The dangers of drinking games are many. Here we explain their dangers and how to either prevent them or reduce them.
I. Drinking Games
- Drinking Games
- Dangers of Drinking Games
- Ways to Avoid Dangers
- Resources: Dangers of Drinking Games
Drinking games are social events designed to promote intoxication. They have rules based on doing some specific physical or mental task. The rules dictate when an individual (or group) must drink and how much.
Young people play drinking games for many reasons. These include
- Giving in to peer pressure.
- Meeting new people.
- Joining new groups.
- Reducing anxiety when socializing.
- Getting drunk.
- Showing toughness.
- Competing to win.
- Exerting power and control over others.
- Drinking games put others in control of how much and how fast people drink.
Drinking games are dangerous because they lead to drinking too much alcohol too quickly. Their competitive nature distracts players from knowing how much they’re drinking.
The very fact of playing a drinking game practically ensures that people get drunk. Of course, that often leads to bad outcomes.
Most students think most other students drink much more than they really do. So they drink more than they want in order to “fit in.” Discover the consequences!
II. Dangers of Drinking Games
Drinking too much makes people feel less inhibited. This can lead to poor decisions. For example, you might tell someone exactly what you think of them. Or you could act very foolishly in other ways. Later, you might discover videos of your embarrassing behavior posted on social media. This could also come back to haunt you when you apply for a job. So it could have long-term harm.
In addition, many drinking games can lead to embarrassment or even humiliation. This is especially the case when combined with intoxication and peer pressure.
An example is the game “Never Have I Ever.” It goads players into confessing secrets they would never reveal if sober. For example, engaging in illegal or immoral activities.
Another game is called “Most Likely.” Someone begins by asking players “Which person here is most likely to _____?” Players then point to the one “most likely to.” The questions center around things that are likely to be embarrassing or even humiliating. For example, who’s most likely to become a sex worker, or who’s most likely to end up in prison.
Obviously, people can be humiliated or mortified and friendships destroyed. In addition, people can destroy their reputation.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
There are over 26 million new STD infections in the U.S. each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that those aged 15-24 have almost half of those. STDs include these.
- Bacterial Vaginosis
- Congenital syphilis (a disease when a mother with syphilis passes it to her baby during pregnancy)
- Genital Herpes
- HPV Infection
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Various STDs can cause cancer, dementia, sterility, and other serious problems. Also, an STD infection can make it easier for a person to get HIV.
Unplanned pregnancy can easily occur while intoxicated. It may result from being unable to give consent. Of course, that’s a form of sexual assault or rape. It could also result from poor decision making while drunk.
Blackouts are a common sign of alcohol dependency. Learn more about blackouts. They also have important implications for proving sexual assault.
Drinking too much in too short a time can lead to alcohol poisoning. Every year, a number of young people die from alcohol poisoning.
Call 911 if a person ever has any of these signs.
- Unconscious or semiconscious.
- Cannot be awakened.
- Breathing fewer than ten times per minute (or breathing irregularly).
- Cool, clammy, pale or bluish skin.
- Vomiting without waking up.
To avoid severe intoxication, know your limits. Also, when you’re out with friends, be on the lookout for signs of alcohol poisoning. You could save a life!
Learn more on these pages:
Sexual Assault or Rape
Forty-four percent of young men admitted their goal in playing drinking games was to have sex. One-fifth reported taking sexual advantage of another player after a drinking game. And 19% said they they have had intercourse with a person too drunk to consent.
Of course, this greatly increases the chances of getting an STD or an unwanted pregnancy.
Learn more on these pages:
Injury or Violence
People can easily get injured while drunk. For example, they can fall, step in front of traffic, or accept dangerous dares. A very common cause of injury is fighting. This can occur because of lower inhibitions.
The proportion of young people killed by impaired driving has dropped greatly over time. However, it remains a serious problem. Another cause of death among young people is riding with an impaired driver. People are much more likely to ride with a drunk driver when they’ve had too much to drink.
D. Other Negatives
Lower inhibitions because of drinking too much can lead to being arrested or charged with any of these.
- Physical assault.
- Sexual assault.
- Driving while impaired.
- Open container violation.
- Public intoxication.
- Damaging property.
- Being intoxicated in a public place.
- Loss of job.
- Get a warning at job because of drinking.
- Receive lower grades.
- School probation.
- Trouble with school administration.
- Miss classes due to drinking or a hangover.
- May have a drinking problem.
III. Ways to Avoid Dangers
1.) When someone plans a drinking game, organize friends to do something else to have fun. This helps both you and them stay safe.
2.) Don’t fall for a common myth. In reality, standard drinks have the same amount of alcohol. Specifically, each has six-tenths of of an ounce of alcohol. So to a breathalyzer, they’re all the same.
3.) Consider your response to drinking game invitations ahead of time. Perhaps saying something like these.
- “No thanks.”
- “I’m on antibiotics.”
- “Drinking gives me migraines.”
- “I’m allergic.”
- “I make enough stupid decisions sober.”
- “Don’t have time to end up in the drunk tank tonight.”
- “I’m allergic to alcohol. It makes me to break out in handcuffs.”
- “I’ll be doing brain surgery in the morning.”
- “I’m trying to get back into shape.”
- “It will upset my commitment to losing weight.”
4.) If your friends are playing alcohol games, make sure they’re ok. If they’ve had too much to drink, help them stop playing and leave. On the other hand, if you’re playing, have someone sober do the same for you.
IV. Resources: Dangers of Drinking Games
Goosenberg, E. and Peltz, P. Risky Drinking. NY, NY: HBO, 2017.
Young, J. Drinking Games, Alcohol Abuse and Overdose. Mt. Kisco, NY: Human Media, 2011.
Reading and Sources
Borsari, B. Drinking games in the college environment: A review. J Alc & Drug Ed, 2004, 48(2), 29-51.
Hone, L., et al. Drinking games as a venue for sexual competition. Ev Psych, 2013, 11(4), 321-332.
Johnson, T. College students’ self-reported reasons for why drinking games. Add Behav, 2002, 27(1), 145-153.
Johnson, T. and Cohen, E. College students’ reasons for not drinking and not playing drinking games. Sub Use & Misuse, 2004, 7, 1137-1160.
Johnson, T., & Sheets, V. Measuring college students’ motives for playing drinking games. Psych Add Behav, 2004,18(2), 91–99.
Johnson, T., et al. Brief report college students’ self-reported reasons for playing drinking games. Add Behav, 1999, 24(2), 279-286.
Newman, I. and Crawford, J. Drinking Games and University Students’ Drinking Behavior. U. of WY.
Newman, I., et al. The role and function of drinking games. J Am Coll Health, 1991, 39, 171-175.
Pedersen, E. and LaBrie, J. Normative misperceptions of drinking among college students. J Stud Alc Drugs, 2015, 69(3), 406-411.
Schumacher, E. Drinking Games Among College Students. The Keep, April, 2012 , 1-40.
Simons, L. et al. Drinking games, binge drinking and risky sexual behaviors among college students. J Alc Drug Ed, 2005, 49(3), 23-36.
Zamboanga, B. et al. Alcohol expectancies, pregaming, drinking games, and hazardous alcohol use of college students. Cog Ther Res, 2010, 34, 124–133.
This website on the dangers of drinking games is informational only. Thus, it makes no recommendations.