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Can one get drunk with Vodka vapour using a humidifier? As it was shown in a Simpsons episode.

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    Is there anyone actually claiming that this is true? The FAQ says "Skeptics is about applying skepticism — it's for researching the evidence behind the claims you hear or read.". There is a lot on entertainment TV which is not claimed to be accurate. – Martin Scharrer May 24 '11 at 14:32
  • Hi Martin, would seeing something depicted in a movie/series also be considered as a claim? I mean reading,hearing calims have nothing more or less than a claim that is been depicted in some other way. I could very well restate the question in folowing form "I heard from someone that it is possible to get ..., is it true", the main quest remains the same but only the form has changed. – jimjim May 24 '11 at 22:46
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Edit: Wow, I hate to do this after being accepted, but I need to change my answer! Vartec made the fantastic point that I was considering one had to get the entire amount of alcohol in a shot into one's blood stream. He is correct that I completely goofed on the amounnt and should have focused on Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), not how much one usually has to ingest to get drunk. If we keep the rest constant below, assuming all alcohol inhaled is absorbed, we just need the point at which there are ~5mL of alcohol in the blood (assuming an average total blood volume of 5L).

With this adjustment, this method becomes incredibly more possible. Again, my apologies for the whiplash.


TL;DR: If one perfectly vaporized 750 mL of 80 proof liquor (40% alcohol), one could achieve a BAC of 0.1 after ~900 respirations (45-75min) in a small room assuming that no alcohol escapes.


Here goes...

  • Assume a room of 3m x 3m x 3m (27m3)
  • Nebulize a 750 mL bottle of vodka (assume immediate/complete/uniform dispersion)
  • At 40% alcohol, this means there are 300 mL of alcohol vapor in the air
  • A standard shot is 1.5 fluid ounces, or ~44 mL, and let's say that if one can breath in 2 shots (88 mL), inebriation will be experienced
  • We'll also assume that all alcohol breathed will be absorbed by the lungs
  • The volume of an average human breath size is 500 mL (SOURCE)
  • 1 mL = 0.001 L = 10-6 m3
  • "Drunk" is a blood alcohol content of 0.1 (0.1% of the blood is alcohol)
  • The average human blood volume is 5L; "drunk" is when the blood contains 5mL of alcohol

So, now we'll use the size of a breath, and concentration of alcohol in the air to determine the amount of vodka absorbed over time. We'll assume that the room is essentially sealed such that no alcohol vapor is removed.

I won't drag this out. I ran such breath iterations in an Excel formula like so:

Alc (mL)    Air (m^3)   Alc in Air (%)   Alc in breath (mL)  Air in breath (mL)
300.00      27.000      0.00111%         0.00556             499.99
299.99      27.000      0.00111%         0.00556             499.99
299.99      27.000      0.00111%         0.00556             499.99

It pretty much just keeps going like that (the volume of alcohol is so small that it barely changes anything through time). For the formulas:

  • Alc (mL): Alcohol in the air. Each cell subtracts the alcohol breathed from the previous volume that was present. The second value, for example, is subtracting the breathed amount of 0.00556 mL from the initial contents of 300 mL
  • Air (m^3): Just subtracts the current alcohol content from 27 m^3 total room volume
  • Alc in Air (%): divides the alcohol by air in room to get a percent content value
  • Alc in breath (mL): 500mL breath volume * current alcohol percent
  • Air in breath (mL): 500mL breath volume * (1 - current alcohol percent)

Since the amount of alcohol is fairly small, the change over time is also extremely small. Thus, we can estimate that each breath will bring in 0.00556mL of alcohol into the system. To achieve drunkenness, one would need to respirate 5mL / (0.00556mL / respiration) = ~900 times. This would take 45-75min based on 12-20 respirations per minute.

To decrease time, one could reduce the size of the room, or atomize more alcohol. The content will scale linearly, so using two bottles of vodka will take only half the time.

Final caveat: This has all been theoretical, and I'm not sure how efficient the lungs would be at absorbing alcohol. I can find sources that give a rate of 25% for oxygen extraction from air, so this would have to be figured in as well. If the rate were only 25% for alcohol, it would take 4x as long as above, or 3-5 hours. Using more bottles would reduce that proportionally. Typical rooms also aren't sealed, and thus alcohol is going to diffuse to the outside air and reduce the concentration. This rate will vary by the room, but may have a huge effect on how this works. Reducing the room volume or creating a tent of sorts will help this.


My conclusion? I originally found this nearly impossible due to my faulty assumption that one needed to breath the same amount as one needed to drink. Complete credit goes to vartec for this correction which, very surprisingly, swung the answer completely in the other direction. It now appears quite possible.

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    your conclusions are way wrong. You're assuming that absorption rate through lungs is same as through stomach, which is totally wrong. Average human has 5L of blood, BAC>.1 is considered totally drunk. BAC>.1 for average human would mean just 5mL alcohol in bloodstream. You'd only need 1mL in blood stream to be legally intoxicated. – vartec Jun 22 '11 at 9:33
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    In addition to what vartec said, you can get seriously intoxicated by using alcohol-based paint or varnish in a closed room. So why not from high-percentage vodka? – Konrad Rudolph Jun 22 '11 at 10:41
  • @vartec: I updated my answer -- thanks! What a mistake I made! It now appears quite possible to achieve drunkenness (with some caveats inserted for the theoretical assumptions made). It wasn't a huge adjustment, as the amount in the air and amount per respiration values all stayed the same -- it was just determining how much one needed to take in to get drunk that was awry. – Hendy Jun 22 '11 at 13:14
  • @Konrad: good point, though I really don't know about those scenarios. The alcohols are typically different, for one (ethyl vs. methyl/wood grain), I don't know what percentage of them is alcohol, etc. Thinners are ridiculously more flammable than 80 proof spirits, so that may indicate that they have a higher concentration to begin with. Using high concentration liquors would scale this linearly; using 160 proof would half the time until drunkenness. – Hendy Jun 22 '11 at 13:17
  • Fair point, and thanks for the updated answer. – Konrad Rudolph Jun 22 '11 at 14:06
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Alcohol vaporizer

So far, 17 states have banned them, including California, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and several others are considering doing so, said Sherry Green, executive director of the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws. Tennessee, the home of Jack Daniels, already prohibits the vaporizers. “When you inhale alcohol right into the lung tissue, that gets drawn right into the blood supply immediately, so it’s a very rapid onset of the intoxicating effect, and so has obviously very high abuse potential,” said Robert Walker, an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky Center on Drug and Alcohol Research.

See also: Alcohol without liquid at Wikipedia

Alcohol is a liquid solvent, like chloroform or ethyl ether. If you get it into the vapor phase, there's nothing to prevent it from going in through the lungs.

Rather than nebulizing a quart of Jack in a small small room, the commercial units (see link for picture) work more like one of those bongs people smoke tobacco in. I don't have figures, but that set up delivers far higher concentrations of ethanol than calculated above.

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