Ever had a yen for drinking mouthwash or hand sanitizer? Don’t — The People’s Pharmacy

Teresa Graedon and Joe Graedon
Teresa Graedon and Joe Graedon MCT

Q. My wife was a closet alcoholic, drinking mouthwash. After I got wise to that, she switched to hand sanitizer. It honestly never occurred to me that anyone would drink that stuff.

After lots of turmoil, I gave her an ultimatum that she had to go to Alcoholics Anonymous. Much to my surprise, she agreed before I spelled out what I was willing to do to get her to go.

We have been going to open meetings together for two weeks. She now has a sponsor and is working through the steps. This is the first time since I realized why the mouthwash was disappearing so rapidly that I have real hope that we are moving on a different path. Your thoughts?

A. Some mouthwash contains as much as 27 percent alcohol. That’s more than beer or wine.

The ethyl alcohol in mouthwash or hand sanitizer is not intended for drinking, however. In addition, there are other ingredients in such products that could make people ill. We’re glad you realized that there was a problem and that your wife is getting help with her alcohol dependence.

Q. I take a prescription called Elmiron for interstitial cystitis. My current insurance company will not pay for this prescription until I have reached a $6,500 deductible.

The pharmacy says I’d have to pay over $1,000 per month for my prescription. I would like to try ordering from Canada, but I do not know which pharmacies are legitimate. Can you help?

A. Pentosan polysulfate (Elmiron) is used to ease the discomfort of interstitial cystitis. This condition causes urinary urgency, frequent urination and pelvic pain.

Elmiron costs about a third as much in Canada as in the U.S. That’s still pricey, but substantially less than $1,000 a month.

To help you find a reputable Canadian pharmacy, we are sending you a link to our online resource, “Saving Money on Medicines.” Access to this guide can be purchased at, and all would be able to supply your medicine.

Keep in mind that anything you purchase from a Canadian pharmacy will not count toward your deductible. Although the Food and Drug Administration does not approve of drug imports from abroad, U.S. Customs rarely interferes with purchases for personal use.

Q. I stumbled across your site while looking for withdrawal symptoms of cetirizine (Zyrtec). I took this medication for years to treat severe allergy problems.

Recently, I ran out of the med. I was waiting on a shipment and I started feeling bad all over: tired, depressed and itching like crazy. I assumed that the itching was my allergies asserting themselves because I had not taken the med.

This morning I woke up to itching on my upper abdomen, which was very red. I made a quick trip to the store and got some cetirizine. I took one pill, and in about two hours the itching was subsiding.

I am glad to know I’m not crazy after all. What I read at was that cetirizine withdrawal was causing my problem. Now I would like to know what OTC allergy med I can take.

A. Cetirizine (Zyrtec) and levocetirizine (Xyzal) are popular over-the-counter allergy medicines. However, stopping either one abruptly may result in unbearable itching (Drug Safety — Case Reports, December 2016).

We have heard from hundreds of people who have experienced severe itching after stopping cetirizine. Most other OTC antihistamines do not seem to trigger this type of withdrawal reaction, though some people may be especially sensitive.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them at Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”