Methylated Spirits

Denatured alcohol
Denatured alcohol

At the Alcohol Drugs History Conference, Under Control?, held in London from June 20 to June 23, Stella Moss gave a very interesting and somewhat horrifying talk about “Methylated spirit consumption and the control of deviant drinking in interwar Britain.” Methylated spirit is denatured alcohol. Hospitals and businesses use this product for cleaning and other things.

In Britain, the Customs and Excise department regulates methylated spirits. Denatured alcohol is not meant to be drunk. In fact it contains methanol and other additives to prevent consumption. It is 19 per cent alcohol. At the present there are about 500 prosecutions a year in Britain for meths drinking.

Drinking denatured alcohol can cause blindness and other problems. During Prohibition many people drank denatured alcohol which is poisonous and I imagine tastes awful.

Methylated spirits is a surrogate drink; other products that serve this functional are antifreeze and hand gel. What all these products have in common are that they are cheap, relative to commercially produced alcohol.

Denatured alcohol is a byproduct of the tax code. Because states tax ethanol, drinkable alcohol, it would be too expensive for business to use ethanol for industrial purposes.

Restrictions on pubs and British drinking during World War 1 had led to moderate drinking during the 1920s. Because habitual drinkers had less access to alcohol in mainstream establishments they turned to methylated spirits.

Often people mixed the meths with other substances, using some form of ethanol. A red biddy was red wine and meths while a red Lizzie was meths mixed with Lisbon wine. Most meths drinkers were very poor.

There seems to have been lot of compulsion associated with drinking methylated spirits. Because it is a purple color the meths drinker had a distinctive look with purple lips.

Society saw the meth’s drinker as deviant, as other. This is very similar to the current portrayal in America of the crystal methamphetamine user.


4 thoughts on “Methylated Spirits”

  1. Hi. What are the dangers of a friend who continuously consume mythelated Spirit in his daily life when told to stop he start a huge arguement? I need him to stop because I believe this is unhealthy for his life.

    1. Well on average , i would drink between 750mls to 1ltr a day, people in new zealand it is called purple lady.. I was just thinking anout meths , because this old guy was telling me when he was in jail they would drink brasso that’s rough, people mix meths with cordial etc , why i don’t know , it’s unpalateable to start with, orange isn’t going to change that, just nail it..strait..i gave it a good go for a good three years, i googled drinking meths, strait away it comes up with an article that New Zealand and Australia are basicly the only two civilizded country’s anywhere that because of the high level of consumption it is legel and there is no poisonous additive it’s just food colouring.. My mind went to the only logical conclusion.. Why the fuck am i spending $60 bucks on jose cuervo and that’s 37.7% when i can get 99.9 % for $5.50.. and that’s how it partner was a defence lawyer and unaware ..because of hiding it well, but one thing you learn is you can’t smell it in your self, but it comes through your pores.. that can get you sprung… Drunk is not the word, i had trouble with not knowing where peaked and when i started going down hill..throw any notion of self control out the’s more in retrospect more like an outer body experience .. Do not get behind the wheel, even though you have come up with what seems at the time a totally logical reason at the time .. bad bad .. i got acute pancreatitus to start with.. then i started to have grand marl seizures .. just be walking over the road and just putting your hands in front of you land on your face ..on the tarmak.. later …didn’t make me blind i excellent vision.. LFT’s are back to normal.. three years after stopping the nurons still firing..even took a cognative function test.. above normal.. just the luck of the draw..mmmm

  2. Thanks for the info. Just FYI, your post is the top Google result for “meths drinker,” mentioned on a recent episode of Call the Midwife.

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