Whiskey Cures Blindness: Alcohol Causes Denis Duthie To Lose, Then Regain Sight

By Melissa Siegel on December 8, 2012 12:50 PM EST

Whiskey
Bottles of whiskey like these were used to cure a man's blindness in New Zealand. (Photo: REUTERS / Issei Kato)

Whiskey cured blindness in a New Zealand man.

According to Fairfax Media in New Zealand, Denis Duthie lost his sight back in July after downing too many vodkas. He was taken to Taranaki Base Hospital, where whiskey was administered via a tube to cure his blindness.

Duthie told the New Zealand Herald that he was celebrating his parents' 50th wedding anniversary when he drank a bunch of vodka he had received as a present from students in his cooking class. However, the alcohol apparently reacted with the five medications he was taking for diabetes.

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"I thought it had got dark and I'd missed out on a bit of time but it was only about half-past-three in the afternoon," Duthie said. "I was fumbling around the bedroom for the light switch but ... I'd just gone completely blind."

When Duthie's blindness was no better the next day, his wife drove him to the hospital. There, doctors determined he was suffering from formaldehyde poisoning.

One cure for this type of poisoning is ingesting ethanol, which is found in typical alcoholic beverages. Since there was not enough available in the hospital itself, doctors used a bottle of whiskey from the local store to cure the man's blindness.

"There are two potential ways of doing it: one is to give intravenous ethanol through a drip, but that is not available in all hospitals," said intensive care medicine specialist Tony Smith about the treatment. "There is also nothing wrong with supplying that alcohol via the gastro-intestinal tract, which is what they've chosen to do in this circumstance, and that's a well established treatment. If the patient's awake they can just drink it."

Duthie regained his sight about five days later and was soon discharged from the hospital. He even told Fairfax News that his eyesight is better than it was before.

Unsurprisingly, Duthie has not touched alcohol since the whiskey cured his blindness.

Formaldehyde poisoning, which results from ingesting methanol, is the primary cause of blindness among drinkers, according to Slate. While most people should be fine drinking liquor they buy in a store, the poisoning can occur if one drinks improperly brewed, bootlegged alcohol.

For instance, tainted alcohol in the Czech Republic killed 20 people and left at least one other person blind earlier this year. The crisis led the Czech government to ban sales of liquor containing at least 20 percent alcohol, according to the New York Times.

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