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Research Christmas 2010: Research

Testing the validity of the Danish urban myth that alcohol can be absorbed through feet: open labelled self experimental study

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 15 December 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6812
  1. Christian Stevns Hansen, doctor,
  2. Louise Holmsgaard Færch, doctor,
  3. Peter Lommer Kristensen, doctor and research fellow
  1. 1Endocrinology Section, Department of Cardiology and Endocrinology, Hillerød Hospital, Dyrehavevej 29, DK-3400 Hillerød, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to: P L Kristensen pelk{at}
  • Accepted 22 November 2010


Objective To determine the validity of the Danish urban myth that it is possible to get drunk by submerging feet in alcohol.

Design Open labelled, self experimental study, with no control group.

Setting Office of a Danish hospital.

Participants Three adults, median age 32 (range 31-35), free of chronic skin and liver disease and non-dependent on alcohol and psychoactive drugs.

Main outcome measures The primary end point was the concentration of plasma ethanol (detection limit 2.2 mmol/L (10 mg/100 mL)), measured every 30 minutes for three hours while feet were submerged in a washing-up bowl containing the contents of three 700 mL bottles of vodka. The secondary outcome was self assessment of intoxication related symptoms (self confidence, urge to speak, and number of spontaneous hugs), scored on a scale of 0 to 10.

Results Plasma ethanol concentrations were below the detection limit of 2.2 mmol/L (10 mg/100 mL) throughout the experiment. No significant changes were observed in the intoxication related symptoms, although self confidence and urge to speak increased slightly at the start of the study, probably due to the setup.

Conclusion Our results suggest that feet are impenetrable to the alcohol component of vodka. We therefore conclude that the Danish urban myth of being able to get drunk by submerging feet in alcoholic beverages is just that; a myth. The implications of the study are many though.


  • Contributors: CSH, LHF, and PLK designed and carried out the trial. All authors analysed the data, wrote the manuscript, and approved the final version. They are guarantors.

  • Funding: The measurement of ethanol concentrations was funded by the Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Hillerød Hospital.

  • Competing interests: All authors have completed the Unified Competing Interest form at (available on request from the corresponding author) and declare: no support from any company for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any companies that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous 3 years; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.

  • Ethical approval: Approval of the study at the local ethics committee was not attempted as this was self experimentation; all the participants were also authors.

  • Data sharing: No additional data available.

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