AS IF WE DIDN’T HAVE ENOUGH TROUBLE


The world is going down the tubes, so is the country, and now we find out that you can get drunk on non-alcoholic wine, not to mention sauerkraut and bananas.

That is to say, it is true in the eyes of the law, which is the kind of truth that leads to trouble.

The New Scientist reported today that the good old inebriation tests used by law enforcement may send you before the judge even if you hadn’t drunk any alcohol at all.  That is because the standard urine and blood tests rely on finding trace amounts of “ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and ethyl sulphate (EtS) that are formed exclusively from the breakdown of alcohol. These remain detectable in urine for almost a week.

Unfortunately, trace amounts of these chemicals may show up in your bodily fluids even if you’d been exposed to alcohol accidentally, as through alcohol-based hand-wipes and mouthwashes, alcohol-free wine, and even foods such as bananas and sauerkraut.  The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has been aware of this conundrum at least since 2006, when it issued a report which states that any legal or disciplinary action based solely on EtG and EtS detection is scientifically unsupportable.

The hunts is on, however, for a better marker.  This may turn out to be phosphatidyl ethanol (PEth), but research on this substance is not yet conclusive enough.  In the meanwhile, those who think themselves unfairly incriminated may turn for assistance to an advisory website run by Greg Skipper, medical director of the Alabama Physician Health Program.

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About Michael J. Kubat

I'm a grumpy Czech-born clinical social worker who is vitally interested in the survival in the United States as a viable democracy and a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.
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