5 Die in Bihar After Consuming Spurious Alcohol: What Makes Hooch So Dangerous?

While tragic, hooch poisoning isn’t uncommon in many Indian states.

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5 Die in Bihar After Consuming Spurious Alcohol: What Makes Hooch So Dangerous?

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On Monday, 23 January, five people reportedly died in Bihar’s Siwan due to suspected hooch poisoning. While tragic, hooch (spurious liquor) poisoning isn’t uncommon in many Indian states. 

What makes spurious liquor so dangerous? FIT explains.


What is spurious liquor?

Spurious liquor, or hooch, is the locally manufactured inferior quality alcohol that is usually made from cane sugar and has a high concentration of methanol.

Methanol, an industrial solvent, increases alcohol content because of its antifreeze quality, but it can also be fatal in high quantities.

Hooch usually has a high concentration of methanol because it isn’t distilled properly at the required temperatures. Methanol, once inside our body, can also turn into formaldehyde which negatively impacts the body as well. 

Apart from this, since this type of liquor doesn't go through reliable quality checks, chemicals and adulterants that might react badly with each other often go unnoticed.


Why do people opt for spurious liquor?

There are two major reasons why people choose to drink hooch or spurious liquor.

One is that liquor is banned in several Indian states such as Bihar, Gujarat, Nagaland, and Mizoram. The only way to consume alcohol in these 'dry states' is to source it illegally.

On the other hand, hooch produced locally is often cheaper. In most states, liquor directly falls under the government's authority and is heavily taxed, making it more expensive.


How does fake liquor affect your body?

Methanol and ammonium nitrate, both commonly found in spurious liquor, can harm your body if consumed in high concentrations. The effects on your body might include:

  • Headaches and dizziness/vertigo

  • Abdominal pain

  • Vomiting and convulsions

  • Feeling faint

  • Being unsteady

  • Blacking out

The more severe consequences include:

  • Blindness 

  • Heart irregularities

  • Liver and respiratory disorders

  • Metabolic acidosis and kidney failure

  • Loss of memory

  • Coma

  • Death

Since the symptoms in the first few hours are very similar to those of just being drunk, seeking medical help is often delayed if someone accidentally consumes spurious liquor.

How is alcohol poisoning treated?

Ironic as it may be, the only antidote to alcohol poisoning is, well, alcohol. Diluted ethanol or fomepizole is used to counter the effects of methanol poisoning by preventing it from turning into toxins and excreting it from the body.


And how do you get to know which alcohol is contaminated?

While there’s no clear way to tell which alcohol might be fake, contaminated, or poisonous, the best practice is to avoid consuming any alcohol that:

  • Is not bought from a reliable store 

  • Is not of a reputed brand

  • Is not sealed properly

  • Doesn’t mention the alcohol content on the bottle

  • Smells weird

(With inputs from The Indian Express and Scroll.)

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Topics:  Health   Hooch tragedy   Spurious liquor 

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