Doctors at the Quang Tri General Hospital in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam, recently, took an unorthodox approach to treating a patient suffering from alcohol poisoning – feeding him 15 cans of beer in a bid to save his life.
Nguyen Van Nhat, 48, was hospitalized on December 25, 2018, with symptoms of severe methanol poisoning after consuming a massive amount of alcohol.
Nhat was unconscious and in a life-threatening condition by the time he made it to the hospital, according to Le Van Lam, head of the hospital’s intensive care unit.
Doctors took blood samples from him and found that the level of methanol in his blood was 1,119 times higher than the legal limit. Three cans of beer were immediately administered to him to slow down his liver’s processing of methanol.
It took 15 cans of beer administered at a rate of one can per hour, before Nhat finally recovered to the point that doctors could discharge him from the hospital.
According to Dr. Lam, using beer to save alcohol-poisoned patients is not unheard of in the medical world. In essence, there are two variants of alcohol – ethanol and methanol.
The human liver prioritizes breaking down ethanol over methanol, Lam said.
When methanol is broken down, it releases formaldehyde, a highly toxic chemical compound that can be deadly when consumed in high levels.
Meanwhile, ethanol does not lead to serious poisoning when it is broken down by the liver.
As beer contains ethanol, administering beer into a methanol-poisoned patient actually helps stop the liver from breaking down methanol, giving doctors enough time to perform dialysis and remove alcohol from the patient’s system, Dr. Lam explained.
In addition, excess methanol that is not broken down by the liver can be naturally discharged from the body through urination, he said.