Albuterol Inhaler: Impact on a Breath Test

Medicine administered to an individual that alters airways and alveolar sacs changes the 2100:1 ratio used in breath alcohol testing. A blood test would be the appropriate test to request in cases in which respiratory medicines have been administered to an individual prior to breath testing.A study conducted in 1998 added information to the question of alveolar exchange alteration. T. Martinez and R. Martinez, The Effect of an Inhalation Aerosol Bronchodilator on Breathalyzer Results in Drinking and Non-Drinking Subjects, Proc.West.Pharmacol.Soc. 41:51-52 (1998). Is there a difference of false positives between non-drinking and drinking subjects? The researchers found in non-drinking subjects that a single puff from a bronchial inhalator obtained readings as high as 0.120 BrAC in 30 minutes and the subjects returned to a 0.00 BrAC in 6 minutes. Thus, a 20-minute depravation period is sufficient under these conditions.

However, when drinking subjects who started with a BrAC of 0.05 used a bronchial inhalator, the effects of erroneously high readings were observed over prolonged periods. The influence of the bronchial inhalator influenced the third digit after the 20-minute period. The findings are relevant for testing subjects near the legal limit range; however, the defense for extremely high readings over the legal limit is not supported. Limitations of the study include (1) consideration of oxidization values, (2) that no more than two puffs of a bronchial inhaler were examined, (3) a non-representative population sample, and (4) the limited types of medications available.

When a law enforcement officer determines that the defendant has used medication, he should then request a blood test and should not continue with a breath test. If the breath test is admitted, the prosecution should have the burden of proving that the medication did not interfere with the test result. People v. Miller, 166 Ill.App.3d 155, 519 N.E.2d 717, 116 Ill.Dec. 649 (3d Dist. 1988). See also People v. Winfield, 30 Ill.App.3d 668, 332 N.E.2d 634 (3d Dist. 1975).

Ronald Henson Ph.D., C.P.C.T.

Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website

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