‘Down it, down it, down it!’ The members of flat 5 chant as Sarah realises she has turned over the last king in the deck of cards spread across the table during a game of Ring of Fire. There is a drum roll followed by a cheer as she glugs down the dirty pint; a muddy cocktail made up of Fosters, vodka and rose, topped up with a Bacardi Breezer.
It is 8pm on a Wednesday evening and flat 5 are gathered around the kitchen table for their usual pre-drinking ritual before heading into town. The music is blaring and the drinks are flowing; the group of six have already managed to get through numerous bottles of lager, pints of vodka redbull and a bottle of wine between them, and there is still plenty more for them to chug down.
Sound familiar? According to a study by the Daily Mail, almost 60% of young people pre-drink regularly and a survey conducted on Huddersfield students found that 7 in 10 said that they always pre-drank before heading into town. The same survey found that the average pre-drinking session lasts between one and a half to two hours long where an average of 8 drinks are consumed during this amount of time and the most popular choice of drink is vodka.
Hollie Underwood, English student said: “Pre-drinks is one of my favourite parts of the night out. It’s a lot more sociable than being in a bar or club because you can actually have proper conversations rather than screaming over the music. It also means that we don’t spend as much when we’re out because we’re usually already drunk before we leave the house.”
Over the last few years there has been an increasing gap in what bars and nightclubs are charging for alcohol compared to what is available in the supermarkets. On average Huddersfield students typically spend between £5-£10 on their pre-drinks, Richard Bell, an Events Management student said: “I can get eight cans of lager for about £7 in Asda whereas I’d have to spend about £2 a pint in a bar or pub and that’s even with student deals. It makes sense to begin our night pre-drinking in our flats rather than in a pub or bar.”
But as we supposedly save money, others seem to be losing out. Ian Braund, manager of Five bar in Huddersfield said: “The fact that so many students pre-drink has a massive effect on trade in Huddersfield town centre, a lot of bars miss out on business as students head straight from their houses or flats to a club rather than drinking in bars. Supermarkets do such good deals on alcohol these days, sometimes even better than suppliers. Students that drink before going out definitely spend less in licensed premises as a result of this as they are often intoxicated before leaving the house, some even come out and only buy one drink or don’t drink at all. It is no wonder that a lot of bars close within their first year of opening.”
The pre-drinking phenomenon is undoubtedly changing the culture of towns and cities; pubs and bars don’t tend to get busier until late on in the evening and drunkenness is a lot more socially acceptable than it used to be. Mark Rodgers *, security at 80’s bar Mavericks said: “It is not uncommon to see people staggering along the streets from bar to bar or vomiting in the gutter. Some students are even refused entry if they appear too intoxicated.”
A study by the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University found that males were two and a half times more likely to get into a fight if they drank before going out and females who pre-drank were more than twice more likely to be sexually harassed than ‘sensible’ drinkers.
Siobhan McCann, Head of Communications and Campaigns at alcohol education charity Drinkaware said: “Drinking excessively in a short period of time means that you are increasing the risk of becoming a victim of crime or making poor sexual decisions”. The term ‘beer goggles’ springs to mind- 38% of Huddersfield students say they wake up regretting something they did the night before.
Despite this, 79% of Huddersfield students said that the number of units they consume on a night out is not a concern to them. We all know how easy it is to lose track of just exactly how much alcohol is consumed during a pre-drinking session, partly because self-pouring often results in extremely large measurements.
Richard Bell said: “I’ve drunk that much during pre-drinks in the past that I’ve not even been in a fit state to leave the flat and had to be put to bed before 11pm.” The study by Liverpool John Moores reported that those who drank beforehand were four times more likely to consume over 20 units on a night out- which is equivalent to the maximum recommendation for women for a whole week.
Professor Paul Wallace, chief medical advisor to Drinkaware said: “It’s worth knowing what the unit guidelines are in relation to your favourite drinks as this makes it easier to keep track of how much you’ve had. The guidelines for women are 2-3 units a day, equivalent to a medium 175ml glass of 13% wine.”
But does pre-drinking actually end up saving us money? We like to think that we’re being cost effective and economical (86% of Huddersfield students believed that they saved money) but in actual fact we probably drink just as much while out as we would if we hadn’t pre-drank.
The Liverpool John Moores study shows that those who pre-drink are 75% more likely to drink more over the course of the night, which kind of defeats the object doesn’t it. Self-control is reduced and it suddenly becomes a fantastic idea to whip the plastic out and treat everyone to a round of Jaegers. The plan to buy less alcohol when out is sometimes forgotten or ignored until the morning, when your raging hangover kindly reminds you just how much you really consumed.
By the by, the pre-drinking ritual has overtaken the 3am kebab in terms of significance to our nightly endeavours, which almost made it laughable last year when the government threatened to instil a minimum price of 40p per alcohol unit. The Home Secretary believed that this would kerb ‘pre-loading’ (as she called it- clearly doesn’t have a clue what she’s talking about) at home before going out into town.
Even if the government had been successful in raising the cost of supermarket alcohol, it wouldn’t stop students buying bottles of Frosty Jacks or Tesco value vodka because it would still be a whole lot cheaper than paying bar prices to reach our desired level of intoxication. Adding a few extra pence per unit is not going to remove a culture engrained within our society.
The key is damage limitation. It’s down to the individual to make sure pre-drinking doesn’t go too far, no one wants to be the pleb that doesn’t even make it to town or gets everyone thrown out for projectile vomiting over the bartender.