DUI: What is auto-brewery syndrome?

People with auto-brewery syndrome may act drunk and exhibit high BAC levels without consuming any alcohol.

For many people in Nashville, having a beer, or drinking a cocktail or two, is seen as a great way to unwind after a stressful day or week. It can make problems go away for awhile, and gives people the ability to loosen up and even meet new people. Some people like the feeling of inebriation so much that the idea they could get drunk without consuming a drop of alcohol seems like a dream come true. For those people, they may be interested to know that it is possible through a rare condition called auto-brewery syndrome.

Brewing alcohol in the body

NPR reports that auto-brewery syndrome occurs when there is too much yeast in the gut area. When the yeast comes into contact with sugars from starchy foods like soda, pasta or bread, the yeast acts as a fermenter, turning the sugars into ethanol alcohol. One patient in Texas had been a home brewer for several years and developed the condition from inhaling brewer's yeast.

The man was diagnosed after hospital staff noticed his blood alcohol content level would rise significantly when he ate foods that were rich in carbohydrates. He came into the hospital complaining of symptoms often associated with drunkenness but told the staff he had not consumed any alcohol.

High BAC level an indicator

It is commonly known that people who consistently drink alcohol can adapt and be quite able to function at BAC levels that would leave other people passed out or even on the brink of death. One of the tell-tale signs of the syndrome is that people with it often won't show signs of drunkenness until their BAC reaches two or three times the legal limit.

One woman recently found out she had the syndrome after she was pulled over by law enforcement. According to CNN, her BAC was measured at .40 in a breath test at the time. She admitted to having four alcoholic drinks over a six-hour period, which did not account for the high level. Over a period of 12 hours, with no alcohol in her system, her BAC levels continuingly climbed, reaching the same kind of high levels she was measured at before. Showing the evidence to the judge in her case, her drunk driving charge was dropped.

Many cases may remain undiagnosed

While up to 100 people may have been officially diagnosed with auto-brewery syndrome according to U.S. News & World Report, it is believed that there are probably many others who are unaware that they have it. While sometimes the syndrome can be treated through medication and adhering to a special diet, there are others who may not find relief.

When people in Tennessee are charged with driving under the influence, they should understand that there may be other factors involved. Therefore, it may be a good idea for them to talk with a criminal defense attorney.