What Can Cause False Positives for Alcohol with a Breathalyzer Test?

The most common use of an alcohol breathalyzer test is during an investigation for drunk driving, also referred to as driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). Alcohol breath tests help police officers determine if the person is intoxicated and cannot be operating a vehicle or other road or water moving vehicle. People can be stopped for riding a horse drunk, golf cart, bicycle, roller blades or skates, and even a skateboard. Someone can also be arrested for operating a watercraft drunk. The law of driving under the influence pertains to any road or sidewalk (or body of water) where a moving machine or animal that a person is in control of and is expected to operate safely.

How Often Do Breathalyzer Tests Make Mistakes?

When a person is asked to provide a breath sample by the police, they are expected to blow into an alcohol breathalyzer that measures the amount of alcohol in their blood. Recent news and research have found that there are many ways a breathalyzer can misread a person’s blood alcohol content. The New York Times recently published on why alcohol breathalyzer tests are often wrong and provide false positives.

But those tests — a bedrock of the criminal justice system — are often unreliable, a New York Times investigation found. The devices, found in virtually every police station in America, generate skewed results with alarming frequency, even though they are marketed as precise to the third decimal place. In Massachusetts and New Jersey, judges have thrown out more than 30,000 breath tests in the past 12 months alone, largely because of human errors and lax governmental oversight. Across the country, thousands of other tests also have been invalidated in recent years. (NYTimes, 2019)

What Can Cause False Positives for Alcohol with a Breathalyzer Test?

What is a False Positive for an Alcohol Breathalyzer Test?

A false positive means that the breathalyzer test results did not correctly measure the alcohol in a person’s blood. This can occur for the following reasons and, according to many credible sources, frequently occurs in these scenarios and circumstances:

  • Residual mouth alcohol
  • Asthma medications Albuterol, Salmeterol, and Budesonide
  • OTC cough syrup Nyquil or Vicks
  • Presence of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (stomach acid fumes)
  • Dental Work (residual anesthetics in mouth or lungs)
  • High Ketone Levels from Diabetes causes elevated alcohol sugars
  • Environmental factors
  • Alcohol hand sanitizers
  • Prescription or OCT medication

If You're Getting Brethalyzer Tested, You Might Be an Alcoholic

First and most importantly, alcoholism is a treatable disease that can be severe or mild. Experts now identify alcoholism as an alcohol use disorder to better diagnose the individual’s use of alcohol. Many people drink heavily but never experience serious consequences. However, they may have health problems or family problems related to their drinking. These individuals would be diagnosed as having a mild alcohol use disorder. Other people who must drink alcohol to function or ward off alcohol withdrawal symptoms would be diagnosed with a severe alcohol use disorder. They will need to begin their recovery from their alcohol use at a medically supervised detox for either diagnosis.

How Do I Get Help for My Loved One Who Drinks too Much?

Medically managed alcohol detoxification is the easiest way to help a person begin to recover from their disorder. The alcohol detox unit we send clients is licensed by Connecticut and is connected to a professional alcohol use disorders treatment program. Some people who are not experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms will still require a thorough health checkup. They will only go into detox to be assessed medically and receive targeted counseling before rehab. All persons admitted to the alcohol detox, and treatment programs will be met by leading professionals specializing in alcohol use disorders and the most advanced alcohol use disorder treatment available.

To begin the admission process to a professional alcohol detox center and an evidence-based alcohol use disorder treatment center, the first step is to connect with one of our recovery specialists. In 5-minutes, the specialists will be able to make all admission to alcohol detox and treatment, discuss insurance and payment options and provide door-to-door transportation.


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