Like many other fads that were historically glorified, moonshine is a distilled beverage that’s making a killer comeback. There are many rumors that surround the potent spirit, including myths of it leaving you blind, brain-damaged, and even that it can be toxically fatal. What can we debunk about the alcoholic beverage that thrived during prohibition? Is moonshine dangerous, or is it no different than any other label gracing liquor shelves nationwide?
Regardless of the alcohol type, excessive drinking can lead to health problems and even addiction. Recognize the signs of alcohol abuse and understand when casual drinking morphs into alcoholism. Contact our treatment helpline directly at 855-281-5588.
What Is Moonshine?
Moonshine is rumored to have found its namesake in hidden distilleries that were operated in the dark, by the light of the moon.
Though moonshine and distilling have existed for centuries, moonshine and home distilling became especially famous in the U.S. with the occurrence of Prohibition. In 1920, Prohibition began in the U.S., outlawing the sale and consumption of all alcohol and unknowingly beginning the widespread production and sale of illicit alcohol, such as moonshine.
What is moonshine and is moonshine dangerous, though? Over the last decade, moonshine is becoming increasingly popular, outliving its reputation as a potent liquor that could leave you dead, blind, or paralyzed.
Purveyors of moonshine will describe this unique spirit as a homemade, unaged whiskey, denoted by clear color, with a corn base and high alcohol content–sometimes peaking at 190 proof.
Is Moonshine Illegal?
The production of moonshine – or really any type of alcoholic spirit – without a liquor license is prohibited by the U.S. government. There are many reasons for this, particularly the dangers surrounding distilling spirits by private citizens. Some risks include tainting moonshine, vodka, or other spirits with methanol, which is known to cause blindness.
Penalties for making moonshine from home is a jail sentence not exceeding 5 years, fines up to $10,000, or both.
How Is Moonshine Made?
Is moonshine dangerous, though? Perhaps it’s wise to examine the ingredients of this well-known beverage first. What is in moonshine exactly? Like any other alcoholic substance, it’s created through two simple processes:
Fermentation is the process of converting sugar into alcohol using yeast in the absence of oxygen. Distillation, on the other hand, is the process of evaporating the alcohol from boiling a fermented mixture and collecting the vapor before transforming it back to liquid form.
Is Moonshine Dangerous?
There are many stories surrounding this particular alcoholic drink, usually stored in mason jars. Methanol is one of the major ingredients that has been linked with harmful side effects. Methanol, or methyl alcohol, is a byproduct in the distilling process. Methanol is also commonly found in other products such as:
- Gas line antifreeze
- Paint thinners
- Windshield washer fluid
In alcohol, methanol plays a major role in making people feel drunker. However, after it’s metabolized, methanol can have an extremely harmful effect on the body. It only takes 10 milliliters (ml) of methanol to permanently damage the optic nerve and cause partial, or complete blindness. For reference, a standard shot glass in the United States holds 40 milliliters of liquid.
Other Side Effects Of Moonshine
Methanol vaporizes faster and can become concentrated in toxic amounts. With the right equipment, it can easily be separated and tossed out. But, without it, the methanol is difficult to discard.
The dangerous part happens when the body converts methanol to formaldehyde, which is an ingredient in embalming fluid. Formaldehyde then turns into formic acid, which is poisonous.
Many amateur distillers of moonshine also do not follow protocols, so quality control of the alcoholic substance is not always possible. For example, toxic bacteria can still grow in a moonshine still which can make you sick. But any poorly made alcoholic spirits can carry bacteria.
Dangers Of Excessive Alcohol Use
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 6.2% of adults in the United States aged 17 and older have alcohol use disorder. A government survey revealed that about one in five individuals aged 12 to 20 were current alcohol users. About two in five young adults, aged 18 to 25, were binge alcohol users, and nearly one in ten were heavy alcohol users.
The longer someone suffers from alcohol use disorder, the more these symptoms will have a detrimental impact on their health. Consistent alcohol misuse can lead to liver diseases, heart problems, digestive problems, diabetes, and many more issues. In fact, it is estimated that roughly 95,000 people die from alcohol-related issues every single year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Is Moonshine Dangerous? Symptoms Of Alcohol Abuse
Symptoms associated with alcohol-related disorders are important to remember for family members and friends. Knowing the signs of alcoholism and other substance use disorders can protect yourself, family, and friends from the stress and difficulties that occur from alcohol abuse.
It can be hard to distinguish alcohol use behaviors from other mental and physical disorders as they often occur simultaneously. Proper education is beneficial and is recommended if you or a loved one suspects an alcohol use disorder may be present. Common signs of alcoholism include:
- Slurred Speech
- Nausea and/or Vomiting
- Respiratory problems
- Vision problems
- Slowed Nervous System
- Decreased judgment
- Memory problems
When alcohol becomes a problem, physical signs are almost always immediately apparent. However, as an individual develops higher tolerance for alcohol, signs, and symptoms may vary or become indistinguishable or subtle to family members. It’s important to seek help sooner to avoid long-term damage.
Alcohol Treatment With AspenRidge
If you or someone you care for are suffering from alcohol use disorder or are struggling to maintain sobriety, AspenRidge Recovery can help. AspenRidge Recovery offers a variety of comprehensive evidence-based treatments that are designed to give you the help you need. With a dedicated team on hand, we ensure that you don’t have to go through recovery alone. After completing a detoxification process, clients can begin treatment. Treatment options include:
- A dual diagnosis treatment program
- An intensive outpatients program
- A partial hospitalization program
At AspenRidge Recovery, we care about getting you back on track and we understand the importance of getting the right support for alcohol use disorder. If you feel like you’re ready to get help, contact us directly at 719-259-1107 to get started today.