What happens if you drink acetone?

Link post

Ques­tion: Should you drink ace­tone?

An­swer: No.

But, out of in­ter­est, what if you did? This ques­tion is asked re­peat­edly on the web, with with many an­swers smugly stat­ing that even tiny amounts of ace­tone will in­stantly kill you, you idiot. But they provide no ev­i­dence.


Fact #1: Ace­tone bot­tles are scary looking

Cer­tainly, this doesn’t look like some­thing you’d want to put in your body:

acetone barrels


Fact #2: Your body nat­u­rally pro­duces and dis­poses of ace­tone.

Ace­tone nat­u­rally oc­curs in plants. Your liver pro­duces ace­tone when me­tab­o­liz­ing fat. If you fast, have di­a­betes, or ex­er­cise very hard, you pro­duce more ace­tone. If you fol­low a ke­to­genic diet, you pro­duce more. (Ace­tone is a “ke­tone”!) Small amounts of ace­tone are nat­u­rally pre­sent in your blood and urine, the lat­ter be­ing how you get rid of it.


Fact #3: Di­a­betes can cause your breath to smell like ace­tone.

In­sulin is needed to break down glu­cose and provide en­ergy to cells. Di­a­bet­ics have trou­ble ei­ther pro­duc­ing or us­ing in­sulin. Thus, their bod­ies may burn fat in­stead. Burn­ing lots of fat pro­duces lots of ace­tone, enough to im­pact the breath. (This is a se­ri­ous prob­lem if it oc­curs.)


Fact #4: Drink­ing ace­tone will make you not think so good no more.

Fisher Scien­tific’s MSDS gives the fol­low­ing effects for ace­tone:

Inges­tion: May cause gas­troin­testi­nal ir­ri­ta­tion with nau­sea, vom­it­ing and di­ar­rhea. May cause sys­temic tox­i­c­ity with aci­do­sis. May cause cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem de­pres­sion, char­ac­ter­ized by ex­cite­ment, fol­lowed by headache, dizzi­ness, drowsi­ness, and nau­sea. Ad­vanced stages may cause col­lapse, un­con­scious­ness, coma and pos­si­ble death due to res­pi­ra­tory failure.

Sounds se­ri­ous! Ex­cept, oh wait, I made a “mis­take”. That was the list of effects for ethanol. Here are the effects for ace­tone:

Inges­tion: May cause ir­ri­ta­tion of the di­ges­tive tract. May cause cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem de­pres­sion, char­ac­ter­ized by ex­cite­ment, fol­lowed by headache, dizzi­ness, drowsi­ness, and nau­sea. Ad­vanced stages may cause col­lapse, un­con­scious­ness, coma and pos­si­ble death due to res­pi­ra­tory failure. Aspira­tion of ma­te­rial into the lungs may cause chem­i­cal pneu­moni­tis, which may be fatal.

Re­mind you of any­thing?


Fact #5: Ace­tone is prob­a­bly marginally more toxic than ethanol.

In an­i­mals, the Oral LD50 for ace­tone ranges from 3 g/​kg in mice to 5.8 g/​kg in rats. For ethanol it is around 7.3 g/​kg for both mice and rats.


Fact #6: Ace­tone is Gen­er­ally Rec­og­nized as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA.

For bet­ter or worse, food man­u­fac­tur­ers can put ace­tone in food and sell it to you with­out test­ing for safety. This seems to be com­mon with spice ole­o­resins (con­cen­trated forms of spices).


Fact #7: Some in­sane in­ter­net peo­ple drank ace­tone and didn’t die.

In a thread on bluelight, Psychedelic Jay re­ports:

So far 1 ml of pure ace­tone in 10 ml of wa­ter. Effects: Slight se­da­tion, easy go­ing sense of eu­pho­ria, very similar but smoother than ethanol in­tox­i­ca­tion. Heart rate in­creased by 6-10 beats a minute… Blood pres­sure ex­actly the same…

While pino says:

So one night, I took 20ml strongly diluted, a dose which shouldn’t kill you. The taste was masked by mix­ing it with fruit juice, which made it ac­tu­ally pleas­antly to sip. Slightly fruity. In about half an hour, a pleas­ant warm se­da­tion spread over my body. It felt like a clean al­co­hol in­tox­i­ca­tion. Noth­ing to strong, but very re­lax­ing. I guess it took me for an hour of 10. There is no hang­over.

Both of these are con­sis­tent with the idea that ace­tone has effects that are similar to al­co­hol. All the other com­ments in that thread, of course, say “what, are you crazy?”.


Fact #8: You shouldn’t drink ace­tone.

There’s no rea­son to do so. It’s (pre­sum­ably) dis­gust­ing. It’s very flammable. The effects haven’t been stud­ied nearly as much as al­co­hol’s. And I could be wrong about all of this.

But sup­pose ace­tone had ex­actly the same effects as ethanol. Yes, that would mean that “ace­tone is as safe as al­co­hol”. But it would also mean that “al­co­hol is as dan­ger­ous as ace­tone”. That’s prob­a­bly the wiser in­ter­pre­ta­tion.