Methyl alcohol is a cheap yet powerful adulterant of spurious liquors. It has been a dominant cause of the outbreaks of methyl alcohol poisoning among the population in India. After Bihar witnessed a complete ban on all types of liquor earlier this year, Paras Global Hospital, Darbhanga, has recorded a steady rise of cases of illicit liquor poisoning. The hospital organized an informative talk on the subject in the hospital premises. The aim was to make people aware about this poisonous substance, cautioning them to avoid consuming spurious alcohol.
Dr A K Gupta Consultant &HOD9Non-Invasive Cardiology) Paras Global Hospital Darbhanga said, “Methanol poisoning is fairly common in our country. Being cheap and potent, it is sold on India’s streets and people from low income groups often buy this. When swallowed in high concentrations, it may cause headache, dizziness, abdominal pain, vomiting, heart irregularities, convulsions, a complete collapse, and even death. We see that the victims as well as the families suffer, especially since most victims are in the 20-40-year age group.”
Methyl alcohol or methanol is basically used for industrial purposes and is found in varnish, antifreeze substances, paint, and fuel. It is added to spurious liquor to increase its alcohol content. When methanol drinks are consumed, it gets converted to formic acid: 500mg/ltr of this acid is considered severely toxic for the human body and can cause blindness. Any level more than this is usually fatal.
A note from the World Health Organization on methanol poisoning states that, “Problems arise when higher concentrations are formed during incorrectly managed distillation processes, but more particularly when methanol is deliberately added to fortify informally-produced spirits and illicit alcoholic drinks.”
“Methanol will not show any reaction in the body till it gets converted to formic acid. The initial symptom of alcohol poisoning is drowsiness, lack of ability to stand or walk straight. As these are common signs of drunkenness, the patient is not brought to the hospital immediately. After about six hours, the patient starts experiencing a headache, vomiting, and abdominal pain. He may start to hyperventilate and lose the power of sight. Coma, convulsions, and death from respiratory and cardiac arrest may follow,” added Dr Ankur Gupta
Getting quick treatment is crucial in surviving methanol poisoning. The only treatment or antidote to methyl alcohol poisoning is alcohol itself. Diluted ethanol is given to the patient intravenously to save his life.
“Prevention is most definitely better than cure. We hope that people will abstain from drinking under all circumstances. We are doing everything we can to educate people, through the media and through our OPD units, so that we can save lives,” said Dr Ankur Gupta