Dec 8 2020

Will Christmas liqueur chocolates put me over the drink driving limit?

With Christmas nearly upon us the UK’s consumption of tiny boozy chocolates is about to skyrocket.  One question I have been asked a few times over the years by friends and family is whether it is possible to eat so many liquor chocolates that you exceed the drink driving limit?

Let’s find out.

In England and Wales, the drink driving limit is 35 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of breath.  The number of drinks it takes to reach the drink driving limit depends on how strong the drink it, how heavy you are, how tall you are and whether you are a man or a woman.

In 1999, two researches named Hylen and Jones ran a small experiment with three participants who had not consumed alcohol prior to the experiment.  The aim of the experiment was to test whether the alcohol from two liquor chocolates could affect a breath test like those used by the police.  The results showed categorically that yes liquor chocolates do have a massive impact… but only for a very short amount of time.

One minute after eating the chocolates all three volunteers produced extremely high readings – the highest being 87 mgs per 100 ml of breath or nearly two and a half times to the drink driving limit!  At two and a half minutes the highest reading had fallen to 24 mg per 100 ml, which is below the drink driving limit.  By the time of the last test six minutes after eating the two chocolates the highest reading produced was just 5 mg per 100 ml. Incidentally, this is exactly why the police must leave at least a 20 minute gap between you drinking any alcohol and being breath tested – the machines are supposed to detect mouth alcohol left over from a recent alcoholic drink but are clearly not always reliable.

In 1984 a researcher called Pribilla decided to give five lucky volunteers an early Christmas present – each volunteer was given one hour to eat as many brandy chocolates as they could shovel down their gullets, Pribilla administered a breath test 30 minutes after the last chocolate was eaten and then proceeded to take blood samples every 30 minutes for two hours.

Pribilla failed to detect any alcohol in 3 of the volunteers and in the other two found just a trace level of alcohol.

So, can liquor chocolates affect a breath test at the police station?  In the very short term, yes they can have a massive effect.  In the middle to long term no they will have no impact whatsoever… except that if you eat too much chocolate you’ll feel sick, as all five of Pribilla’s volunteers did.