A rare gastrointestinal condition might make people in Oklahoma intoxicated when they haven’t consumed any alcohol. Auto-brewery syndrome, or ABS, occurs when consumed carbohydrates ferment in the gut. Fermentation can occur to the point that alcohol is produced. This alcohol can quickly cause a person to become intoxicated.

Several case studies have been done by researchers. One of these cases that was published in the medical journal BMJ Open Gastroenterology looked at a 46-year-old man who was detained on suspicion of drunk driving. A blood test showed that he had a blood alcohol level of 0.2. He denied alcohol ingestion repeatedly. Further testing revealed that he had ABS. The man had taken antibiotics for three weeks prior to the condition occurring.

The body naturally produces small amounts of ethanol when it digests carbohydrates. Doctors believe that the condition might occur when antibiotics kill all of the good bacteria in the gut. Good bacteria normally help keep fermentation in check. When the good bacteria are gone, the fermentation process can flourish, causing yeast to build up and alcohol production. Fungal treatments and limited carbohydrates have been found to be helpful in treating ABS.

Though medical professionals aren’t sure how many people are affected by ABS each year, many experts believe that the number might be larger than suspected. People who have not consumed alcohol but have been detained by police for intoxication should be tested for ABS. Without being tested, it might be assumed that a positive breath test is from drinking alcohol, and the person might be prosecuted for drunk driving. An individual could be given severe consequences that include loss of driving privileges, fines and imprisonment. A lawyer may be able to show that their client actually had ABS and was intoxicated from the medical condition rather than alcohol consumption. The charges might then be dismissed.