The Dangers of GERD in Breath Alcohol

Posted On April 25, 2023 Charles Ramsay

Have you ever felt a burning in your chest after eating spicy foods? That may be caused by stomach acid refluxing into your esophagus. The medical term is GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), affecting around 7% of the population.

It’s annoying, but did you know it can negatively impact a breath alcohol test?

When alcohol from your stomach refluxes back up into your oral cavity, it can increase your breath alcohol score by several orders of magnitude.

Even Hiccups May Cause Problem

It’s not just GERD that can cause problems with a breath test. Even so much as a hiccup can cause a problem … seriously!

Almost 100 years ago, one of the first breath alcohol researchers, Emil Bogen, M.D. said:

As soon as the disturbing factor of alcoholic liquor still in the mouth is removed, which occurs usually within fifteen minutes after imbibition, in the absence of hiccupping or belching, the alcohol content of 2 liters of expired air is a little greater than 1 cc of urine.

The problem of GERD, burping, hiccuping, and belching in breath alcohol testing has been known for a long time. The State breath alcohol operators need to start taking it more seriously.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Breath alcohol machines (breathalyzers) are calibrated to measure alcohol in the breath. They’re not made to measure raw alcohol regurgitated from the stomach. The machines are calibrated with a blood-to-breath ratio of 2100:1

This means that for every tiny molecule of alcohol in the breath, the machine multiplies that by 2100 to come up with an estimate of your blood alcohol. 

If you burp, belch, or experience acid reflux just before a breath test, the machine will overestimate your blood alcohol significantly.

Informed Consent (not just implied consent)

I’ve been an advocate for a pretesting questionnaire that alerts the subject to such disastrous consequences that can come from things like GERD. We have so-called implied consent laws for driving, but we also need informed consent about all the potential problems of a breath test.

A simple questionnaire would suffice, such as:

  • Do you have GERD? 
  • Are you experiencing any burping, belching, or hiccuping?
  • Do you have any acid reflux at this time?

When we go to the doctors to take a test, they alert us to all the negative consequences of any test. But unfortunately, the State doesn’t play by those rules. 

The State doesn’t even ask if you have any of the above symptoms.

The truth is, they don’t care. Breath tests are quick and easy. They don’t want to bother with having to draw your blood. 

Don’t wait - Call Ramsay Law Firm

If you’ve been a victim of a breath test that you were forced to take while experiencing symptoms of GERD (or even a hiccup), call Ramsay Law - we get results.