A doctor's response

  • 2006-12-06
  • A . Lielmanis
In response to the letter dated Nov. 1, 2006 from Peter Nilberg, 'Are Alcoholics so dumb?' which brought up the five Estonians who died from drinking lighter fluid 's- the answer is yes and no.

Methanol was formerly known as "wood alcohol," since it can be obtained by distilling that cheap commodity, wood.
In medicine we use "Meths" every day, obtained by mixing methanol into the ethanol, supposedly to make it undrinkable.
Ethanol, on the other hand, is often obtained from the distillation of grain. It is a drug which has been utilized by humans from the beginning of time, pleasurable and even beneficial when taken in moderation, but in excess can cause damage and death apart from its negative sociological impact.

Methanol can be usually distinguished from ethanol by its sweeter odour, and can be found in anti-freeze and various solvents. Used originally in embalming, it is toxic, destroying the optic nerve amongst other negative properties.
The unscrupulous often mix the cheaper methanol with the ethanol, disguising the flavor, selling their product to the unwary.
The poison takes a few hours to do its damage, and it is in these early hours that antidotes could be administered, if not, then permanent damage or death is inevitable.

Alcoholics, however, have been known to ingest anti-freeze and other methanol products knowingly, presumably the immediate, "pleasurable" sensations outweighing the longer term.
Perhaps the ignorant or the unscrupulous steal "Meths" from medical facilities not realizing that the ethanol was mixed with the ethanol.

Either way, one would be foolish to drink alcohol knowing it was toxic, In the majority of cases, the victims were unknowing but thought that, at the cheap price, that they were getting themselves a bargain.
 

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