One of the stars of the Discovery Channel’s Alaskan Steel Men show.
The Discovery Channel is warning viewers not to imitate a potentially deadly poisoning prank depicted in a program airing on pay TV this week.
The first episode of Alaskan Steel Men, a reenactment-based “reality” show about a team of welders, features an evidently fictional scene in which one of the men poisons his colleagues’ food with eye drops.
The show depicts the victims of the prank as suffering immediate diarrhea but no other ill effects. In reality, poisoning with eye drops containing the ingredient tetrahydrozoline can cause seizures, depressed breathing or an inability to breathe, and coma. It is not known to cause diarrhea.
Don’t try this at home … a craze of putting eye-drops in drinks was sparked by Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in The Wedding Crashers.
In response to concerns raised by Fairfax Media, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific has decided to insert warning notices before the episode and after each ad break when it is shown in Australia and New Zealand.
The notices will read: “WARNING: The following show features activities that can be dangerous and should not be imitated. The misapplication of eye drops when ingested may cause serious harm and should not be re-enacted.”
The mistaken notion that spiking someone’s food or drink with eye drops will cause diarrhea is a persistent urban myth that has led to many people becoming gravely ill, and to several people being prosecuted.
The myth was popularised by the 2005 film Wedding Crashers, in which Owen Wilson’s character put eye drops into another character’s drink, causing him to become ill.
The movie resulted in a spate of copycat poisonings in the United States. In one case, a Wisconsin nursing student was sentenced to 90 days in prison for spiking her dormmate’s bottle with eye drops on several occasions. In another, a 15-year-old New Jersey boy was sentenced to 60 days in a juvenile detention centre for spiking the drink of a classmate.
Richard Day, professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of New South Wales, said that tetrahydrozoline is extremely dangerous when ingested, even in small amounts.
“It’s a central nervous system-acting drug that isn’t absorbed into the body much when used as eye drops but when given orally it does get in and can have profound effects – drowsiness, blood pressure fall, decreased consciousness to name a few,” he said. “Vomiting has been recorded but no reports of diarrhea have been recorded. It’s a dangerous thing to do and diarrhea is not the problem.”
In a statement about the scene in Alaskan Steel Men, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific said: “Discovery Channel makes no intention of endorsing or condoning the actions of those depicted in the show.”