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Bihar Hooch Tragedy: What Is Hooch And Why Is It So Harmful?

We examine what precisely hooch is, how it is created, and why it can be so dangerous as the death toll from the Bihar hooch tragedy crosses 30. 


In the Bihar region of Saran, where alcohol is prohibited, a hooch catastrophe has claimed the lives of over 30 people. Political controversy has resulted from the occurrence, with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar facing criticism for his response to the tragedy. In a statement, Nitish claimed: "Alcohol consumption will result in death.” 


“No compensation will be given to people who died after drinking…We have been appealing: "If you drink, you will die... Those who talk in favour of drinking will not bring any good to you…", stated Nitish, a day later.  


However, the illegal alcohol in Saran—which was qualitatively distinct from the regular alcoholic beverages available in the market—was what killed individuals there. 


An explanation of what hooch is, how it's made, and why it can be so deadly.


The term "hooch," which refers to low-quality alcohol, comes from the Hoochinoo tribe of Alaskan natives, who were notorious for their extremely potent whiskey. Hooch is prepared in less refined conditions without any quality controls, in contrast to branded liquor, which is produced in factories with advanced technology and strict quality control.


Producing intoxicating alcohol is all that matters, and wee hooch does that. The only issue is that it can kill if improperly prepared. It is crucial to note that it is very difficult to determine whether hooch is safe for consumption before doing so.


So, how is hooch made? 

Hooch producers first warm-up water, readily accessible local yeast, sugar, or fruit (typically leftover fruit) to create a fermented combination in a big pot. They use a crude apparatus to distil this fermented mixture after a sufficient amount of fermentation has taken place to create concentrated alcohol. In many cases, this arrangement consists of a sizable vat where the fermented mixture is heated to a boil, a pipe that collects and transports the alcoholic vapours, and a second pot that is covered in wet fabric (to keep it cooler) and used to condense the concentrated alcohol.


In the fermented combination that will be distilled, there is more than just an alcoholic beverage (ethanol). Additionally, it contains methanol, a distinct type of alcohol that is extremely hazardous to people. Methanol is typically employed in industrial settings. Methanol is present in wine and other non-distilled alcoholic beverages in very small concentrations, but during distillation, both ethanol and methanol are concentrated. Therefore, if done incorrectly, the final product could have a high percentage of methanol rather than ethanol and be lethal.


The boiling point of methanol is 64.7 °C, while that of ethanol is 78.37 °C. This indicates that when the combination hits 64.7 °C during distillation, a highly poisonous compound starts to fill the pot used to collect concentrated alcohol. For the finished product to be secure, this must be discarded. Furthermore, to produce alcohol that is both powerful and safe to consume, a temperature that is above 78.37 °C but below 100 °C (the boiling point of water) must be maintained. Commercial distillers use high-tech machinery and perform several inspections to preserve the process' precision. 


Hoochmakers, however, lack a temperature control system. This indicates that the accuracy required to make distillation safe and efficient is lacking.

Vision impairment, severe toxicity, and metabolic acidosis—a condition in which the body creates too much acid that cannot be eliminated by the kidneys—can all be brought on by methanol or methyl alcohol. 


Fomepizole and ethanol are given intravenously as a therapy for this. However, in many regions of India, fomepizole can be pricey and unavailable. Doctors treat such patients by giving them an ethanol and water combination (1:1 ratio). Ethanol prevents the body from converting methanol into toxins and aids in its natural or artificial removal through dialysis.


 In particular in states where the law already forbids its use, experts continue to advocate awareness rather than ban as the best course of action. The manufacturer or supplier of that liquor is subject to the death penalty; nevertheless, Nitish Kumar, rather than interrogating the suppliers or manufacturers, is blaming the individuals who have passed away after ingesting fake alcohol and asserting that you will undoubtedly die if you consume alcohol.

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