When it comes to DUIs, most people only need to worry if they drink to the point of intoxication before getting behind the wheel. Others are at risk of being cited at any time, whether they have been drinking or not. Scientists are beginning to recognize the phenomenon of auto-brewery syndrome, a condition that can cause a person to become drunk without ever touching a drop of alcohol.
What is the cause?
NPR reports that Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or brewer's yeast, is a type of bacteria that is generally harmless and even taken as a health supplement by many people. While doctors are not quite sure what causes it to affect some more than others, patients who have been diagnosed with the condition have found that the yeast stays inside the gut and begins to grow. As the person eats sugary or starchy foods, the bacteria converts the sugars into ethanol, a type of alcohol that can cause intoxication.
What happens to patients?
Patients who have auto-brewery syndrome may constantly be intoxicated from the foods they eat. Since they generally have an increased alcohol concentration level, their bodies are less affected by the intoxication than others would be, allowing them to operate normally at levels that can kill other drinkers. One Texas man was found to have a BAC of 0.37 percent after checking into an emergency room for dizziness. After he insisted he had not had a drink all day, a 24-hour monitoring session was arranged after which researchers found his BAC increased to 1.5 times the legal limit without him ever touching a drop of alcohol.
A New York woman was taken to the hospital after her BAC measured 0.4 percent on a breath analyzer. She was released after exhibiting no symptoms of intoxication despite a blood test showing her alcohol concentration levels were 0.3 percent, almost four times the legal limit of 0.8 percent. Researchers monitored her in an observation room for 12 hours and found that her levels rose to those heights without consuming any alcohol.
How is auto-brewery syndrome treated?
While doctors are still searching for treatments that are universally effective, there has been some success with the use of anti-fungal medications. Doctors also suggest adopting a diet low in carbs and void of alcohol and sugar.
If you have been convicted of a DUI and do not believe you were intoxicated or that your BAC was not as high as a breathalyzer showed, your doctor and an experienced attorney can work together to arrange testing to discover whether you are suffering from auto-brewery syndrome. Contact a lawyer today for help fighting for your rights.