If you’re planning a trip to Indonesia, be careful what you drink. Recently, a 19-year-old backpacker was left with permanent vision damage after consuming 8 to 10 cocktails containing methanol, a substance used as antifreeze, fuel and windscreen de-icer.
The cocktails contained a mixture of Arrack, which is produced commercially and illegally in Indonesia. This combines coconut flower rice, sugarcane spirit and fruit juice. Most likely, however, the drink also contained local “moonshine” alcohol tainted with methanol.
When the traveler arrived home to New Zealand, she felt short of breath and had impaired vision. Although she was treated at Christchurch Hospital emergency department for methanol poisoning, her vision continued to deteriorate over the next month.
Dr. Paul Gee and Dr. Elizabeth Martin from the hospital explained it’s not uncommon for methanol side effects – which include nausea, vomiting, anxiety, headache, weakness, blurred vision, seeing spots, photophobia and loss of vision – to take up to 50 hours to show. When consumed, methanol can lead to coma, blindness and death.
Sadly, this isn’t the first case of methanol poisoning in Indonesia. For example, last year a 25-year-old Australian nurse suffered brain damage and kidney failure after drinking Arrack. Moreover, in 2009, 25 tourists were killed after drinking a batch in Bali.