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Recognising the hazardous effects of ‘pre-loading’ with alcohol

Media release: 14th August 2020

Data from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health (ALSWH) has revealed the significant risks associated with pre-loading with alcohol.

Pre-loading – also known as pre-drinking – is consuming alcohol prior to attending a licensed venue. Senior Research Officer Dr Amy Anderson and colleagues investigated the drinking habits of the youngest cohort of women aged between 20 and 25.

At the time of survey, 66 per cent of respondents reported pre-loading with alcohol and 83 per cent reported binge drinking. More than half the cohort reported experiencing alcohol-induced vomiting, memory loss or injury in the previous year, with vomiting being most common. The more often women pre-loaded or binge drank, the more likely they were to experience these alcohol-induced harms.

Interestingly, although pre-loading and binge drinking were related, the association did not fully account for the risk of harm from pre-loading. In other words, pre-loading may pose an additional risk of harm to young women, particularly those who frequently binge drink, and may benefit from being considered as an additional risk behaviour when defining healthy alcohol intake.

Currently, the national guidelines (Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol) cover the risks associated with Heavy Episodic Drinking (binge drinking – defined as drinking more than four alcoholic drinks on one occasion), however don’t specify pre-loading as an additional risk behaviour.

The research on which this press release is based was conducted as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health by the University of Queensland and the University of Newcastle. We are grateful to the Australian Government Department of Health for funding and to the women who provided the survey data.

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