Warning on methanol poisoning as consumption of fake alcoholic drinks increases

February, 23/2022 - 12:00

The Poison Control Centre under the Hà Nội-based Bạch Mai Hospital has reported an increase in cases of methanol poisoning before and after the Tết holiday, warning that the use of fake alcoholic drinks and medical methanol could lead to fatalities.

 

A patient suffering from methanol poisoning is treated at the Poison Control Centre under Bạch Mai Hospital. — Photo vietnanmplus.vn

HÀ NỘI - The Poison Control Centre under the Hà Nội-based Bạch Mai Hospital has reported an increase in cases of methanol poisoning before and after the Tết holiday, warning that the use of fake alcoholic drinks and medical methanol could lead to fatalities.

Nguyễn Trung Nguyên, director of the centre, said that last week the centre received a 43-year-old man who suffered methanol poisoning after drinking alcohol of unknown origin sold at a local grocery store.

The patient was admitted to the hospital in a coma, with dilated pupils and low blood pressure. Tests showed a very high concentration of methanol in his blood – 182.51mg/dL.

CT scan results show that the patient had brain damage. Although he was detoxified and given emergency treatment according to the protocol, he is in a critical condition.

According to his family members, two days before hospitalisation, the patient had a drink with relatives. The alcohol consumed did not have labels or indications on the place of production.

A day after drinking the alcohol, the patient suffered a headache, confusion, blurred vision and loss of consciousness.

The patient was taken to the district hospital for treatment and then transferred to the Poison Control Center under Bạch Mai Hospital.

Doctor Nguyên said that the patient was poisoned due to consuming industrial methanol.

“The alcohol sample brought by his family for testing showed that the methanol content was 16.65 per cent while the ethanol content was only 10.25 per cent. A person who also consumed the alcohol also showed signs of poisoning and is currently being treated at the hospital. Other drinkers were called on to go to the hospital for checks," Nguyên said.

Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, is a colourless liquid with a mild alcohol odour. Methanol is an industrial alcohol, an ingredient in paint, detergents, wood cleaning solvents and antifreeze agents. Due to the low price of methanol, people mix it with ordinary alcohol (ethanol alcohol).

People who drink methanol have the same feeling as ethanol intoxication. A day or two after drinking the methanol, drinkers suffer blurred vision, lethargy, rapid breathing or breathing difficulties because methanol was converted into too much formic acid. Drinkers could suffer convulsions or coma. In some cases, if the drinkers do not receive immediate treatment, they could suffer critical brain damage, blindness and low blood pressure.

In November and December last year, Nguyên’s centre received dozens of cases of methanol poisoning, most of the cases were serious with fatalities reported.

Doctor Nguyên said that recently the number of patients with industrial methanol poisoning was increasing. One major cause was the consumption of fake alcoholic drinks which are sold widely in the market, especially during festive occasions when demand increased.

In other cases, patients drank medical alcohol as they thought that medical alcohol was safe for consumption.

“This is a matter of chemical management and methanol industrial alcohol management,” he said.

“Due to the lack of strict management, these chemicals are used to make fake alcohol which then is sold in the market. In addition, industrial alcohol is also bottled to use as medical disinfectant bottles, people think that medical alcohol is safe to drink,” said Nguyên.

According to the doctor, in other countries, the control of industrial methanol management was very clear. All these products are inaccessible to ordinary people. Industrial methanol must be bottled with colour indicators and clear instructions for use.

Doctor Nguyễn recommends that if someone intends to drink to replace alcohol because of excessive alcoholism, their family members should immediately prevent them and take the drinker to the emergency room as soon as possible. — VNS