize the smell by drinking neutral alcohol such as herbal digestifs and vodka, but since we said that the smell comes from your lungs, this is not likely to work. 

Truth: Help your body process the alcohol 

It’s not possible to speed up the process, and all you can do is give your body time to process the alcohol and excrete it in the right way. 

Myth: Charcoal Tablets 

Charcoal is believed to bounce around the drinking community as a breathalyser hack. They say that a bag of coal that is concealed in your mouth will absorb the alcohol and you can blow clear air out into a tester. 

Haha, right? It doesn't work, and this is not just because breathalyser’s have greatly evolved beyond the chemical analysis, but also because you must literally blow through the coal which is kind of impractical. 

Swallowing the coal on the other hand will cause it to end up in your stomach and when absorbed it will be broken down into acid. 

Truth: Use a red herring 

Well, the coal won't work, and you will end up hurt by it. You can trick everyone around you by swishing an alcohol-based mouthwash.

This is of course temporary, but life is funny, and if anyone tells you that you smell like alcohol, just tell them that you use an alcohol-based mouthwash. Simple! 

Can you get drunk by smelling alcohol? 

Yes. Smelling alcohol can get you drunk faster than having a drink directly. 

The old-fashioned way of drinking is simple; Get some co-workers, on any day, even a Tuesday night, and visit the local watering hole for a drink. This is the novel way that people have been consuming alcohol. 

But smelling it? Vaping it? Does it even work? Inhaling alcohol vapours will not only hurt your body but harm your lungs and brain and intoxicate you pretty fast. 

When people want to vape or smell the alcohol, they will do this by heating it up and pouring it on dry ice.

Currently there are some devices usually marketed to the younger generation that can help them inhale too much alcohol into their bodies. 

Inhaling it causes an intense and rapid "high" absorption through the lungs which provides instant delivery of the alcohol into the bloodstream and the brain.

The effects are pretty fast and even small amounts of alcohol will make you more intoxicated than drinking the alcohol directly. 

Abbeycare Pricing Bot

Last Updated: October 27, 2021

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.