After some googling, I found a Yahoo Answers posting that claims:

Smelling alcoholic beverages will not get you drunk quickly but it will get you going. Alcohol evaporates at a lower temp that water. So if you are holding, for instance, a brandy or other beverage in a class with no ice, alcohol fumes will out - especially if you are warming it with your palms. Breathing the fumes, the alcohol will enter you lungs and, from there, the blood stream along with oxygen.

Since there are no references or any other proof that the statment is more than a personal guessing, I'm looking for a better/more profound answer.

My question therefore is:

Can alcohol enter my blood stream solely by smelling alcoholic drinks?

If yes, which beverages (alcohol level %) would I have to breath and for how long to get a significant amount of blood alcohol level?

  • 3
    There's a Wikipedia article: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_inhalation – Nate Eldredge Jan 18 '15 at 2:32
  • 1
    We've seen a couple of answers talking about deliberately vaporising or nebulising alcohol, but that is quite different to the (unnotable?) claim that merely holding alcoholic beverages and (accidentally?) inhaling alcohol fumes will have any effect. – Oddthinking Jan 19 '15 at 16:56
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Even with a small amount of looking it seems that this is true, and very effective at getting you drunk, as the alcohol vapor gets directly into the bloodstream from the lungs, when done improperly it can lead very easily to alcohol poisoning. Although when done correctly it is can be a useful treatment for Pulmonary edema. Links here and here.

This is all true as long as the alcohol is being vaporised, the question is asking about simply smelling alcohol will get you drunk or not. This will not get you drunk as you'd be relying on the alcohol to evaporate into the air naturally and inhale that. This is explained here by a wine expert who explains that it would take days if not weeks for enough alcohol to evaporate to change the alcohol content of a wine. Which demonstrates that if you were to try and get drunk simply through inhaling the evaporated alcohol it would likely take a long time to get enough alcohol. This may not be as true for spirits above 150 proof(75% alcohol content) but even then drinking it would be more effective. Even with the stronger spirits you'd still have to get around the fact that most of the alcohol vapors will be dispersed into the air as opposed to when actually vaporising it where they are collected and inhaled.
Also for those curious how long it takes for alcohol to evaporate into the air you can check out this link on the chemistry stack exchange.

  • 1
    Technically the second paragraph of the answer would be better if its subject were brandy (or other spirit) rather than wine: the OP says "brandy" but the reference you cited says, "Because wine doesn’t have much alcohol in it by volume—typically from about 12 to 16 percent". – ChrisW Jan 20 '15 at 0:54
  • 1
    Yeah I was just extrapolating from there, but even with brandy or sufficiently strong rum. You would still have to spread it out over a larger air to get it to evaporate faster, then inhale all those vapors which would be nearly impossible because they'd be spread out over a larger area. Maybe if it was the first time you ever drank you might get a buzz, from the natural vapors. – Ian Gallant Jan 20 '15 at 12:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .