To follow me on this, you will need to accept two fairly unbelievable things:
- There are people in Denmark who spread around the urban myth that if you soak your feet in booze, you will get drunk.
- There are scientists in Denmark who a few years back had so much free time that they conducted a scientific study to determine this myth’s validity, then wrote up their findings and published them.
The world is full of urban myths. (Once upon a time, when we were less urban, we called them old wives’ tales. But now we call them urban myths, because most folks live in cities, and punk kids have outstripped old wives in the too much time on their hands and wild speculation departments.) Often, urban myths spread from their nation of origin to other cities around the world, with hipsters as the primary vector, I believe. The pedal dipsomania myth seems to have remained isolated in Denmark.
This isolation could be a subject of some study as well. I suspect a possible result would be a recommendation to skew national IQ tables to decrease all recorded IQs of Danes by ten.
Heck, while we’re at it, let’s dock everybody from Norway, Sweden, and Finland by five, just for being fellow Scandinavians.
Sorry he did that drive-by to friends, Tiare, but this is about Science™.
Anyway, I think I’m far enough into this post that I won’t spoil things by revealing that they found that no, you cannot get drunk through your feet.
So how did Doctors Hansen, Færch, and Kristensen determine this breakthrough discovery? First, they experimented on themselves, in the grand, selfless humanitarian tradition of Jonas Salk. Our scientific heroes/guinea pigs performed their test by sitting around for three hours with their bare feet soaking in a tub of Slovakian vodka. The primary metric was BAC:
…Blood samples were taken to the laboratory for immediate analysis by the study nurse (and) measured as soon as possible in case of rapid and potentially fatal increases….
Selfless risk-takers in the name of science they may have been, but I’m glad they made sure to be as safe as possible. (Though to be fair, they appear to have been pretty cavalier about the far greater possibility of laughter-induced herniation in the nurse when he or she was told of the protocol for this experiment.)
But wait, this was a rigorous study! A single measurement of drunkenness was insufficient for our intrepid trio. Perhaps this foot-ingested intoxication is undetectable in the bloodstream.
Hey, that makes as much sense as claiming that “toe chugging” will get you drunk in the first place!
The additional metrics were a mix of factual observation and self-evaluation, to wit: Self-confidence, the urge to talk, and spontaneous hugs. The results are represented in the following chart:
Alas, in these measures as well, the mysterious foot-ingested, bloodstream-avoiding intoxicating effects were essentially invisible.
The discussion section of the paper outlines some conclusions of various degrees of usefulness, ranging from “Driving or leading a vessel with boots full of vodka seems to be safe”, to “Importantly, students experimenting with transcutaneous alcohol absorption should move on to more relevant activities.”
When you translate that last one from Faculty to English, you get “Go out to a bar, have a drink, and meet some people. You will never get laid sitting around a lab with your bare feet soaking in booze. And if your wise-ass roommate has filled your shoes with Aquavit, don’t worry. It’s still safe to drive.”
My Faculty is a bit rusty, so I just copy and pasted that directly from Google Translate….
I do want to note that this study, while new to me, is Old™. I got it from Seriously Science’s Flashback Friday. I’ll leave you with an expansion on the scary thought with which they finish their introduction. I’m not sure about the development-to-market time-frame in the infused spirits industry, but if anyone in the vodka biz reads this piece, we could be seeing this ad any damn day now….
(Seriously, in all honesty these scientists are geniuses. They richly deserved an igNobel Prize for this. They were clearly angling for one, and it is a crime that they lost out to the guys who studied why some patients literally explode during colonoscopies.