Older readers, who can remember those on the street drinking White Ladies (meths mixed with VP tonic wine), will think the bad old days have returned, with some drinkers reported to be stealing alcohol cleaning gel from hospitals to drink.
Streetlink Team have found a number of rough sleepers drinking alcohol gel by diluting it with water or other "mixers", having taken the gel from local hospitals. Their concern at this, beyond the usual worries about alcohol abuse, is due to the fact that the gel in question can contain upwards of 70 per cent 'denatured alcohol' and is produced for external use only.
A spokeswoman for The Passage explained what this meant: "Denatured alcohol is ethanol that has been made unfit for human consumption by the addition of toxins or other substances to make it undrinkable. The substance used to denature the alcohol will vary according to manufacturer and can be anything from a harmless bittering agent to an actual toxin or a combination thereof. Methylated spirits are a form of denatured alcohol."
"There are concerns about the health of individuals who are actually drinking the alcohol gel," she added, "as side effects can be potentially fatal and include loss of consciousness and convulsions. Long term effects may also include liver and kidney damage."
If readers find anyone collapsed who they suspect might have been drinking alcohol gel, get the person to A&E as quickly as possible, taking any evidence of the substance they have been drinking with them. St Thomas' Hospital has had a number of admissions for poisoning from the gel and there have been a number of deaths associated in the East End.
The message is simple: if you take alcohol gel from hospital to drink, you'll be back in as a patient before you know it - that's if you're lucky.