Is there anything beer can’t do?
After a night of extreme Christmas Party drinking, a man was rushed to a hospital in Vietnam with acute alcohol poisoning. Upon his admittance to the hospital, doctors immediately administered three cans of beer to the ailing patient.
While this sounds like the beginning of a joke, this situation happened to 48 year old Nguyen Van Nhat. According to Dr. Le Van Lam, the Quang Tri General Hospital’s head of the ICU, Nhat’s blood level was 1,119 times higher than the average limit.
In total, Lam’s team administered 5 liters of beer, or around 15 cans, straight to his stomach to save his life. After the initial three beers, Nhat was given a beer every hour until he managed to regain consciousness.
How is it possible to treat alcohol poisoning by giving the patient more booze, you ask? Great question!
According to Dr. Lam, alcohol comes in two forms, methanol and ethanol. Methanol is found in poorly-distilled alcohol and is extremely toxic (and probably where the term “rot gut” came from as a descriptor of terribly made booze). When both methanol and ethanol are in the body, the human liver will break down the ethanol first. Nhat lost consciousness when the methanol in his blood stream oxidized to create formaldehyde, which of course would be a very bad thing to have in your body. That formaldehyde in turn forms formic acid, which can cause kidney damage and is also responsible for the “blind” portion of the phrase “Blind, Stinking Drunk.” Giving him beer (ethanol) delayed the processing of the methanol and gave doctors time to perform dialysis to stop the formation of formic acid.
Using beer to introduce ethanol to the patient’s body is unusual, but it’s possible that the hospital did not have a supply of medical grade ethanol and were forced to make a beer run.
Nhat probably felt like dying while nursing a hangover that could arguably be measured on the Richter scale, but he was doing just fine and was discharged when he regained consciousness.
Once again, beer is the hero of a heartwarming story of the struggle and triumph of life!
Wylie Withers is the Commissioner of the Booze League and Co-Host of the BoozeCast. He spent many years as 1/3 of the comedy improv duo The Merry Misfits of Doom before pursing a Masters in Boozing (with a Marketing focus). His posterior was featured on the final episode of Beverly Hills, 90210, earning him his SAG card. He'd like to give a shoutout to his liver and left kidney for always being there for him. Follow him on Twitter @wyliewithers or reach him via email firstname.lastname@example.org.