False Positive BAC: What You Need to Know

There are all sorts of urban legends circulating about people who lost their jobs because of false positive drug and alcohol tests. Like the woman who happened to have a poppy seed muffin for breakfast on the day her job required that she submit to a random drug screening, which ended up causing a positive result for opioids in her system. But just because a story is an urban legend, doesn’t mean it’s not true. And when it comes to false positive BAC readings, this is very real, and very scary.

There are a number of medications available, both over the counter and prescription, that can cause a person to have a false positive BAC reading. In certain cases, this is because of the alcohol contained in the medication itself, and in certain instances it has to do with the chemicals that are tested for by the BAC.

For people with cold sores, canker sores, toothache and other painful oral issues, be aware that Anbesol contains alcohol. The oral gel alone contains 10% benzocaine, 0.5% phenol, and an unbelievable 70% alcohol. And it isn’t the only one – a number of other cold sore medications contain alcohol, some as much as 90%.

Suffering from a cold or flu? Then be careful of what you use to treat your symptoms, as certain “sniffing, sneezing, coughing, aching” medications can cause you to get a much higher BAC if you happen to be pulled over and tested. Vicks Formula 44 contains 10% alcohol, and Formula 44D contains 20% alcohol.

And they aren’t the only ones. NyQuil, which many people use to help them sleep and to overcome the more unpleasant symptoms of colds and flu, contains 25% alcohol. From a BAC standpoint, this is major. In addition, even certain cough drops contain alcohol. And while they don’t contain nearly as much as the liquid cough and colds meds, they can increase your BAC reading and in some cases, tip you over the edge.

For asthma patients, there is also significant risk. Albuterol, which is a prescription medication used in inhalers, contains methyl groups. Methyl groups, which are in essence three hydrogen atoms bonded to a carbon atom, are present in alcohol. BAC instruments test for methyl groups in a person’s breath, indicating the presence of alcohol in the body. But if you are an asthmatic who uses albuterol, the BAC test will register the methyl groups in your medication and give you a false positive result.

This is not a complete list by any means. There are considerably more medications on the market today that contain alcohol and may affect your BAC reading if you are tested. This is not to say that you shouldn’t use medication if you need it, but rather, a simple caution that you need to be aware of the contents of your medications.

If you have been pulled over by the police and accused of drunk driving but are certain that your BAC result was affected by your medications, contact us immediately. We can help you.

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