Is It Possible To Get 'Drunk' Without Drinking Alcohol?

When you lift up your beverage of choice and clink glasses with friends, family, and strangers, what do you say? Cheers, Mabuhay, Proost, Salud, Sláinte — there are many different ways to communicate the basic human ritual and celebration of health and good wishes before taking a drink.

The evolution of alcohol and humanity actually predates humans (via Nature). Millions of years ago, our ancient primate ancestors began to develop the ability to digest alcohol. According to Live Science, a random genetic mutation may have enabled our ancestors to consume decaying, fermented fruit.

Fast forward to around 7000 B.C., and you would find the first alcoholic beverages for human consumption (via Penn Museum). Since then, humans have been obsessed with alcohol, for better or worse. While excessive consumption of alcohol has associated health risks, there may be health benefits if you have a drink or two a day. According to the Mayo Clinic, moderate alcohol consumption might reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and ischemic stroke.

But did you know that it is possible to get drunk without drinking any alcohol? Here's everything you need to know about a very rare medical condition that redefines the term "homemade brew." 

Auto brewery syndrome: symptoms, causes, and a true story

If you feel like you are drunk but have not drank any alcohol, you may have auto brewery syndrome (via Healthline). Auto brewery syndrome — also referred to as gut fermentation syndrome — is an involuntary production of alcohol within the gut. Essentially, what happens is the body converts foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates into ethanol. 

There's a laundry list of side effects that can accompany auto brewery syndrome. You might burp, get a headache, or lose motor skills and focus. You may also feel dizzy, tired, have trouble speaking, or generally in a fog.

According to MedicalNewsToday, persistent use of antibiotics may be one cause. Further, those with conditions like Crohn's disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or obesity may be at higher risk of developing auto brewery syndrome.

According to Healthline, people with auto brewery syndrome may become extremely drunk after only a few drinks. However, this does not mean that everyone with low alcohol tolerance has auto brewery syndrome. In fact, a 2021 study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology found that fewer than 100 cases have been reported worldwide. However, auto brewery syndrome is a potentially underdiagnosed medical condition (via MedicalNewsToday).

In a true story, one Ohio man told The Washington Post that auto brewery syndrome makes him feel drunk and then hungover. In a series of unfortunate events, he was found guilty of DUI because of the condition.