Drunk versus diabetes: How can you tell?
Dispatch calls your EMS unit to the side of a roadway, where police officers have detained a driver on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol intoxication. You find the female driver handcuffed in the back seat of a police cruiser. She is screaming profanities and hitting her head against the side window.
An officer tells you that she was weaving in and out of traffic at highway speed, and it took several minutes to pull her over. She was noncooperative and it took several officers to subdue her. She sustained a laceration to her head, which the officers want you to evaluate.
The woman continues to swear at you as you open the car door. You note that she is diaphoretic and breathing heavily. You can smell what appears to be the sour, boozy smell of alcohol, even though you are not close to her. You can see that the small laceration near the hairline on her right forehead has already stopped bleeding. Her speech is slurred and she appears to be in no mood to be evaluated. The police officers are ready to take her down to the station to be processed for driving under the influence.
Sound familiar? It should — this is a scene that is played out often in EMS systems. While it may seem initially that these incidents are not medical in nature, they really deserve close attention by the EMS personnel.
In this article we will focus on the challenges of evaluating a patient who is intoxicated versus a patient who is experiencing an acute diabetic emergency. There have been numerous instances where EMS providers have exposed themselves to serious liability secondary to Continue reading