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Can medical emergencies look like intoxication?

When you see someone walking down the street with a sway and dizzy look, you probably assume he or she is intoxicated. Likewise, if you notice a driver who isn't staying in the lines, it's probable that you assume he or she could have been drinking before getting in the car.

The truth is that all is not always as it seems. Some health conditions make it possible for a person to appear intoxicated when he or she is actually very ill. For instance, epileptics or diabetics may have this issue.

With epilepsy, for instance, a person has a seizure. It could be a full seizure or partial seizure. The type of seizure makes a different, since the individual may not show signs of seizing outwardly. Instead, he or she may look as if he or she will black out or have poor balance. The individual could be confused or flushed. It's also possible for someone having a seizure to feel afraid or aggressive due to the unusual electrical activity in the brain.

Diabetics may suffer from hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, both of which can result in strange symptoms. When there is a high level of sugar in the blood, it's not uncommon for the individual to smell of alcohol due to an increase in ketones. Left for too long, high blood sugars can lead to ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal condition. Interestingly, someone suffering from low blood sugars, or hypoglycemia, may also present with fruity, alcoholic-smelling breath as well as dizziness and agitation.

There are many defenses for a DUI, and medical emergencies are grounds to have a DUI dismissed.

Source: The Healthy Voyager, "Officer, I’m Not Drunk: Diseases and Illnesses That Mimic Intoxication," Caroline Scott-Hamilton, accessed Oct. 27, 2017

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