Extreme drinking games — when I was 16 that might have sounded kind of fun. There are games such as Beer Pong, Drink ‘Til You Pee, Dicey, Fuzzy Duck and maybe hundreds more. There’s even a drinking game related to the family card game Uno. In fact, when I Googled “extreme drinking games,” I got hundreds of links and web sites. I’ll let you do your own research on extreme drinking games, but basically they are designed for the participants to drink as much as they can in as short of time as possible. What’s the goal? Extreme intoxication, of course.
But back to what I would have thought when I was 16. Back then I would have seen in extreme drinking games the opportunity to not only engage in out of control intoxication with my friends but I would have seen the unlimited possibilities of seeing who could drink the most, who had the best stories in the morning, and so on. Fortunately, my drinking career was short lived and nothing really bad happened to me. But looking back over almost 40 years, the thought of “What was I thinking?” occurs to me.
Obviously, that kind of insight is available to a 55-year-old with a career, a wife, grown kids, grandkids, things to lose, and so on. But a 16-year-old doesn’t think that way. In fact, the so called “executive decision making” part of the brain isn’t even fully developed in men until they are 25 and women sometime in the late teens or early twenties. So, of course, drinking as much as you can to get as wasted as you can usually sounds better to a teenager than to an aging baby boomer.
Now that I’ve officially established my credentials as a rapidly aging old guy who actually remembers being a teenager, let me say that there are lots of reasons why extreme drinking games are a terrible idea.
First, there is the potential for addiction. One way to get addicted is to use something like alcohol in large quantities over a period of time. Extreme drinking games are a form of binging and put a person at risk for future addiction. And the research shows us that the younger a person engages in that kind of activity, the better chance he/she has to develop a problem later.
Second, it’s not safe. The body and brain aren’t always on the same wavelength which means that when a person drinks a lot of alcohol at one time, the body will often accept it but then when that alcohol hits the brain, there can be an overdose which can be anything from becoming more intoxicated than intended, to losing memory (blackout) for minutes or even hours, to shut down of vital body systems resulting in coma and/or death. There’s also the issue of medications. Many people don’t realize that certain drugs, even prescription drugs, can multiply the effect of alcohol in the body, causing an overdose, as well.
Third, depending on the person and what’s already in their stomach, the drinker may not feel the effect of the alcohol right away, thinking he/she is OK, when actually the opposite is true. This could result in not taking care in terms of making a decision about driving a car or some other activity that could be dangerous.
Finally, there’s the issue of what we call social norms. We have many social norms such as “say please and thank you,” “don’t cut in line,” and more. We even have social norms that help us understand that out of control drinking is not an appropriate or safe activity, especially in public. But extreme drinking games sponsored by casinos and bars that normally include younger drinkers creates a whole new social norm that says, “It’s OK to get as drunk as you like, in fact, it’s expected.” That may sound a little on the prudish side but I have an 11-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old grandchild. I don’t want them growing up in a society that glamorizes and glorifies out of control, falling down drunk behavior.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Let’s put the brakes on this one and think better or ourselves not only as individuals but as a community. Is extreme drinking what we want to be known for?