A social media-driven craze in which people are encouraged to film themselves downing alcoholic drinks quickly has been condemned by Alcohol Action Ireland.
The drinking trend known as “neknomination”, which is thought to have originated in Australia, has gained pace on social media since early January. It involves the “neknominator” skulling a drink as quickly as possible and posting a video of themselves online.
The person then “neknominates” one or two of their friends who are told to follow suit within 24 hours.
The videos are akin to a modern day chain letter as they are shared and spread on social media, with participants being urged to carry on the trend.
While early videos show people downing pints of beer, more recent ones show that the stakes have been raised with people drinking large quantities of spirits in a short space of time.
Clips show people carrying out precarious stunts such as drinking while driving motorbikes and jumping out of helicopters.
In the UK, one participant was even filmed downing a pint of vodka after biting off a dead chicken’s head.
“While some may see it as a game, the consequences of drinking large volumes of alcohol in a short period of time can have very real consequences for people in terms of their health and well-being,” a spokesman said.
“Participating in this ’game’ is clearly bad for your health and also reinforces the dangerous message that it is normal – and also fun – to get drunk, a message that is at the root of so much of our harmful drinking.”
He said the way it spreads through social media by ’nominations’ also means that many young people who would never consider doing something like this are now coming under considerable peer pressure to put themselves in danger.
“We need to acknowledge that we create the environment that our young people live and grow up in and in terms of alcohol we are currently failing to protect them from the huge levels of harm it causes. The unfortunate reality is that while issues like this drinking ’game’ will come and go, there remains a consistent trend for drunkenness among young Irish people. Until we legislate to protect them by addressing the pricing, availability and marketing of alcohol in Ireland then we will continue to see many of them drinking in a way that is harmful to their health and wellbeing,” he added.
Ian Power, spokesman for youth charity SpunOut, said that because the trend has emerged on Facebook and Twitter, Neknomination is probably an over-representative sample of those taking part, against those who are not.
“It’s a fad which involves downing a pint of beer, a phenomenon which wouldn’t be alien to Irish pubs up and down the country over the decades. I am concerned about instances where people are using higher percentage volume drinks to complete the challenge, like wine, or vodka,” he said.
“Similarly, if someone completes a nomination and then does another, or completes a nomination after already drinking heavily – there is increased potential for something to go seriously wrong.”
However, he said there is no point in being “overly moralistic” about the phenomenon. “ I understand the destruction alcohol causes in our society, but panicking over people posting videos online is not going to have a material difference,” he said. “What will change our drinking consumption patterns is the introduction of unit pricing and restrictions on irresponsible drinks promotions in clubs.”
Mr Power said it is “ill advised” to consume alcohol rapidly as it can have serious health consequences. But he said that if people are going to do it, “it’s best to do it with beer as opposed to wine or spirits and you should avoid doing it after you’ve already had a lot to drink”.
He said that people are likely to grow tired of the fad and that until then, he encouraged people to not endanger themselves or others unnecessarily.