"If they found elevated alcohol levels in her blood, she must have ingested it," said Dr. Pierre Fayad, chairman of the University of Nebraska Medical Center Department of Neurological Sciences. "Unfortunately, alcoholism and drug addiction are often missed or underestimated by family members."
Alcoholism, which affects 9.6 million people in the United States, disproportionately affects men more than women -- 6.9 million men compared with 2.5 million women, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism -- but women are uniquely susceptible to the effects of alcohol.
With less water in their bodies, women take longer than men to break down the toxic compounds in alcohol, with the result that the same amount of alcohol exposes a woman to more alcohol for longer periods of time than for a man.
Thursday, Barbara suggested that Schuler may have ingested alcohol in an attempt to raise a low blood sugar level, a theory experts said demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of both diabetes and stroke.
"Blaming the accident on a stroke preceding it is possible, like anything else, but not plausible," Fayad said. "Having high or low blood sugar acutely does not cause a stroke. It is the long term effect of diabetes that increases the risk of stroke."
Low blood sugar can mimic stroke. The brain is reliant on a consistent supply of sugar and oxygen from the blood, without which it may begin to lose function.
But a diabetic person's blood sugar level is higher than normal because it is not well regulated by insulin. Left untreated, as Diane Schuler's type 2 diabetes condition was, blood sugar will remain high.
Without proper medical controls, a diabetic person's blood sugar can increase enough to put the body in a crisis situation. Extra sugar seeps into the urine, drawing water along with it. The body becomes dehydrated and blood potassium levels climb, causing the brain and other vital organs to suffer.
Similarly, alcohol is a diuretic that draws water out of the body, causing dehydration, and can compound the effects of elevated blood sugar.
Fayed pointed out that infections, like the abscess in Schuler's mouth that the family described earlier in the week, can also elevate the blood sugar and precipitate a crisis situation.
"There is no way that having a stroke or the diabetes prompted her to drink. There is no medical explanation that would explain that assertion," said Dr. Aman Patel, director of the Neurosurgery Residency Program at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
ABC News' Radha Chitale, Lemita Steel, Katie Escherich and Michael S. James contributed to this report.