Why is moonshine poisonous?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

Moonshine is considered poisonous because it poses significant risks to human health, primarily due to the presence of methanol. Methanol is a highly toxic substance that can lead to severe health consequences, including blindness and even death.

One of the main reasons moonshine is poisonous is because it is often produced in unregulated and homemade settings. Unlike commercially produced alcohol, moonshine is typically made by individuals without proper knowledge or equipment to ensure the removal of harmful substances. As a result, the final product can contain high levels of methanol, which is dangerous when consumed.

Methanol, also known as wood alcohol, is a colorless liquid that is commonly used as a solvent or fuel. It is highly toxic and can cause serious damage to the body, particularly the optic nerve. The human body metabolizes methanol into formaldehyde and then further into formic acid, both of which are extremely harmful.

When consumed, methanol initially acts as a central nervous system depressant, similar to ethanol found in regular alcoholic beverages. This means that initially, the person may experience the typical effects of alcohol, feeling drunk or intoxicated. However, as the body metabolizes methanol, it produces formic acid, which can lead to severe health complications.

Formic acid is a corrosive substance that can cause extensive damage to various organs, including the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. It can also lead to metabolic acidosis, a condition characterized by an imbalance in the body’s pH levels, which can be life-threatening if left untreated.

The most well-known and devastating consequence of methanol consumption is methanol blindness. Methanol is converted into formic acid in the optic nerve, which damages the cells responsible for vision. This can result in permanent vision loss or even complete blindness.

It is important to note that detecting methanol in moonshine is challenging, especially during the initial stages of consumption. Methanol does not have a distinct taste or smell, making it difficult to identify. Additionally, consuming more moonshine does not immediately cause methanol poisoning symptoms, as the effects of methanol are delayed until it is metabolized into formic acid.

To summarize, moonshine is poisonous due to its high methanol content. Methanol is a highly toxic substance that can lead to blindness, organ damage, and even death. The unregulated production of moonshine increases the likelihood of high levels of methanol being present in the final product. Therefore, it is crucial to exercise caution and avoid consuming moonshine or any other homemade alcoholic beverages to prevent these serious health risks.