Deadly Screwdriver

23 May

Screwdrivers can be dangerous. Not only the ones used to tighten and remove screws, which can be lethal weapons, but the ones you get at your local bar. OJ and Vodka. Nice way to get hammered and up your vitamin C intake. Multitasking.


But Ramineh Behbehanian apparently has her own recipe. OJ and alcohol. Not vodka or even ethyl alcohol (ethanol–the kind you drink), but isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol–rubbing alcohol). It seems she whipped up a couple pf bottles of this concoction and placed them in the refrigerated section of her local Starbucks. Fortunately, someone observed her doing it and called the police.

Maybe this was simply a prank. Maybe she innocently thought isopropyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol were interchangeable. No harm, no foul. Maybe. Except she’s a pharmacist. She knows the difference.

So what is isopropyl alcohol and why is it dangerous?



Isopropanol is also an intoxicant and a CNS depressant whose effects usually appear within ten to thirty minutes after ingestion, depending upon the amount consumed and whether food or other beverages are taken as well. Fifteen to 20 percent of ingested isopropanol is converted to acetone, which produces acidosis (excess acid in the body). This greatly complicates things. The victim appears drowsy and off balance, and possesses a staggering gait, slurred speech, and poor coordination. Nausea, vomiting (sometimes bloody), abdominal pain, sweating, stupor, coma, and death from respiratory depression may follow. Hemorrhage into the bronchial tubes (breathing tubes or airways) and chest cavity may occur.

Isopropanol also absorbs through the lungs and the skin. Not infrequently, infants experience isopropanol toxicity from alcohol-and-water sponge baths used to treat childhood fevers.

As they say: Don’t try this at home.

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7 responses to “Deadly Screwdriver

  1. Darbi Simmons

    May 23, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I just wanted to say how much I love your “Howdunit: Forensics” book. I love it from a purely informational standpoint and also because it is fantastically written. I read it like my favorite true crime book.

    I wanted to leave a comment here because I am using it as a reference for a book I am writing and I plan on giving you all the credit in the world. I am a novice to this world outside of the Crime and Investigation Network ( I am almost to young for CourtTV even), and this book has been a godsend, one of those rare finds at the bookstore. I would recommend it to any crime ‘fan’!

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  2. Cheryl B. Dale

    May 23, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Interesting. I’d think one would be able to tell from the taste something was wrong.


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      May 23, 2013 at 2:20 pm

      Not always. It’s true that rubbing alcohol is harsher than ethanol but many alcoholics will drink anything–after shave, antifreeze, anything that has an alcohol-like flavor.


  3. Brenda

    May 23, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    This makes me shudder! Thanks! I remember the case someone wrote about where an aide of some type put blood in the microwave since so much was better heated in the microwave reminding us that stupidity kills someone. Was the woman in your example a REAL pharmacist or did she get her “degree” online? I wonder if she just saw the word “alcohol” and ignored the rest (we have doctors like that in our town!) and whether English is her first language and how fluent she is in it. Do keep us up on this one if you have a chance! And thanks!

    I just read somewhere that there are 200 different chemicals used in some wines. I am curious what some of those are as if you drink ONE glass of Carlo Rossi (one of his red wines in a bottle from a good liquor store though I forget which wine, probably burgundy) you get a sore throat. (Happened to TWO of us, doesn’t happen with other wines.) What would cause THAT? And what happens to those who drink more than one I wonder.

    Thanks for your always interesting blog.


  4. jaeceekay

    May 25, 2013 at 6:19 am

    That’s how Scotch has ALWAYS tasted to me…



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