By Alexandra Brumberg
Everyone has heard that quality comes at a price. In a never-ending effort to lower costs, quality is, therefore, the first thing to go even though it might actually be worth the price. Recently, methanol—the same chemical that is found in antifreeze and drain cleaner—has become popular as a replacement for ethanol in alcoholic beverages. Although the alcohol produces a similar buzz to that of ethanol, the effects that come later are horrific and, unfortunately, often deadly.
In a recent case (as reported by the Daily Mail Online), Kate McCormick and Laura Livanou—two British lawyers—were on vacation in Bali when they fell ill after having had vodka Red Bulls at a local bar. After making it back to their hotels, they began to throw up—the beginning of symptoms that lasted over a week. Kate noted that "even turning over in bed or just moving our head would make us sick. We felt dizzy and disoriented, too, and had to lie very still." The intense sickness, accompanied by pounding headaches, lasted for two days. However, it took an additional week to fully recover.
Luckily for them, Kate and Laura's symptoms were rather tame in comparison to what could have happened. A lethal dose of methanol is 100-200 mL, roughly the same as the alcohol content in six shots of vodka. Kate and Laura only had four shots, a decision that led to their survival. Had they had more, they would have died, or, at the very least, suffered permanent internal damage.
Cheznye Emmons, a British backpacker vacationing in Sumatra, was not so lucky. She died five days after consuming fruit punch made from a locally purchased bottle of gin that had been tainted with methanol. The morning after drinking the fruit punch, Cheznye lost her eyesight. Although she made it to a hospital, she died in a drug-induced coma five days after the lethal drink.
Cheznye's symptoms are among the more common effects of methanol poisoning. Side effects range from headaches—as Kate and Laura described—and overall sickness to more severe symptoms such as blindness, seizures, breathing difficulties, comas, kidney failure, and, as in Cheznye's case, death. Once a patient falls into a coma or has a seizure, there is only a 20% chance of survival.
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