Immaculate Intoxication

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on September 11th, 2008

Can alcohol be created by the human body itself — without any drinking? Apparently so.

In an interesting scientific article, two physicians at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore reported that they detected the odor of beer in three of their patients. This was in an isolated hospital setting; there was no access to alcoholic beverages. The doctors had urine samples taken and analyzed by gas chromatography. Result? All three showed the presence of alcohol in their systems. Two of these were then tested for actual blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). One showed a BAC of .043%. The other was .121% — or 1 1/2 times the legal limit for DUI!

The presence of alcohol in human specimens containing glucose and yeast should come as no surprise.  Several have made this observation. Under normal circumstances trace amounts of alcohol may be found in the blood; the alcohol is then channeled into an energy pathway by hepatic alcohol dehydrogenase…

The two physicians continued:

The Japanese report the auto brewery syndrome in which they have seen middle aged patients with bowel abnormalities, most often after surgery, who have yeast overgrowth, usually candida, in the G.I. tract and who ferment ingested carbohydrates, producing enough alcohol to result in drunkeness.” Mullholland and Townsend, “Bladder Beer – A New Clinical Observation”,  95 Transactions of the American Clinical Climatological Association 34 (1983).

In other words, the body is manufacturing alcohol by itself — in some cases, enough to become legally intoxicated.   This has been confirmed by other studies. Swedish researchers, for example, have found that:

Increasing evidence has emerged to show that endogenous ethanol does exist, the the concentrations seen have large inter-individual variations. Our results show a markedly skewed distribution of values…The reason for the wide inter-individuaal variation in healthy abstaining individuals is hard to explain.” Jones et al., “Determination of Endogenous Ethanol in Blood and Breath By Gas Chromatography”, 18 Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 267 (1983).

How many folks with “immaculately conceived” alcohol in their systems have been arrested and convicted for DUI? These people were innocent, right?

Wrong. In the rush to convict drunk drivers (and with increasing federal coercion), all states have now passed so-called per se laws: driving with a BAC of .08% or more. Neither intent, negligence or even knowledge is required. The crime consists of simply having the alcohol in your body.

Even if you’ve had nothing to drink.

  • joe

    The courts continue to ignore science, and while this is a fascinating find, courts aren’t even willing to acknowledge that BAC affects different body types differently. The police and law enforcement want pre-packaged convictions, nothign thaty they may have to work for.

  • koivisto

    Mr. Taylor, now I’m afraid to drive! Just kidding of course but this sheds light on arrests made when people swore they only had one or two drinks. Even a small percentage bears consideration of how the current DUI laws work. I hold that the best solution is criminal liability for any accidents or deaths caused. DUI would be legal, but those causing harm and damage would have to face the music, and eventually you would see the numbers drop. Maybe I’m wrong, but who knows?

  • RichardAlan

    This is very intriguing, so a machine will get you convicted of a crime that you did not truthfully commit?

    I wonder if this is why the CHP alleged to have smelled of alcohol on me?

  • Dan.

    I remembered a TV show about this, so I had to look it up. Harrigan & son (Pat O’Brien lawyer show, 1961). One episode had a fellow on trial for being drunk but had taken “the pledge.” Turned out his intentinal tract trapped the materials needed to produce alcohol. Acquitted when he got drunk in court after eating some crackers.
    So this isn’t a newly discovered phenomena, I’d wager.