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Tamil Nadu Liquor Tragedy: How Spurious Alcohol Can Damage Health And Even Cause Death – Explained

The consumption of illicit liquor in the Kallakurichi district of Tamil Nadu on Thursday has led to the death of at least 47 people, Tamil Nadu Director of Medical Education Sangumani said on Friday. While charges are being traded and the blame game is on, the case of spurious liquor consumption is unfortunately common in the country, and repeatedly, lives are lost. So what are these illicit liquors and how do they have a devastating impact on health? Dr Selvakumar Naganathan, Sr. Consultant – Liver Transplant & HPB Surgery, Metro Hospital Faridabad, shares his insights.

Illicit Liquors In India

Dr Naganathan explains that illicit liquors, commonly known as “hooch,” “country liquor,” or “moonshine,” are unregulated alcoholic beverages produced without adherence to legal standards or safety protocols. “These beverages are often manufactured in clandestine operations to evade taxes and regulations, resulting in significantly lower production costs. Ingredients and methods used in making illicit liquors are often substandard, including industrial alcohol, methanol, and other toxic substances,” says Dr Naganathan.

Spurious Liquor: How Are They Dangerous?

Illicit liquors pose a significant health risk due to the lack of quality control in their production. Dr Naganathan explains, “Unlike legally produced alcoholic beverages, these illicit products do not undergo stringent testing for purity and safety. Contaminants, including methanol (a highly toxic form of alcohol), can be present in dangerous concentrations. Methanol is particularly hazardous because it is metabolised in the body to formic acid and formaldehyde, both of which are highly toxic.”

How Do Illicit Liquor Cause Death

Deaths from consuming illicit liquors usually occur due to methanol poisoning. “When methanol is ingested, it is metabolised in the liver, producing toxic metabolites that can cause metabolic acidosis, damage to the optic nerve leading to blindness, and central nervous system depression. Symptoms of methanol poisoning include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and visual disturbances. In severe cases, it can lead to seizures, coma, and death if medical intervention is not promptly provided,” shares Dr Naganathan.

Also Read: World Liver Day 2024: Signs That All Is Not Well With Your Liver – Expert Explains

Damaging Impact On Liver

The liver is particularly vulnerable to the effects of illicit liquors. “These beverages can cause acute liver injury due to the toxic substances they contain. Chronic consumption can lead to fatty liver disease, hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. Methanol toxicity can exacerbate liver damage due to the liver’s role in metabolizing alcohol,” explains Dr Naganathan. He adds, “The production of toxic metabolites like formaldehyde and formic acid from methanol metabolism can cause severe oxidative stress and inflammation in the liver, further compounding the damage. In severe cases, liver failure may occur, necessitating a liver transplant to save the patient’s life.”


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