The Dangers of Drinking Alcohol While Abroad

Tainted drinks are a strong possibility in other countries, where regulations are far different from ours

Going on vacation is always exciting, especially if you’ve planned a trip abroad. Now, with travel agencies offering resort packages and all-inclusive trips, you can enjoy the beauty of another country more easily than ever.

Since you’ll be roaming new territory, though, you will need to watch out while drinking. Other countries don’t always regulate their alcohol use, and you could encounter some dangerous situations while drinking alcohol abroad.

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Here’s why: Recently, investigators have been looking for answers about the cause of a young woman’s death. Abbey Conner was on vacation with her family in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, when she and her brother decided to get a few drinks from the swim-up bar.

Mere hours later, officials found both siblings floating in the resort’s pool. Unfortunately, it was too late for Abbey Conner, and her brother needed treatment for a concussion and memory loss. An attorney who investigated Abbey’s unexpected death stated that the resort was serving low-quality alcohol.

In addition, the Mexican government has conducted its own investigations, shutting down two bars for unsanitary conditions and seizing thousands of gallons of potentially tainted alcohol. Not surprisingly, Mexican officials found unlabeled, expired alcohol and unsanitary practices at the bar where Conner died.

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After word started spreading about Conner’s story, other people who had similar experiences came forward to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as well. Their stories show just how cautious you have to be while you’re traveling abroad and enjoying alcohol. Tainted drinks are a real threat for vacationers.

Staying safe. No matter where you’re vacationing in the world, learn how to stay safe while drinking alcohol abroad. Of course, the most foolproof way is to avoid drinking, but you don’t have to go this far if you follow a few guidelines.

The U.S. Bureau of Diplomatic Security gives several tips on staying safe during a trip out of the country, including:

Drink in moderation.You might be tempted to drink excessively on vacation, but think about spacing out your intake instead. Other countries don’t have the same regulations for alcoholic content as the United States; so they may have a stronger brew anyway.

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At the same time, if you do accidentally drink tainted alcohol, you might avoid the most severe side effects because of your moderation.

Stick with brand name, not home brew. When you’re buying alcohol, pay attention to the brands that the bar is using. Sometimes, vendors may sell an unregulated homemade alcohol that could contain any number of harmful filler ingredients.

When ordering your drink, ask the bartender to mix it in front of you.

Called counterfeit alcohol, these beverages are often cheaper than the average. Although not in every case, it may also have a strange color or smell. If you suspect anything unusual, play it safe by not buying from that vendor.

Watch your drink. When you’re ordering your drink, ask the bartender to mix it in front of you. Watch that he doesn’t add any ingredients that you can’t identify. Similarly, keep your eyes on your drink once it’s in front of you, and avoid any other additions, such as ice cubes, that may also be tainted.

Again, if you suspect anything out of the ordinary, refuse the drink. Put your own safety first.

Watch for symptoms of tainted alcohol. Depending on the ingredients used in the drink, you may experience a variety of symptoms from tainted alcohol. Many travelers report nausea, dizziness or vomiting before blacking out.

If the alcohol has a harder drug mixed in, it may also cause hallucinations, slurred speech, or severe anger. In some cases reported to the Sentinel, people woke up later in their rooms with bruises and scratches, not knowing anything that had happened.

To avoid these situations, parents should research their vacation spot thoroughly before they arrive. Check independent forums and several sources for hotel reviews, and do your research about the country’s medical centers, too.

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Once you arrive, stay with your family as much as you can, especially when drinking. Consider having one person refrain from drinking so that he can act quickly in case of an emergency. Also, make sure that family members understand to let someone know right away if they start feeling unusual.

Traveling abroad is a lovely adventure that you should look forward to and enjoy. While you should be aware of the alcohol that you and your family drink, you can still enjoy yourselves and stay safe. By drinking in moderation, asking the right questions, and staying aware of your surroundings, you will set your family up for an enjoyable vacation out of the country.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel’s senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. This Fox News piece is used by permission; it also appeared on 

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