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Diabetes could present like being drunk

On Behalf of | Dec 23, 2021 | DWI

There are a few medical conditions that have the potential to make you appear intoxicated. Among them is diabetes, a common condition throughout America.

As a side effect of this condition, people with diabetes may appear intoxicated and slur their speech, get confused or have trouble walking. Someone who is dealing with a diabetic complication might be uncooperative or become aggressive. They may even have the smell of alcohol on their breath.

Unfortunately, appearing intoxicated may be enough to result in a DUI charge. It’s important to consider medical conditions that may be making them act this way. If the emergency medical team is present, the emergency medical technician should consider diabetes as a cause of these symptoms.

Hyperglycemia and appearing intoxicated

One condition that will make someone appear intoxicated is hyperglycemia. This is when there is too much glucose in the blood. In cases of hyper and hypoglycemia, the brain may not be getting enough glucose, and the cells around the body may not be processing it correctly.

With hyperglycemia, confusion is common. If hyperglycemia occurs for too long, then the body will create ketones. These are secreted through the breath and smell like alcohol. These symptoms are a sign of a diabetic emergency.

Hypoglycemia’s impact on behavior

With hypoglycemia, the glucose levels in the body are too low. Insulin shock may occur, which results in confusion, aggression and an uncooperative patient. A person with this condition will have cool skin but be sweating profusely. This can happen any time the normal blood glucose drops below the lower fasting level of 72 mg/dl, and it’s more prominent as levels continue to decrease.

In either case, it is possible that an officer could mistake someone with a medical emergency for someone who is simply impaired.

What should people with diabetes do to protect themselves?

If you have diabetes, it’s important to make sure your blood sugar levels are normal before you get behind the wheel. If you start to feel like your blood sugar is rising or dropping, pull over and test.

It can also be helpful to wear an emergency bracelet or to have a card in your wallet showing your condition. This will assist the police in getting you help if you get into a crash or are pulled over for driving unusually.