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DWIs and medical conditions: Mimicking the effects of alcohol

On Behalf of | Jan 29, 2019 | DWI

As someone who lives with a medical condition, you know that some of your symptoms can mimic intoxication. For the most part, this isn’t a problem, because you’re able to treat the condition before it causes those effects. For example, if you’re diabetic, taking insulin or eating can resolve any unusual symptoms. Similarly, those with epilepsy may be able to take medications that reduce the likelihood or severity of seizures that could make them act in unusual ways.

Judges, medical providers and even the police know that medical conditions can lead to the appearance of intoxication. Officers are trained to recognize when a person needs medical care, but they won’t always be able to distinguish that right away. It is important to carry a medical card on hand and to have it where it’s easy to find. Additionally, you should attempt to explain what’s happening or call 911 as soon as you realize that you are having complications of your medical condition.

What are some signs of a medical condition that can mimic intoxication?

For diabetes, some symptoms that mimic intoxication include:

  • Disorientation
  • Hostility
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Dizziness and trouble with balance
  • Fruity body odor
  • The smell of acetone on the breath

For epilepsy, some symptoms of the condition that mimic intoxication include:

  • Detachment from reality
  • Flushing
  • Anger
  • Staring spells
  • Sweating
  • Falling
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Suddenly walking away during conversations
  • Becoming unresponsive to words and environments

Traumatic brain injuries and brain illnesses can also mimic intoxication. One is Alzheimer’s disease. This disease has symptoms such as:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Incontinence
  • Blank stars
  • Slurred speech
  • Anger
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia

Brain injuries mimic intoxication in some cases where patients have symptoms such as:

  • Hallucinations
  • Trouble with hand-eye coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble focusing
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors

What should you do if you’re stopped by the police and have a medical condition?

If you are able to explain the condition you have and seek assistance, that is the best thing to do at the time. However, if you are involved in a medical emergency, it is most important that the officer doesn’t assume intoxication is to blame.

Keep medical documents, such as an emergency card and medical bracelet, where the officer can easily find them. Having those simple documents on hand can prevent accusations of intoxication when you truly need assistance and shouldn’t be taken to the police station instead of the hospital. Prepare for the unexpected, and you’ll prevent a DUI charge for medical conditions you may suffer from.