A new study indicates that pre-drinking, when combined with subsequent on-premise drinking, is associated with almost twice-as-heavy consumption and adverse outcomes.
Previous research from the US and the UK has shown that "pre-drinking" or "frontloading" often leads to heavy drinking by young people in public settings and can lead to greater harm.
Pre-drinking typically occurs in locations where low-cost alcohol that is usually bought off-premise is consumed, rapidly and in large quantities.
A study using Swiss data has found that pre-drinking, when combined with on-premise drinking, leads to almost twice as much drinking and negative outcomes.
"At first glance, it might seem that pre-drinking is not so prevalent in Switzerland," Florian Labhart, a researcher at Addiction Switzerland as well as corresponding author for the study said.
"However, pre-drinking has been found in about one third of all on-premise drinking, which is a very high rate.
"Considering that pre-drinking leads people to consume nearly twice the normal amount of alcohol on a given night, its prevalence should not be underestimated from a public-health perspective," Labhart said.
Shannon R. Kenney, visiting assistant research professor and associate director of the Heads Up Research Lab in the Psychology Department at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, said that only recently has "pre-drinking - also referred to as pre-partying, pre-gaming, pre-loading, or pre-funking" - been identified and introduced into the empirical alcohol literature.
"Although pre-drinking has not received the attention it deserves thus far, it appears that researchers are beginning to recognize the importance of gaining a better understanding of this risky and prevalent drinking context," she said.
Kenney added that existing studies of pre-drinking/pre-partying have revealed similar prevalence rates in the United States and Europe.
"In fact, due to US legal drinking age requirements, pre-drinking may be most prevalent among underage drinkers in the US," she said.
"Research shows that underage drinkers may be motivated to pre-drink to achieve a 'buzz' or become intoxicated before going to a licensed premise where they cannot legally consume alcohol, such as a bar, club, concert, or sporting event," she said.
The findings will be published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.