Perth, Australia

In a story first reported by Kelsey Wilkie for the Daily Mail Australia, Danielle Chalmers shared the horrifying experience of her son Bailey’s encounter with fake alcohol in Bali. Bailey Chalmers, a 19-year-old, was on a celebratory trip with teammates from an Aussie Rules Football teams he plays for after they had won the Grand Final. Upon landing in the afternoon and checking into their rooms, they went out to celebrate in Seminyak, a popular beach resort area at the Southern end of Bali. Seminyak is populated with high-end shopping, restaurants and 5 star rated luxury resorts. Its surrounding areas which includes the expansive beach of Petitenget is a popular destination for Australians. Perth is only a 3.5-hour flight to Bali.

What should have been a joyous occasion with his teammates soon turned into a misadventure after only 3 drinks at a reputable resort bar. He told the Daily Mail Australia, “’I only had about three drinks in total but on my third drink it all went downhill,.. I got home at about 6am and everyone kept asking what I had taken but I hadn’t taken anything……”

When he awoke later in the day, he attributed his condition to a hangover, which is often the case by those who consume counterfeit alcohol containing methanol. As his symptoms worsened including blurred vision, he sought treatment at a local medical center where medical personnel transferred him to Bali’s International Hospital (BMIC).

Mom warns about Methanol Alcohol
Bailey Chalmers 19, with his mother Danielle. She has shared his story to warn others of methanol alcohol

Meanwhile, his Mom was notified of what was happening with Bailey. She was familiar with a Facebook site called Just Don’t Drink Spirits in Bali maintained by Colin Ahearn. She reached out to Colin Ahearn through Facebook messenger and he contacted her back.

Colin is a staunch advocate against counterfeit alcohol concentrating on Bali, where it is suspected that more than 50% of it is counterfeited. It is also a destination which he and his wife frequent, but only with authentic duty-free alcohol.

As a radio host, Colin interviewed Tim and Lhani Davies the parents of Liam Davies who died in January 2013 after consuming methanol laced alcohol at a bar in Indonesia. They established a charitable foundation Lifesaving Initiative Against Methanol (L.I.A.M. Foundation) in his memory. The L.I.A.M. charitable foundation is dedicated to funding educational teaching and training in hospitals as well as raising awareness about methanol poisoning in Bali and the surrounding areas.

Mother warns travelers of #CounterfeitAlcohol after her son falls ill as a result of #MethanolPoisoning from #TaintedDrinks in #Bali please #DrinkSafe Click to Tweet

Actively engaged on Social Media, Colin started posting the story of Liam Davies and the L.I.A.M. charitable organization’s work. His following on Facebook with the Site he maintains Just Don’t Drink Spirits in Bali has grown exponentially, one video posted garnered over 400 thousand viewers. It’s popularity and reach saved Bailey’s life.

At BMIC Bailey encountered a language barrier along with issues concerning his travel insurance coverage. While waiting for treatment, Bailey was advised by Colin through his Mother to return to his hotel and drink 500ml of duty-free vodka, as the ethanol in authentic alcohol will counteract the methanol. The efforts to raise awareness among young Australians paid off for Bailey Chalmers whose Mom was aware of the dedicated work of Colin Ahearn.

Bailey continued the story for the Daily Mail Australia, “’The last thing I wanted to do was, but I had to. I had to drink 200ml in one go and then had to have a shot every hour. I was pretty drunk, just sitting there. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.” After flying home, he was immediately taken to Perth’s Emergency Room where treatment continued.

Fomepizole is typically used when available in hospitals to treat Methanol Poisoning

Bailey thankfully lived to tell his story saying, “I didn’t realize how bad it was. It was only when the doctor back home told me I was lucky to be alive.” Ms. Chalmers posted a message on her Facebook timeline to tell Bailey’s story and warn others about the dangers of counterfeit alcohol in Bali. The problem, however, is pervasive and extends well beyond the beaches of Bali.

Regulatory and enforcement authorities around the world are in a constant battle against the makers of counterfeit alcohol who are driven by the quest to make easy money. They have become adept at counterfeiting all brands of alcohol from the least expensive to the highest-priced including at the collector level.

Awareness is the best weapon against counterfeit alcohol. Although blindness, disabilities and long-term health issues associated with counterfeit alcohol containing methanol, and other toxic chemicals continue to rise, the general public still lacks awareness about this scourge. The L.I.A.M. Foundation and dedicated volunteers like Colin Ahearn are steadfast in their commitment to stop the senseless deaths from counterfeit alcohol. It is a tribute to Mr. Ahearn that Bailey’s Mom, Danielle was aware of his work and reached out to him in time to save her son’s life.

There is an antidote for methanol poisoning however it is not readily available around the world. Fomepizole also known as 4-methylpyrazole is an injectable drug that can be used alone or in conjunction with hemodialysis as an antidote for methanol poisoning. When Fomepizole is not available the advice given to Bailey by Mr. Ahearn to consume authentic ethanol, in this case in the form of duty-free vodka, is correct.

Bailey Chalmers Methanol
Bali with his mother

Ethanol is not an antidote, nor does it counteract the deadly effects of methanol. It does, however, cause a competitive chemical reaction within the body that will delay the methanol from being converted to formaldehyde and formic acid. It is the formic acid, the result of the body’s breakdown of methanol, which causes blindness, organ failure, nerve damage and death.

The enzymes that convert alcohol in the body, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), are kept busy working on the ethanol, thus delaying the conversion of the methanol into the deadly formic acid. The consumption of ethanol is not an antidote for methanol poisoning, it is a tool to keep the enzymes that convert alcohol busy, giving the victim time to seek treatment. Consuming ethanol is the first defense when medical treatment is unavailable or insufficient after methanol poisonings.

It is incumbent on the alcohol industry to step up and support counterfeit alcohol awareness and investigative efforts around the world. Regulations, taxes, enforcements are not winning the battle against fake alcohol. The weapon of Awareness must be added to the arsenal to win the war against the proliferation of counterfeit alcohol around the world.

 If not for the dedicated advocacy of Colin Ahearn against counterfeit alcohol, Bailey Chalmers may have been an additional statistic to the average of 10 people who die daily from methanol poisoning after consuming counterfeit alcohol.

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Story by Staff Writer Daniel Dachille