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From Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA:

I have had type 1 diabetes for 14 years, and I am a recovering alcoholic. I was given a breathalyzer test because I was involved in a fender bender. My blood alcohol level was 0.28 reading, but I was hypoglycemic. I had not had more than a pint of alcohol over a 10 hour period of time that included having no breakfast, playing 18 holes of golf with a cart, and taking 100 units of insulin at 3 pm. I was tested at 6 pm. The high reading indicated that I should have been staggering drunk, been unable to walk let alone drive, have slurred speech, and been passing out. To the contrary, I was alert, cooperative with police, and my police report confirmed it. Do people with diabetes metabolize alcohol differently? Would a different kind of blood test better indicated sobriety?


I am not aware that individuals with diabetes metabolize alcohol differently than individuals who do not have diabetes. Similarly, I am not aware that being on insulin does anything to change alcohol metabolism, since insulin is usually present, all be it at lower concentrations. Individuals who have frequent low sugars accommodate to the low sugar by being more efficient at transporting more glucose across the blood brain barrier and maintaining a brain glucose comparatively higher than individuals who do not have intermittent hypoglycemia. The breathalyzer test is specific for alcohol, and the enzyme system that metabolizes alcohol in the liver is responsible for how fast the alcohol is metabolized. The only exception to this would be if you take oral medications for your diabetes. Some oral medications do have an effect in decreasing the enzymes that metabolize alcohol. I did not see the use of any oral medications mentioned.


Original posting 4 Dec 2000
Posted to Blood Tests and Insulin Injections


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