Most people who drink and drive don’t actually want to do so. Instead, they do it because they wanted to enjoy themselves while out but then don’t have any other way to get home. But what if they could drink with friends and then sober up in the last half an hour before driving? A new medical discovery by the University Health Network in Toronto could make that a reality.
Eliminating Alcohol from the Body
The researchers weren’t looking for a way to make drinking and driving safer. Instead, their study was designed to save lives in another way -by helping to reduce the dangers of alcohol poisoning. As it stands right now, the only way to speed up the metabolization of alcohol is by going through dialysis, which is not usually practical unless the patient is actually losing consciousness and likely to die from alcohol intoxication. Without dialysis, the only way for the body to eliminate alcohol is to process it through the liver, which can take hours.
A Medical Break Through
The researchers at the University Health Network recognized that hyperventilating can help the liver push excess alcohol out of the body at a quicker speed -in fact, the body can eliminate alcohol up to three times faster this way. Perhaps that is why this is one of the only ways a person can help tip breathalyzer results in their favor (though police are unlikely to actually let a suspect hyperventilate before testing).
Of course you don’t need a medical degree to recognize that hyperventilating is also a great way to make yourself pass out. But the team, led by Dr. Joseph Fisher, recognized that the reason hyperventilating makes people pass out is because it causes the body to clear out too much carbon dioxide. By developing a device that returns carbon dioxide back into the body while a person hyperventilates, the team managed to find a way for people to expel alcohol from their bodies at a rate three times faster than it usually processes alcohol.
So How Could This Reduce Drunk Driving?
One of the most impressive parts of Dr. Fisher’s discovery is that their device is easy and inexpensive to make. It is also as small as a briefcase. All of this means that it’s possible that these types of devices could eventually make their way to bars or even private homes. Imagine a world where people drink and socialize with their friends and then go in a private room for half an hour or so to eliminate the alcohol from their system before driving home.
Right now, if someone goes to a bar or party and gets drunk, they must wait hours after their last drink before their blood alcohol level returns to a safe level for driving. But when this device was tested, in 40 minutes subjects were able to eliminate an amount of alcohol from their bodies that normally would have took 2 to 3 hours to process.
Given that few people in a real world setting are going to have a drink just before they decide to use a machine that eliminates alcohol from their systems, it’s likely that most people who would use this device to avoid getting a DUI would only need 20 to 30 minutes to return to a safe BAC before driving. And since home breathalyzers are becoming both more reliable and affordable, the user could even check their blood alcohol content before getting behind the wheel.
Of course, this is all speculation for now and hyperventilating to eliminate alcohol before drinking is likely to leave you unconscious rather than sober. But in the near future, driving to a party and planning to drive home after drinking could be a much less risky proposition. It should be noted the experimental nature of these devices means the practical application may be years or decades away. In the meanwhile, if you make a mistake and drive home before you are actually sober, a DUI lawyer can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation with Peter M. Liss.
Image by viganhajdari