Symptoms from diabetes and alcoholic inebriation are similar

Symptoms from diabetes and alcoholic inebriation are similar

It is not uncommon for Maryland residents to be arrested and accused of drunk driving when they have not had a drop of alcohol. This is because various medical conditions — like diabetes in particular — can actually cause someone to appear dunk, when in fact they are not. It is important that police officers learn to recognize the difference between symptoms of diabetes and symptoms of inebriation so they do not arrest people inappropriately.

In cases of diabetes, where people have blood glucose levels that are either too low (hypoglycemia) or too high (hyperglycemia), patients will suffer from a deteriorated mental status, which could mimic inebriation. In these situations, it is vital that the diabetic patient get treated as soon as possible.

If hypoglycemia is the problem, the heart and brain will be affected. The body will eventually enter into insulin shock. The skin will be diaphoretic and cool. The heart beat will increase and patients will become confused, and may even become noncooperative and combative. The patient will eventually lose consciousness.

In cases of hyperglycemia, the insulin hormone will flood the bloodstream and offset the balance of glucose and insulin in the body. Glucose levels will rise in response to the increase in insulin, which triggers a hunger reflex in the patient. In these cases the patient will also experience confusion and the brain will start malfunctioning, until the patient loses consciousness.

Because symptoms of diabetes and other conditions can be similar to alcohol inebriation, people are often wrongly accused of drunk driving due to the symptoms of their medical conditions. When defending against a charge of inebriated driving in these cases, it is important to show evidence of the medical condition in the patient during court proceedings.

Source:, “Drunk versus diabetes: How can you tell?,” Arthur Hsieh, accessed Oct. 14, 2015

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