Alaska Residents Arrested for DUIs Have Excessively High Blood Alcohol Levels

December 31, 2013

Blood-alcohol levels of people arrested for drinking and driving are excessively high, even though the drivers may not know they are intoxicated, Anchorage police said.

For example, 10 out of 13 arrests during a recent weekend involved blood-alcohol levels at least two times the legal limit of .08, KTVA reported. Police say one driver had more than three times the legal limit.

Police say many drunk drivers can talk, walk and appear normal.

Police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro has been tracking the numbers this year. She’s found no typical DUI offender.

“It’s all age groups,” she said. “It’s all times of the week. We’ve arrested a driver for being three times over the legal limit at noon on Saturday.”

Those who work in substance abuse treatment programs believe the arrest numbers reflect the seriousness of alcohol addiction in Alaska.

“The DUI is usually just the tip of the iceberg,” said Bill Finley, who has worked with street drunks in California and those in recovery in Anchorage. “If somebody gets to the point where they’ve got two or three times the legal limit of alcohol, they’ve got an issue.”

Rosalie Nadeau, who heads Anchorage’s Akeela treatment program, says extremely high blood-alcohol numbers are a symptom of a bigger problem.

“It tells me that a lot of heavy drinkers never get stopped,” she said. “It also tells me that we have people, who are so acclimated to alcohol, they don’t know they’re alcoholics – like the frog in the pot of water on the stove that doesn’t know it’s in trouble until the water is boiling.”

Another problem, according to Nadeau, is Alaska’s tolerance in the workplace of functional alcoholics. She believes this attitude of widespread denial contributes to the high rates of alcoholism in the state. Treatment counselors believe a DUI arrest is the start of saying something is wrong.

This year, five deaths in Anchorage have been attributed to drinking and driving.

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