Why is Moonshine Dangerous (Must Read)

Why is Moonshine Dangerous (Must Read)

For the most part, moonshine gets a bad rep for being dangerous, but what makes it dangerous? If not done or used correctly, moonshine can lead to blindness and death. You’ve probably heard all the horror stories about people dying or getting hurt from drinking moonshine, it’s time to explore why it’s dangerous. Ready? Let’s dive in!

Is Moonshine Dangerous? The Impact

Moonshine is dangerous because of what it contains, methanol. Methanol – a byproduct of distilling moonshine – is one of the chemicals that are released from the final product.

Some moonshiners don’t follow government regulations about how much alcohol can be in their product, so they’re left to their own devices when it comes to making moonshine safe for consumption.

According to an article published in The New York Times by the U.S National Committee for the Prevention of Blindness, methanol caused 130 deaths and 22 cases of blindness during the American Prohibition era.

Some moonshiners who run moonshining businesses unscrupulously add methanol to their product to increase its potency, and buyers (unknowingly) consume the drink and suffer the effects.

Why is Moonshine Dangerous. Why is Moonshine Dangeous

The main danger of moonshine stems from the fact that it’s often produced in makeshift stills that don’t conform to federal or local safety regulations. The other reasons why moonshine is considered dangerous is because of the following reasons.

Methanol Poisoning

One of the biggest dangers of moonshine is methanol poisoning. Methanol is commonly found in pesticides, paint thinners, fuel, and other industrial chemicals. It can also be produced naturally during fermentation when yeast breaks down sugar into ethanol and carbon dioxide. 

When ingested, methanol is metabolized into formaldehyde by your body. This process creates formic acid which can cause blindness, coma, or death if left untreated for too long. Methanol poisoning can occur after drinking moonshine if there’s a large amount of methanol present in your drink or if you’re consuming it frequently over a long period.

The Alcohol Concentration

Moonshine is known to be dangerous because the alcohol concentration is higher than that of commercial ethanol. The corn-based liquor is made in an open distillation process and can reach an alcohol concentration of up to 180 proof (95% ABV). The safest amount of proof moonshine can contain is between 100-150 (50% -75% ABV).

Harmful Effects of Ethanol

Ethanol is the main ingredient in alcoholic drinks, such as beer, wine, and spirits. These drinks can be harmful in large amounts. Common side effects include:

  • Intoxication
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Clumsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Dehydration

Process of Making Moonshine

The process of making moonshine usually involves some kind of chemical reaction (like fermentation) that produces toxic fumes. These fumes are highly flammable so when moonshine is processed in an area without adequate ventilation, it can cause an explosion.

Also, because moonshine is often homemade, there’s no control over what chemicals are used or how well the process is controlled. This makes it dangerous for anyone who drinks it.


It’s legal to own a still of any under federal law, but it’s illegal to produce moonshine at home and to transport, sell, or transfer moonshine unless the container has a 26 U.S.C. 5301 enclosure. Also, any vehicle and container carrying and transporting the (illegally manufactured) drink will be forfeited to the United States. According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, penalties include:

  • 5 years imprisonment
  • $10,000 
  • Both a fine and imprisonment.

Symptoms of Methanol Poisoning

The symptoms of methanol poisoning may vary depending on the duration of your exposure to the substance, but they typically include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Reduced level of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Amnesia
  • Diarrhea
  • Blurred vision
  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Low blood pressure
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Heart failure
  • Uncoordinated movement

How To Treat Methanol Poisoning

In most cases, treatment for methanol poisoning involves supportive care at a hospital or emergency room. The following treatments may be used:

  • Fomepizole: A drug used to treat methanol toxicity by preventing formic acid from being produced in the body.
  • Ethanol: A type of alcohol found in beer, wine, and liquor. It’s used as an antidote for methanol because it competes with formic acid for access to liver enzymes.

Will Drinking Moonshine Make You Go Blind

Moonshine is not going to make you go blind unless it was made by a moonshiner who added methanol to the drink. The process of distilling moonshine usually involves releasing foreshots (dangerous chemicals like methanol) and heads, then storing the hearts and part of the tails which are safe for consumption. To be on the safe side, make sure you know how and where your drink was made.

Is Store Bought Moonshine Safe to Drink

Store-bought moonshine is safe to drink.

Many moonshine products are produced similarly to wine, beer, and whiskey. In this way, they contain the same basic ingredients: grain alcohol, water, and flavoring agents, and the safety precautions are followed through. So, store-bought drinks are made by reputable companies, with more stringent standards than homemade moonshine.


The alcohol content of moonshine is not the only hazard of drinking it. Methanol can be found in improperly made moonshine. Methanol poisoning produces many of the same symptoms as ethanol poisoning, but the symptoms can be more severe such as blindness, coma, and death.

When buying moonshine, ensure it’s from a reputable business that adheres to federal laws so you don’t have to suffer the effects of methanol poisoning.


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