Additional Information on GERD and Breath Tests

     GERD is an acronym for gastroesophageal reflux disease.  It is manifested by heartburn and the regurgitation of stomach contents back into the esophagus.  The condition is caused by a problem with the lower esophageal sphincter, which is the valve that relaxes to allow food to enter the stomach and then closes in order to keep it there.  When a person has GERD, that sphincter simply does not remain shut but allows stomach contents to escape back into the esophagus.

     Numerous medications such as Prilosec and Nexium are now available.  Other means of minimizing the effects of GERD include not drinking alcohol, avoiding spicy food, and losing weight.  The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn or acid indigestion, which is a burning sensation just above the stomach. 

     It has been suggested that many people who suffer from GERD would be unable to continuously blow into a breath testing device long enough to provide an adequate sample, thus leading to a false accusation that an individual refused to take a state administered test.  However, the most serious problem is the potential for distorting the breath alcohol test result.  It has been recognized for many years that mouth alcohol can cause falsely elevated breath test readings, which accounts for the fifteen or twenty minute waiting period required in many states.

     If alcohol is still in the stomach at the time a breath alcohol test is taken, it may find its way into the mouth via regurgitation, hiccupping, or belching.  The absorption of alcohol may be delayed by a pyloric spasm or by simply eating a meal.  Furthermore, eating spicy foods, smoking cigarettes, and drinking alcohol are all known to cause GERD symptoms. 

     New studies have shown that the slope detector software (designed to “catch” mouth alcohol) is not sensitive enough to always detect mouth alcohol  when the amount in the mouth is fairly small.  Therefore, GERD cannot be ruled out, especially when the amount of alcohol consumed is inconsistent with the breath alcohol test reading, and the person has a history of GERD.  The most prolific student of the phenomenon, a professor emeritus at Ohio State University, has observed breath test results double the actual blood alcohol concentration when testing GERD patients.  More experimental work may be needed with people of different ages and gender and with different doses of alcohol and under different drinking conditions.  However, it appears that GERD is a problem, and anyone who suffers from the condition should be aware of the problem if arrested for DUI. 
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

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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