Taking Advil, Tylenol, or Ibuprofen? You Could be Arrested for DUI

While everyone is quite aware of the effects of taking alcohol during or just before driving on your health and the potential criminal charges against the offense, not many know that some common prescription drugs could also produce false breathalyzer test readings. Advil, Tylenol, and Ibuprofen are three such everyday medications that could erroneously earn you an arrest for driving under influence. 

Once a police officer suspects you of being impaired, they may request a breathalyzer test before you get arrested for DUI. The essence of the test is to check your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level against the acceptable limit of 0.08%. 

Any readings above the permitted limit could warrant an arrest for driving under the influence. However, even if you hadn’t taken alcohol, the BAC test results might be positive – especially if you took some ‘regular’ prescription medication like Ibuprofen or Advil.

Have you been arrested for DUI due to a false positive BAC result from a medication you took? This article explores medications that can lead to a false breathalyzer test result and common myths in drug and alcohol DUI screening. Read to the end!

Medications That Can Lead to False Breathalyzer Test Results 

Suppose you agree to take a breathalyzer test, the officer will request that you blow into a small hand-held equipment that reads your BAC level. Various factors could lead to inaccurate test results, such as poor machine calibration or maladministration by police officers. 

Also, your medications and other substances you ingest could also result in a false positive result.

Pain Relievers 

The most popular drugs that could lead to a DUI arrest are opiates like morphine and codeine because they cause sleepiness, dizziness, and disorientation. However, several over the counter medications like Ibuprofen, Advil, and Tylenol may cause you to relax and adversely affect your coordination and reaction times after relieving your pain.

How Advil, Tylenol, and Ibuprofen Affect Your Test Results

Advil, Tylenol, and Ibuprofen are the most common pain relievers on the market. Ibuprofen is the name of a pain relief medicine classified as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Aspirin and Naproxen (Aleve) are other NSAID pain relievers.

Advil is a brand of Ibuprofen (Motrin is another brand under which you’d find Ibuprofen). Meanwhile, the active ingredient in Tylenol is acetaminophen. Ibuprofen drugs and Tylenol have similar effects, though with two different active ingredients. While Advil drugs are harder on the stomachs and kidneys, Tylenol is harder on your liver.

ALL NSAIDs can lead to false positive breathalyzer test results for marijuana, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates. 12000 mg of Ibuprofen or more may reportedly interfere with the enzymes involved in the testing method.

That said, pain relievers like Advil and Tylenol could affect your mental coordination, according to medical science. When you’re in pain, you’re expending much energy working to eliminate it. But when the pain is down, your adrenalin levels also go down, and you’d feel exhausted. 

Medical science says you’d usually feel so much relief that your coordination and judgment get off the hook. You might want to have someone else drive the vehicle, or you use public transport a day or so after getting relief from intense pain to avoid an advil DUI charge. 

Other medications besides Tylenol and Advil could lead to a DUI arrest

Other Medications that Could Lead to False Positive Drug Tests and Warrant an Arrest for DUI

Besides pain relief drugs like Ibuprofen, Advil, and Tylenol, the following substances can either lead to false breathalyzer test results or erroneous test results and mislead a police officer into thinking you recently took drugs or alcohol and possibly withdraw your driving privileges.

Asthma Drugs

Asthma medications are another set of drugs that could cause an officer to book you on DUI grounds. These medications come in many brands like Albuterol, salmeterol, and budesonide. Any of these related brand names can affect the breathalyzer test result. Once these drugs enter the body, they remain in the airways longer than most other medicines.

Cold Medicines

It might be a surprise but it’s true. Every day, over-the- counter medications for cold and flu treatment, such as Vicks products, contain alcohol and could send you beyond the 0.8% limit acceptable under the law. Some allergy medication and drugs for flu and cold contain pseudoephedrine, which sometimes leads to false positive test results.

Breath Sprays and Mouthwashes

Some breath sprays and mouthwashes have high alcohol content. Using these breath sprays or mouthwashes before taking a breathalyzer test could affect the reading and lead to a false positive result. 

Oral Gels

Oral gels often help in treating pain caused by canker sores and toothaches. However, one of the ingredients used in oral gels is Anbesol, a local anesthetic. Alcohol consumption tests could erroneously read positive if you’ve taken an oral gel recently before hitting the road in a vehicle.

Some Medical Conditions 

Medical conditions can also lead to a false positive test reading. If you’ve recently been to the dentist, the dentist’s work may predispose you to read above the 0.08% BAC level in a breathalyzer test. 

Diabetes patients also stand the risk of getting false breathalyzer test results. Additionally, acid reflux might cause a DUI arrest, even though they didn’t recently take alcohol or some illegal drugs.

Debunking Myths in Drugs and Alcohol DUI Screening

Over the years, there have been substance testing myths that people have depended on to help them pass the breathalyzer test when pulled over for DUI. Some of these unfounded myths are:

Chewing Gum or Mint Slightly Reduces BAC Readings

While the smell of mint or gum may disguise the smell of alcohol in your mouth, it won’t change the BAC reading when you blow into the breathalyzer. That’s because alcohol is odorless – what people smell are the chemicals related to alcohol.

Hyperventilating Before Blowing Into a Breathalyzer Reduces BAC Levels 

This myth comes from some studies which showed that hyperventilating for 20 seconds before taking a breathalyzer test can reduce your BAC by about 10%. However, an officer would most likely request that you breathe normally and retake the test. 

Moreover, hyperventilating may indicate a sign of panic and become evidence against you in court that you’re aware of your intoxication. 

Novocaine Can Cause a False Positive Drug Test Result for Cocaine 

This statement isn’t valid as the test detects a chemical in cocaine absent in novocaine. Though novocaine and cocaine end with ‘caine,’ they don’t have the same chemical content.

Holding Your Breath before Blowing into a Breathalyzer Can Reduce Test Readings

The officer would usually ask you to take a deep breath and blow hard into the test equipment when reading your BAC. Consequently, the effects of holding your breath before blowing into a breathalyzer on your test readings are minimal. 

Here’s a myth-buster: Holding your breath before blowing into a breathalyzer can raise BAC test readings by 20%.

Passively Inhaling Marijuana Smoke Could Lead to a False Positive Drug Test 

Here’s also another invalid reason for a false positive drug test. The amount of marijuana compounds that enter the human system when someone inhales marijuana smoke is below the cut-off level that DUI tests detect.

A Breathalyzer Provides Accurate BAC Measurements

Breathalyzers often give inaccurate readings. There are many problems with the routine BAC testing procedure. First, breathalyzers read your blood, assuming you have the same amount of alcohol in 2.1 liters of breath in your lungs as you have in one centiliter of blood. 

Meanwhile, our lung capacities vary from person to person, and the alcohol content in someone’s breath usually corresponds to a low or high lung capacity. 

Additionally, wrong calibrations could impair the breathalyzer results. Other factors that affect breathalyzer test readings by a police representative include fluctuating temperatures and your natural body hormone.

Contact a DUI attorney to help you achieve the most favorable outcome in the face of an arrest


Getting arrested for DUI is a common occurrence with dire consequences and your innocence or lack of it might be dependent on several factors, including your medications. Suppose you took over the counter medications like Advil, Tylenol, and other medications to relieve pain before dashing out of the house and got pulled over, you might fail the drug or alcohol test. 

Additionally, taking other medications like cold prescription medications could get you wrongly convicted for DUI. Hopefully, you’ve unlearned a myth or two about drugs or alcohol testing and are better armed to protect yourself when you’re arrested due to a false BAC test result caused by the medication you took. 

If you’re at risk of a DUI conviction, it’d help if you spoke with our DUI defense attorney immediately. Our team of skilled attorneys has represented multiple DUI cases in court and has the experience, competence, and grit to handle such cases. 

We know what to do regarding the facts of your peculiar incidence towards acquiring a complete charge dismissal or evidence suppression. Contact us today to request a free consultation so we can discuss your case.