A recent study found that students who engage in “pregaming” are more likely to experience negative consequences associated with drinking than those who do not drink before going out, largely because students who pregame drink more alcohol than those who do not engage in such activities.
The term “pregaming,” also called pre-loading or pre-drinking, describes the act of drinking alcohol before going out for the night. Addiction experts believe that somewhere between 65 and 75 percent of college-age people engage in pregaming.
The study, which surveyed 250 students over five weeks, found that students who drank before going out consumed an average of seven drinks per night, while students who solely drank at a bar, club or party consumed only four.
Students who pregamed were more likely to experience blackouts and engage in unprotected sex or unplanned drug use. They were also more likely to obtain injuries.
Steven Sussman, a professor of preventive medicine and pyschology, said the study’s findings were not surprising because of the effects of alcohol.
“Neocortical inhibition of limbic function is lessened, which could lead to relatively impulsive behavior,“ Sussman said.
Students who engaged in pre-gaming had a 24 percent chance of a night ending with negative consequences, while those who did not pre-game but drank while out had only an 18 percent chance of mishaps.
Jared Brow, a freshman studying international relations and global business, said pre-gaming is part of USC’s culture, but that he is not particularly concerned by it.
“While pre-gaming does occur, it’s definitely not unique to our school,” Brow said. “If you want to pre-game, you can find people to do that with … [but] people aren’t pressed into doing it.”
Other students, such as Maya Cave, a sophomore studying comparative literature and French, said pre-gaming is an important aspect of USC’s party scene.
“Pre-gaming is big because people use it as a way to feel more comfortable in new or awkward social situations,” Cave said.
Pre-gaming has only recently begun to be studied by scientists, so its effects are still largely unknown.
Sussman noted the levels of consumption reported are alarming.
“Seven drinks over the evening is like drinking over half a pint of vodka, over a bottle of wine, [or] more than a six-pack of beer,” he said.
Such drastic consumption is also indicative of larger problems.
“Preloading, particularly if hidden from others, is a sign of a pending drinking problem,” Sussman said.
He also noted that four drinks is still over the Department of Health and Human Service’s recommended intake, which allows two drinks per day for men and one for women as a safe limit.
Despite its risks, many students choose to pre-game and likely will continue to pre-game. The study cited motivations including saving money, making contact with potential hook-ups, socializing and getting in the mood to party.
Sussman said that college-age drinking tends to be tolerated as “a right of passage to adulthood,” promoted by movies like Animal House and The Hangover, though he was wary of this acceptance.
“Even four drinks … can be consequential,” he said. “Seven drinks definitely is dangerous.”