Binge Drinking: The Meanings, Motivations and Management of Contemporary Alcohol Consumption

Fiona Measham, Cartmel College, Lancaster University

Much is assumed about the 'epidemic' of 'binge drinking' or heavy sessional consumption in the UK and North America with considerable public anxiety and media coverage of young people's alcohol consumption and alcohol-related disorder but with little empirical research to support the speculation. The aims of this study are to collect data in situ on contemporary levels of young adult sessional consumption in licensed leisure locations; to explore the motivations for and meanings behind the apparent desire for altered states of intoxication; and to consider the theoretical and policy implications of the observed consumption. How young people understand and negotiate the complexities of their desired state of intoxication, how they protect themselves when pleasure may result in harm, and the nature of the boundaries of the desired and achieved states of intoxication will be explored. Drawing on research in the fields of alcohol and drug studies, cultural criminology, cultural geography, and cultural studies, the findings will be considered in relation to the bounding of consumption and the influence of social inclusion and exclusion, gender, sexuality, social and sexual context.

The study consists of six evenings' fieldwork in three city centre night spots, each with a high density of licensed leisure venues with well populated pedestrianised areas of thoroughfares, and each with contrasting features in terms of design, music, dress codes, admission policies and customer base. A team of five researchers conducted interviews with 60-75 respondents per evening, with the collection of data on a total of 450+ respondents in May to August 2004. This paper will be the first public dissemination of findings.

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Updated 05/20/2006