Metabolic Ketosis & False Positives with Ignition Interlock System

This post is going to answer several questions pertaining to the interaction between metabolic ketosis and participation in the Maryland Ignition Interlock program.  Before we get into the interaction between these two seemingly disconnected things, it would be useful to have a working understanding of both of the them.  We will start with a very brief discussion of metabolic ketosis, followed by a very brief description of the Ignition Interlock program, before finally moving on to how being in a state of ketosis can effect an individuals ability to successfully participate in the Ignition Interlock program.

What is ketosis?   Google defines it as: “a metabolic state characterized by raised levels of ketone bodies in the body tissues, which is typically pathological in conditions such as diabetes, or may be the consequence of a diet that is very low in carbohydrates.”  For purposes of this discussion we will be ignoring the pathological variation of the condition and concentrating on the dietary induced variety of ketosis.

Metabolic ketosis is a metabolic state that comes about as a result of either fasting or an extremely high-fat low-carbohydrate diet.  In both instances the body no longer uses glucose as its primary fuel, but rather runs on ketone bodies synthesized from fats in the liver.  Many people use this metabolic state to facilitate weight loss or address neurological conditions.  Others attempt to maintain a state of metabolic ketosis for the cognitive, emotional, or energetic benefits associated with this metabolic state.

When the body is in ketosis, it spontaneously produces acetone.  In some circumstances acetone can be reduced in the body to isopropanol by a hapetic alcohol dehydrogenase.  This metabolic isopropanol can create significant problems for individuals who are required to participate in the Maryland Ignition Interlock program.

 The Ignition Interlock program requires that its participants install and maintain a certified Ignition Interlock device in any vehicle that they operate while they are participating in the program.  The participant is required to blow into the Interlock whenever they attempt to start their vehicle and randomly while they are driving.  If an Interlock detects the presence of alcohol, it stops the vehicle from being started or driven.

 The Ignition Interlock detects breath alcohol through a process called electrochemical oxidation.  This is a chemical reaction to the one that powers a simple household battery.  A battery has an acidic portion and a basic portion.  The electrochemical oxidation that occurs when these compartments interact generates a current which can be used to power electronic devices.  An Ignition Interlock uses the current produced by the oxidation of alcohol to extrapolate the participants Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).

The problem for an individual on a ketogenic diet occurs when their Ignition Interlock device incorrectly interprets the presence of isopropanol, a metabolic byproduct, for the presence of ethanol, the type of alcohol that people drink.  The two types of alcohol are indistinguishable from the standpoint of the current generated by electrochemical oxidation.  In other words, the Interlock can’t tell the difference between the isopropanol that your body spontaneously produces when in ketosis from the ethanol that you drink to get drunk.  This has resulted in numerous false positive results for participants in the Ignition Interlock program.

If you find yourself in this situation, having an experienced, aggressive attorney on your side can be extremely helpful.  A lawyer can explain your situation to both the Motor Vehicle Administration or to an Administrative Law Judge at the Office of Administrative Hearings.  Having a lawyer who understands this subject can be the difference between continued participation in the Ignition Interlock program or Revocation of your driving privilige.