Industrial alcohol is distilled ethyl alcohol (C2H5OH), normally of high proof, produced and sold for other than beverage purposes. It is usually distributed in the form of pure ethyl alcohol, completely denatured alcohol, specially denatured alcohol and solvent blends. Pure ethyl alcohol is used in laboratories and in industry for its sanitizing, cleaning and solvent properties. Many medicines,
food products, flavorings and cosmetics are made with ethyl alcohol. It is also used to process vaccines, syrups, tinctures, liniments and antiseptics and in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals such as chloroform and barbiturates. It may be used in the production of adhesives, cosmetics, detergents, explosives, inks, hand cream, plastics and textiles.
Industrial spirits often have similar properties to alcohol and are chemically similar to drinking alcohol. However, these other types of alcohol may cause a person to become violently ill, damage vital organs or become unconscious when consumed. Industrial spirits should never be ingested under any circumstance. Many industrial spirits have colors or bitter tasting additives that are designed to make them unpalatable or unappealing.
Deterrents do not stop some people from trying these chemicals as a way to get drunk. The risks associated with drinking these chemicals are outweighed by the potential for getting high or euphoric. Some may believe that the adverse reactions that the chemicals cause to the body will not affect them. Or they may be living in a country where access to alcohol is difficult or too expensive so they will use these other spirits to feed their addiction. In some instances, industrial spirits are used to manufacture illicit alcohol and the end consumer is not aware of the presence of deadly chemicals. Spirits such as gin and vodka are often made with these spirits as a counterfeit product or sold as a home-made vodka. South Africa has had a problem with the sale of industrial spirits as a legitimate alcohol product that contains toxic chemicals. In some case counterfeit products are made from recycled bottles of alcohol filled with cheaply made vodka or gin concoctions. Advice from the South African authorities is to avoid purchasing very cheap products or purchasing alcohol from non-authorized avenues.
In Russia, authorities have had to deal with a number of deaths that were found to be caused by the consumption of deadly alcoholic concoctions that were made with industrial spirits. Due to increasing poverty issues, young men were found to be drinking cleaning agents, perfumes and other industrial chemicals as a way to become intoxicated. A study published in The Lancet found that over 1,500 men died prematurely due to the consumption of these deadly chemicals
Methanol is an incredibly dangerous and potentially life-threatening spirit that causes high toxicity in humans if ingested. Methanol can cause damage to the optic nerve and may cause permanent blindness. This chemical is very similar to ethanol (drinking alcohol) and is light, colorless and flammable. When first ingested methanol causes a range of adverse symptoms which include headaches, nausea, lack of coordination, depression, confusion and unconsciousness. In large doses methanol can cause death. Secondary symptoms can take up to 30 hours after ingesting to occur and include blurring and loss of vision, respiratory depression and acidosis.
Methylated spirits are another dangerous chemical that may be consumed by some people as a substitute spirit. Also known as denatured alcohol, methylated spirits is pure alcohol with additives that are bad tasting, poisonous or change the color of the alcohol. It is not a chemically altered ethanol molecule rather a mixture of chemicals. Methylated spirits are used as a solvent, for fuel and other industrial uses. It can cause blindness, severe nausea and death if it contains methanol.
Home made alcohol can be distilled through a process of using industrial spirits along with other fermented fruits or grains. Inexperience can place brewers and drinkers at risk of unknowingly using harmful and toxic chemicals. These chemical combinations can cause blindness or death to those who drink them, especially if they contain high amounts of methanol.
The dangers of home brewed or home made alcohols are most severe in developing nations where people who consume the alcoholic mixes are unable to drink high quality beverages. In these regions, alcohol is often unregulated or sold on the black market and is deadly. High octane fuel or other chemicals are used in these drinks to increase the potency so that the drinker will have a strong euphoric reaction.
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