Drunken Behavior Could Actually be Diabetic's Hypoglycemia

Published 07/04 2007 03:20PM

Updated 07/04 2007 03:20PM

A passenger was removed from an Amtrak train recently, after he allegedly became unruly. The 65-year-old man was found four days later, dazed and disoriented. The family of Roosevelt Sims claims he had experienced diabetic shock on the train, and that's why he appeared to be intoxicated. 

In this week's 'Dealing with Diabetes' report, find out some facts about the condition called hypoglycemia.

As a former police officer, Las Vegas resident Bob Maxwell recalls the first time he encountered someone having a diabetic reaction. The person appeared to be intoxicated.

"She was on the side of the road, pulled over, and fortunately her car was off. My partner and I pulled up and her face was flushed, she couldn't talk. She just had that disoriented look on her face. And we finally got it out of her -- she said one word and that was diabetes," said Maxwell.

Las Vegas endocrinologist, Fred Toffel says hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar levels drop below a certain point for a sustained period of time. It can happen suddenly or in phases.  

"And part of those phases that people go through is confusion. And one can basically be acting drunk or appearing drunk to the lay public if one does not know that they in fact have diabetes and in fact, having a low blood sugar," said Toffel.

"We were right by a gas station," said Maxwell. "My partner ran in and got some orange juice, gave that to her slowly. And by the time EMS got there, her faculties started coming back. She could talk."

Symptoms of hypoglycemia are similar to someone who's been drinking. These may include: slurred speech, staggering, drowsiness, confusion, and ironically, the condition can also produce the smell of alcohol. At this point, a medical-alert bracelet would come in handy.   

Usually, hypoglycemia is mild and easily treated by eating or drinking something with carbohydrate. But left untreated, it can be fatal.

There are a number of other situations, besides diabetes, that can cause hypoglycemia, for example, drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.

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