I re-posted the early Ethics Alarms entry from 2010, titled “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit,” in 2016. As I explained then, the original post “raised an important and shamefully under-reported topic, one that despite my exhortations then has yet to be adequately examined in the media.” In 2016, when I googled various combinations of “mouthwash,””Listerine,”‘alcoholism,” and “alcoholic,” the first result was my post. “Most people who are not afflicted with the disease of alcoholism have no idea that mouthwash is a popular stand-in for liquor, or that is used to deceive family members who think an addict is no longer using or intoxicated,” I wrote. On that occasion I was prompted to re-post the essay after I had been shocked to hear a physician friend who treated alcoholics plead complete ignorance of the links between mouthwash and alcoholism. Today, it was the reaction of my own physician, who is usually up-to-date on all medical research, and he had treated alcoholism sufferers at the VA. He had never heard anything about the problem.
Google would seem to indicate that there is some publicity about the issue. (Interestingly, while in 2016 Ethics Alarms came up first in any search for the topic, today it doesn’t appear in the first five pages. Why would that be, I wonder? Well, this is another issue.)
This section of my 2016 intro is still valid:
“Despite my frustration that what I regard as a true exposé that should have sparked an equivalent article in a more widely read forum has remained relatively unknown, I am encouraged by the effect it has had. Most Ethics Alarms posts have their greatest traffic around the time they are posted, but since 2010, the page views of this article have increased steadily…More importantly, it has drawn comments like this one:
‘Am looking after my twin sister who is a chronic alcoholic. She has been three days sober and then she just walked in and I couldn’t work out what the hell happened. She was in a stupor , but there was no alcohol and I am dispensing the Valium for detox period and she smelt like mint!! Found three bottles of it !!! This is my last big push to help her and she pleaded innocent and no idea it had alcohol in it! Hasn’t had a shower for two days but keeps her mouth fresh and sweet !! Thanks for the information. Much appreciated XXX’
“Most of all, I am revolted that what I increasingly have come to believe is an intentional, profit-motivated deception by manufacturers continues, despite their knowledge that their product is killing alcoholics and destroying families. I know proof would be difficult, but there have been successful class action lawsuits with millions in punitive damage settlements for less despicable conduct. Somewhere, there must be an employee or executive who acknowledges that the makers of mouthwash with alcohol know their product is being swallowed rather than swished, and are happy to profit from it….People are killing themselves right under our noses, and we are being thrown of by the minty smell of their breath.”
Here again is “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profi,” lightly edited and updated. Maybe the third time’s the charm.
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