Group Of Sports Fans Tailgating In Stadium Car Parking Lot

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Pregaming, or tailgates and similar party activities before athletic events, has been a gameday tradition on college campuses for decades. Getting together for alcoholic drinks before the big game may be part of the college experience nowadays, but new research suggests that many students may want to rethink their partying plans. Just in time for a new college football season, scientists at Texas A&M University report that college students who participate in pregaming activities may also be more likely to engage in alcohol and substance abuse.

Alcohol has long been synonymous with American college culture, and, more specifically, college sports. Pregaming often involves or is entirely centered on alcohol and participating in high-risk drinking activities. Researchers explain that this, in turn, can encourage those involved to go on to participate in other risky behaviors with potentially harmful consequences. They hope their work will help universities improve upon existing risk-management policies and provide new targeted, event-specific prevention and intervention programming aimed at reducing these consequences.

Study authors analyzed any and all possible relationships pertaining to pregaming behaviors and how often students drink alcohol, as well as whether students who pregamed wound up more likely to engage in polysubstance use (use of more than one substance at a time). To accomplish this, researchers Dr. Benjamin Montemayor and Dr. Adam Barry of the Department of Health Behavior at the Texas A&M School of Public Health made use of a dataset encompassing a survey of students at a large university who violated the university’s alcohol policy at some point between September 2019 and July 2021.

That survey asked all 816 student respondents whether they had participated in pregaming before a live sporting event in the previous year, and then went on to collect additional data pertaining to their substance use. Additionally, the team collected important demographic information, such as gender, race and ethnicity, classification in school, and Greek organization affiliation.

Friends getting drunk, funneling beer and alcohol at party
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Researchers asked students if and how often they pregamed or drank before a live university sporting event that they attended in person, and asked everyone to self-report their drinking frequency (number of days) over the prior month. Surveys also covered the use of other drugs like cannabis over the same period, as well as the percentage of peers the participants believed or assumed used alcohol recently.

You don’t need a college degree to know that heavy drinking at an event like a pregame can result in harmful physical, social, and academic outcomes. While many universities have actively sought to reduce drinking among students for quite some time, the percentage of students who continue to engage in these high-risk activities over the course of any given month continues to remain consistent at around 30 to 40 percent. Meanwhile, more U.S. college students than ever before are using marijuana, and roughly 25 percent of students who report using alcohol also report using marijuana or other drugs while drinking.

Pregaming displayed an association with alcohol use by college students who violated their university’s alcohol policy, even after accounting for several important demographic factors. While this finding itself isn’t all that surprising, the analysis also revealed a two-day increase in alcohol use frequency for each separate pregaming occasion. Students pregaming were roughly 2.5 times more likely to use cannabis or other drugs with alcohol, reinforcing conclusions drawn from previous studies focusing on polysubstance use.

Group Of Young People Taking Drugs, Doing Cocaine, Marijuana
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The research team says this project, while noteworthy, was limited in a number of ways. To start, the sample did not reflect the overall student population regarding racial and ethnic makeup. Moreover, all participants violated their university’s alcohol policy, and prior research shows that these students typically use alcohol and drugs more frequently, and are more likely to engage in other risky behaviors. They also explain that the surveys only captured a fairly small timeframe. Thus, researchers were unable to determine if pregaming makes hazardous alcohol use more likely. Future efforts should examine subjects over a longer period.

Still, despite all that, study authors remain confident in their work and believe the findings point to a clear association between pregaming and unsafe alcohol use and other risky behaviors, more specifically, drug use and polysubstance use. Future studies focusing on programs and policies limiting pregaming and reducing harms related to pregaming are therefore key, they stress.

Future studies may take the form of gameday text message-based interventions and the implementation and consistent enforcement of policies intended to mitigate excessive alcohol use and related dangers. Examples include limiting alcohol consumption to certain areas, limiting the amount of time allotted for tailgating, creating hydration stations, active security patrolling tailgating areas, displaying policies clearly throughout tailgating areas, and restricting access for visibly intoxicated individuals.

“Throughout the nation, students come to large campuses in the fall and immerse themselves in their college’s sport culture. Some gameday cultures may lead to a perceived view of alcohol use around campus that normalizes the behavior,” Dr. Montemayor says in a university release. “This sends mixed messages to students on campus about alcohol use policies and further complicates a university’s aim to protect the health and well-being of their students.”

The study is published in the journal Substance Use & Misuse.

About John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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