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How does hepatitis affect alcohol metabolism?


Hepatitis and alcohol share a unique and very dangerous bond. Alcohol damages the liver when it's processed, and many serious liver diseases, like hepatitis C, can be contracted and ultimately lead to cirrhosis, an often deadly disease.

Can hepatitis affect a breathalyzer?
Some reports say that liver diseases like hepatitis C can affect the way your body absorbs and metabolizes alcohol, leading to inaccurate breathalyzer tests and unwarranted DUI arrests. Though a number of factors regarding the unreliability of breathalyzer tests are documented, the effect of hepatitis on a test remains unproven. In some individual accounts, a single drink has allegedly produced Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) readings of between .15 and .20, but these claims are unsubstantiated.

Can I drink if I have hepatitis?
If you have a liver disease like hepatitis C, most doctors suggest you abstain from drinking any kind of alcohol. When the liver processes ethanol, even in its healthiest state, it can create byproducts even more toxic than the alcohol itself. The presence and subsequent damage of these byproducts is more pronounced in people with liver disease, so drinking with hepatitis is extremely dangerous even before you decide to get behind the wheel.

Chronic drinking habits that lead to liver disease do affect the way the liver metabolizes matter. According to the National Institute of Health, alcoholism may increase the rate at which oxygen is metabolized, and this may, in turn release alcohol to the blood faster, in higher quantities or even in a purer, un-metabolized form. Though intuitively, these factors would affect a BAC breathalyzer test without necessarily having a distinct effect on actual intoxication, there is no scientific or medical proof that liver disease directly increases the appearance of alcohol on a breathalyzer test.

Best practices
If you're driving your car and know that you will be drinking, it's best to play it safe and designate a driver. The only way to ensure that you will not be arrested for drinking and driving is by not drinking and driving. Perhaps even more importantly, you should not drink if you have a serious liver disease like hepatitis C. If you're diagnosed with any chronic illness, be sure to consult your doctor extensively to establish what you can and cannot do while living with the disease.

Drinking can present a serious threat to your health. In the past, studies have shown that as much as 44 percent of fatalities in North America were alcohol related. Always drink carefully and responsibly.


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