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How diabetes can skew the results of a blood alcohol test

Whether you require insulin or can control your diabetes through diet, your medical condition may affect numerous aspects of your life. You have to watch what you eat and make sure your blood sugar does not get too high or too low. And if this wasn't enough, you also have to worry about the medical condition impacting the results of an alcohol breath test. 

Wait. What? That's right, if you have diabetes, you run the risk of blowing a false positive with an alcohol blood test. This could be due to the acetone in your breath. Everyone has some acetone on his or her breath, but because you have diabetes, your levels could be significantly higher, which may cause a false positive in a breath test as high as .06 percent.


Such a simple question has a moderately complicated answer. If your blood sugar has ever dropped too low, which is a condition called hypoglycemia, then you know that you could experience the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Clumsiness
  • Shakiness
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Confusion
  • Jerky movements

The issue is that these are also signs associated with intoxication, so an officer may think you are drunk and ask you to take a breath test. From here though, the problem is that taking a breath test under this condition could result in a false positive that could lead to a drunk driving arrest.

The symptoms of hypoglycemia could also result in your failing field sobriety tests as well.

However, not only diabetes can result in hypoglycemia. These conditions can also produce the same effect:

  • Liver disease
  • Cardiac disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Overexertion
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Large doses of aspirin
  • Large doses of pseudo ephedrine
  • Large doses of sulfa medications
  • Diet soda

Your diet can also affect the acetone levels in your breath. If you are on a low-carbohydrate diet, you may also have high levels of acetone on your breath since the body replaces glucose with acetone when the body enters ketosis. A false positive is also possible if you fast.

What to do

Estimates by the federal government indicate that approximately 23.6 million people here in the United States. Out of that number, around 5.7 million may not even know they suffer from this condition. 

Diabetes is very common. Unfortunately, as this post points out, breath tests and field sobriety tests are not necessarily created equal for all people. This means innocent people can end up falsely accused of drunk driving, simply for having a medical condition. 

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