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|A nurse checks on a patient with methanol poisoning at Bạch Mai Hospital. - VNA/VNS Photo|
Every day for the last two weeks, doctors at Bạch Mai Hospital’s Poisoning Control Centre treated patients suffering from alcoholic poisoning. Some required emergency treatment. They were from different age groups and were from all walks of life, including university students.
After drinking at several year-end parties in four consecutive days, a 47-year-old Hà Nội resident was taken to the centre in a drowsy state and with poor vision.
His blood pressure had dropped and then his heart stopped beating and had to be restarted. He was later found to be suffering from severe brain damage from methanol poisoning. Tests showed there was 300mg of methanol in 100ml of his blood, 15 times higher than the safety limit (20mg/100ml of blood).
The hospital later said his kidney failure and brain damage were incurable. He was taken home by his family.
Methanol poisoning in Việt Nam is mostly caused by irresponsible drinking of alcohol of unclear origin – in other words, made illegally by unprofessional brewers.
To save costs, several alcohol dealers add methanol – a colorless toxic liquid alcohol – into their products and sell them. Methanol becomes toxic as it is slowly metabolised in the human body, according to the centre’s doctor Nguyễn Trung Nguyên.
Symptoms of methanol poisoning often do not show for one or two days. Severe methanol poisoning causes hepatitis and cardiovascular failure that can lead to death, as well as life-long damages to the brain, eyes, and liver.
Several other have also been hospitalised just for drinking too much and getting common alcohol poisoning.
The drinking culture in Việt Nam is considered the main factor to blame. In December, a 35-year-old man in Hà Nội was challenged by his friends to drink at least 1.5 litres of liquor at a year-end party before he was allowed to leave, Hà Nội mới (New Hà Nội) newspaper reported. He vomited uncontrollably and had trouble breathing after drinking, and was admitted to Bạch Mai Hospital almost unconscious.
“It is a mistake to think being drunk is not dangerous,” doctor Nguyên said. “Severe degrees of drunkenness can harm people’s health, even costing them their lives.”
About 3.4 billion litres of beer, 70 million litres of spirits, and 200 million litres of home-made wine and spirits are consumed in Việt Nam each year, according to doctor Trần Quốc Bảo from the Ministry of Health’s Department of Preventive Medicine. Vietnamese are rated South-East Asia’s second biggest drinkers, he said.
Although it is advisable for women not to drink more than one unit and men not more than two units of alcohol per day (one unit equals 330ml of beer or 30ml of spirits), one of its surveys on 3,000 Vietnamese men showed that 44 per cent drank six to 10 units a day.
As excessive beer and liquor consumptions are the indirect cause of 200 diseases and direct cause of at least 30 types of cancer, it is important to keep alcohol consumption to a minimum, said Trương Đình Bắc, director of the General Department of Preventive Medicine.
Dr Nguyễn Trung Nguyên from Bạch Mai Hospital advised that alcoholics eat starchy food and sugar during and after drinking to avoid reduction of blood sugar, which can be fatal.
Patients suffering from alcohol poisoning should lie on their sides with their head placed higher than their body to ensure their respiratory systems work normally, he said.