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Diabetes

Prednisone and blood sugar levels/bac

10/24/2006

Question:

I`ve read recently that taking prednisone can affect blood sugar levels ... I`ve been taking prednisone for 8 months, and am currently at 7mg a day. I met some friends a couple of weeks ago and had 4 glasses of wine over 3 hrs, was pulled over and had a blood alcohol level of .18 - which I could not believe (female, 150lbs). could the fact that predisone raises blood sugar levels also affect the breathalyzer reading to be a false high? could being pre-diabetic cause blood alcohol levels to be higher than normal?

Answer:

I am not aware of any way that elevated blood sugar could alter the results of a breathalyzer test.  My initial thought about your question was that I was also not aware of any interaction by which prednisone would cause a slowing of alcohol metabolism and a raised blood alcohol level.  i did a a quick literature search and in fact found one scientific paper* from Finland which says quite the opposite, namely that either a single dose of prednisone or multiple doses of prednisone can cause an increase in alcohol metabolism.  If that study applies to you, that would mean that if there were any interaction, the prednisone may have resulted in a lower alcohol level than there would otherwise have been.  Different people have different metabolic rates for alcohol and that translates into wide variations in the ability to "handle your liquor"... or beer or wine.  Some people I know would be drunk on 4 glasses of wine and others could be little affected.

There is more of a problem with people being pulled over for inappropriate driving behavior and being found to have a LOW blood sugar when the officer thought they may be drunk.

It sounds like you'll have a hard time attributing what happened to either blood sugar or prednisone.

 

*Korri UM. The effect of glucocorticoids, beta-2-adrenoceptor agonists, theophylline and propranolol on the rate of ethanol elimination and blood acetate concentration in humans.
Alcohol & Alcoholism 1990;25(5):519-22.

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Response by:

Robert M Cohen, MD Robert M Cohen, MD
Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati