Readers of this news blog may recall an interesting post about “Auto Brewery Syndrome” (ABS) posted by one of our California contributors, Lawrence Taylor. This syndrome occurs when bowel abnormalities affect patients by creating a yeast overgrowth, usually candida, in the G.I. tract. This causes fermentation of ingested carbohydrates, producing enough alcohol to result in drunkeness.
Interestingly, in 2020 a distinction from traditional ABS was made in a case study published in the peer-reviewed Annals of Internal Medicine. The treating physicians proposed referring to the phenomenon as “urinary auto-brewery syndrome” or “bladder fermentation syndrome.” The study involved a 61-year old woman diagnosed with cirrhosis and poorly controlled diabetes who sought placement on the liver transplant wait-list at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She had previously been denied placement on the wait-list at a different hospital due to a later discovered mis-diagnosis of alcohol addiction. The patient, however, denied ever consuming alcohol. The case study’s authors discovered that the traditional symptoms of blood alcohol and or symptoms of intoxication were not present in this instance because it was the woman’s bladder rather than her gastrointestinal system creating the alcohol.
DUI defense lawyers need to become more aware of this medical condition to use as a potential defense of involuntary intoxication, thus avoiding convictions or more onerous punishment.
 Mullholland and Townsend, “Bladder Beer – A New Clinical Observation”, 95 Transactions of the American Clinical Climatological Association 34 (1983).
About the Author: Steven Oberman has been licensed in Tennessee since 1980, and successfully defended over 2,500 DUI defendants. Among the many honors bestowed upon him, Steve served as Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. (NCDD) and currently serves as chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers DUI Committee. Steve was the first lawyer in Tennessee to be Board Certified as a DUI Defense Specialist by the NCDD.
He is the author of DUI: The Crime & Consequences in Tennessee, updated annually since 1991 (Thomson-West), and co-author with Lawrence Taylor of the national treatise, Drunk Driving Defense, 8th edition (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen). Steve has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee Law School since 1993 and has received a number of prestigious awards for his faculty contributions. He is a popular international speaker, having spoken at legal seminars in 30 states, the District of Columbia and six foreign countries. After being named a Fulbright Scholar, Steve was honored to teach as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Latvia Law School in the capital city of Riga, Latvia during the Spring Semester of 2019. If you would like to contact the author, please visit his website.