Methanol-spiked drink blinds teen holiday-maker in Bali

Spiked drinks might contain drugs, or they might contain poisons like methanol, said Bob Carr. Photo / Thinkstock
Spiked drinks might contain drugs, or they might contain poisons like methanol, said Bob Carr. Photo / Thinkstock

A teenager has reportedly been blinded after drinking a methanol-laced cocktail in Bali.

The 18-year-old is one of a number of visitors who have had drinks spiked while holidaying on the Indonesian island, the Sunday Telegraph in Sydney reported.

The school leaver returned to Australia last week and is recovering at home after receiving treatment in Bali and in Sydney.

The newspaper said she is believed to be the worst affected of a number of people who have fallen seriously ill after drinking cocktails spiked with methanol.

An 18-year-old youth was also temporarily blinded during a trip to Bali last month.

The Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney would not say what symptoms the teen had displayed.

The effects of methanol poisoning can range from vomiting, headaches and gastric pain, to comas, liver failure and, in extreme cases, death.

Blindness is also common - for a few hours or permanently.

The male teen's mother told the Sunday Telegraph how he almost had a fatal experience after drinking a methanol-laced cocktail.

Jan Bowler said: "The Red Frogs [volunteer group] found him lying in the garden of his motel so they took him to his room because he was complaining he had pins and needles in his face and that his eyesight was being affected.

"He said his eyes were hurting so much he put a cold towel over his face. By the time he got to hospital, he couldn't see a thing, so they gave him some injections to counteract the methanol."

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said several other cases had been reported by travellers.

"There have been other local reports of drink-spiking cases this year," he said. "But not every case is brought to the attention of our consular staff.

"Spiked drinks might contain drugs, or they might contain poisons like methanol. Methanol is extremely toxic and poisoning can cause serious injury and blindness."

In 2009, 25 tourists died after drinking a contaminated batch of arrack - coconut flower, rice and sugarcane spirit mixed with fruit juice - in Bali, the newspaper reported.

Last year, New Zealand rugby player Michael Denton, 29, died after consuming a drink. A coroner found Mr Denton, who was living in Perth, died of methanol poisoning.

The New Zealand Government issued a travel alert warning people drinking arrack that they should ensure it came in a sealed bottle from a commercial distillery.

Bali Tourism Board representative Prissa Imanto said many tourists were falling victim to the under-reported menace.

"The locals mix methanol with arrack," Imanto said.

"It is very easy to find on the street and they sell it for sometimes less than $1."

The federal president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Steve Hambleton, said the symptoms of methanol poisoning are similar to being intoxicated. "Around 60 minutes after drinking it, people will experience vomiting, disinhibition, instability on their feet, headaches, nausea, vomiting and gastric pain," Dr Hambleton said.

"Then drowsiness can rapidly become a coma.

"It can then very rapidly cause blindness because of damage to the optic nerve, then liver failure and death."

Methanol is sometimes added to cheap drinks to make them more alcoholic.

Volunteer group Red Frogs Bali co-ordinator Paul Mergard said: "We treated and hospitalised around five schoolies for methanol poisoning and out of them there was one we had great concern for.

"I would suspect that the real number is much higher."

-staff reporter

- NZ Herald

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