U.S. State Department issues warning about tainted alcohol at Mexican resorts

Mexico’s all-inclusive resorts have a reputation as hard-partying destinations, but a new warning from the U.S. State Department encourages travelers to think twice when consuming alcohol in Mexico.

The travel alert comes after a 20-year-old Wisconsin woman was found unresponsive in a pool at an Iberostar resort near Playa del Carmen in January.

Abbey Conner, who had arrived at the resort with her family just two hours earlier, was drinking with her brother, Austin, at the resort’s swim-up bar.

The pair drank several tequila shots, but no one knows what happened in the minutes leading up to both of them being found face-down in the pool. Austin had a severe concussion, but recovered. Abbey was declared brain dead and taken off life support shortly after the incident. She was also found to have a broken collar bone, but it wasn’t possible to determine if that had occurred during CPR efforts—though that is an unlikely scenario.

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“Somebody had to slip them some type of drug,” Bill Conner, Austin and Abbey’s father, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Austin agreed, saying that as a college student he’d had his “fair share of drinks,” but this scenario was different. The siblings were both found to have blood alcohol levels three times the level deemed safe to drive in most U.S. states (.08%), but Austin noted to the Journal Sentinel that they were getting ready to have dinner with their parents and so not trying to “get wrecked.”

After the Journal Sentinel shared Abbey’s story, more than three dozen people came forward to report similar cases of unexplained blackouts at all-inclusive resorts in Mexico. Some reported having had just a drink or two before blacking out.


One set of teenage brothers woke up covered in mud with no recollection of their evening and found that they had been robbed. In another case, a married woman woke up to find she had been sexually assaulted and her husband had a broken hand, but neither of them had any memory of how the events had happened.

The stories all have one thing in common: alcohol. And reports have been frequent and disturbing enough that the State Department decided a formal warning was necessary.

The warning was added under the “safety and security” section of the State Department’s information page for Mexico on July 26. Here’s how the warning reads:

There have been allegations that consumption of tainted or substandard alcohol has resulted in illness or blacking out. If you choose to drink alcohol, it is important to do so in moderation and to stop and seek medical attention if you begin to feel ill.

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The most obvious culprit for these terrifying incidents is substandard alcohol, which is common, not just at all-inclusive resorts that are trying to cut costs, but all over Mexico.

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In 2015, Mexico’s Tax Administration Service found that 43 percent of all the alcohol consumed in the nation is illegal, meaning it’s often produced with grain alcohol or methanol. Drinking these bootlegged concoctions can cause illness, and because they’re much stronger than regulated alcohol found in the United States, they’re also more likely to cause blackouts and alcohol poisoning.

If you’re heading to Mexico for your next vacation, play it safe with your alcohol consumption and always be mindful of your personal safety and surroundings.