Tragic Consequences: The Deadly Game of Live-Stream Drinking Challenges in China


The widespread popularity of live-streaming platforms in China has led to a tragic incident where a popular live streamer, known online as Zhong Yuan Huang Ge or Brother Huang from the Central Plains, succumbed to excessive alcohol consumption during an online drinking game. 

This unfortunate event marks the second death in a month caused by such dangerous online challenges.

The Lure of the Digital Limelight

In a desperate bid to repay a hefty debt, the 27-year-old streamer engaged in risky live-streamed drinking battles. His wife, surnamed Li, confirmed the devastating news of his death on June 2 to Chinese media outlet, Jimu News.

Previously, a live streamer, surnamed Wang, also tragically passed away on May 16 after consuming four bottles of baijiu, a potent Chinese liquor boasting an alcohol content ranging from 35% to 60%. Wang’s death, a close friend of Huang, had led the latter to express intentions of reducing his alcohol intake during the former’s funeral.

Chasing Popularity with Dangerous Acts

Boasting 176,000 followers on his social media account, Huang’s content featured him engaging in hazardous acts such as downing baijiu and beer, breaking walnuts with his head, and opening durians bare-handed. His account, which used to post these thrill-inducing videos, has since been banned, according to Ms Li.

One chilling video shows Huang lighting a tissue soaked in alcohol, swiftly consuming half a bottle of baijiu, eating a few scallions, finishing the remaining alcohol, and then opening another bottle.

The Cost of Fame

The wall in Huang’s room poignantly displayed Chinese phrases that reflect his struggle. They read “Money is more important than life” and “Life is not all about money, but you will need money to live the life you want.” Despite his efforts to repay his debts and achieve a comfortable lifestyle, the path he chose eventually led to tragic consequences.

Ms Li shared her intent to work hard to pay off her late husband’s debt. She had known for eight years. The couple had plans to earn money for their new house’s renovation after sending their son to kindergarten.

Understanding Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is a severe and potentially fatal consequence of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period. It occurs when there is so much alcohol in a person’s bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life-support functions start to shut down. These include breathing, heart rate, and temperature control.

Symptoms include confusion, vomiting, seizures, slow or irregular breathing, blue-tinged or pale skin, low body temperature, unconsciousness, and even coma. It’s crucial to note that a person doesn’t have to display all these symptoms to have alcohol poisoning.

Dr Joselito C. Pascual, MD, Toxicology-Psychiatry- Addiction and Recovery Medicine Specialist at the Department of Emergency Medicine, Makati Medical Center Philippines shared that

“Alcohol is not a poison per se when consumed sensibly. However, when consumption becomes excessive, alcohol in the body may reach dangerous and lethal levels to cause death. The fatal dose of alcohol is difficult to ascertain because of inter-individual variability such as tolerance as a result of physical dependence and genetic predisposition. However, the equivalent of about 400 mL of pure ethyl alcohol consumed in one hour may be fatal.”

Dealing with Alcohol Poisoning

When confronted with potential alcohol poisoning, immediate medical attention is paramount. Until help arrives, the person should be kept awake and sitting up to prevent choking. This is especially if they are unconscious or semi-conscious. Providing water, if possible, may assist in speeding up the process of alcohol elimination from the body.

Dr Pascual explained

“Management should be directed towards the immediate life-threatening problems of breathing difficulties (respiratory depression), circulatory inadequacy, CNS disturbances such as coma or even convulsions, and electrolyte and metabolic derangements.”

He added “Treatment methods are mainly supportive and may take the form of provision of adequate oxygenation or mechanical intubation, maintenance of adequate circulation and hydration with intravenous fluids, administration of glucose for hypoglycemia and benzodiazepine for convulsions, correction of acid-base and electrolyte abnormalities with potassium chloride, magnesium and calcium gluconate and vitamin supplementation with thiamine and B complex. In some cases, blood filtration with dialysis may also be done to filter alcohol from the blood.”

The Perilous Path of Live-Streaming

Huang’s tragic end is a grim reminder of the dangerous stunts live streamers sometimes perform to earn monetary “gifts” from viewers. A disturbing incident in 2021 saw a Chinese influencer die after viewers urged her to consume pesticides live.

This grim trend raises serious concerns about the dangerous lengths some individuals will go to achieve online fame and financial gains. It underscores the urgent need for stricter regulations and oversight on live-streaming platforms. The risks and consequences of promoting and engaging in hazardous challenges online are simply too high to ignore. It’s critical to prioritise user safety over momentary thrills or financial rewards, thereby preventing such heartbreaking incidents in the future.

Image credit: Douyin

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