Study reveals danger-soaked side of drinking games

Drinking games, a staple of the college lifestyle, may provide danger as well as fun.

"The biggest danger with drinking games is that you lose control over how much you're drinking," said Chris Correia, associate professor of psychology. "You put yourself in a situation where you might be drinking more than you normally would or more than you can handle in that period of time."

Correia published a study in 2010 that showed a correlation between participation in drinking games and alcohol-related problems.

Problems included having trouble studying, experiencing withdrawal symptoms and going to school or work drunk.

"With drinking games, I think the reason that you see such a high correlation with those problems is because people are drinking at really elevated levels," said Jenni Cameron, who co-authored the study.

Cameron graduated from Auburn in August with her Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

The fast-paced nature of drinking games is also a contributing factor, according to Mark Silvestri, graduate student in psychology.

"If you think of Flip Cup, for example, it's a pretty fast and rapid game," Silvestri said. "You can consume a good amount of alcohol in a short amount of time, and what that does is, obviously, it makes you drunk fast because your BAC spikes up much higher."

Cameron said drinkers often lose track of how much alcohol they have consumed and consequently drink more.

"Consumption games" such as Century Club are especially dangerous, where participants drink an ounce of beer every minute for 100 minutes, Cameron said.

"The other ones that are really high are the chance games--stuff like Kings, Circle of Death, Three Man--the ones where there really aren't any rules," Cameron said. "What you drink literally just comes down to the flip of a card or the roll of a dice."

Cameron said the prevalence of drinking games on college campuses stems, in part, from the large population of students under 21.

"Before you're able to go to the bars and get in legally, it's something that you can do when you're hanging out and drinking with people," Cameron said.

Correia said books, video games and even national tournaments market to college students one of the most popular drinking games: Beer Pong.

"There is this huge culture specifically around Beer Pong," Correia said.

Another study published by Cameron and Correia in 2010 studied average blood alcohol content levels during games of Beer Pong.

The study analyzed disparities in BAC levels because of metabolic differences between males and females.

"Guys and girls drink about the same amount when they play Beer Pong," Correia said, "but the girls are going to come away, on average, with a higher BAC."

In a 20-minute, two-player game of Beer Pong, the average male had a BAC of .08, while the average for a female was .14.

"Looking at those differences in BACs, you can see some of the risks of drinking games, specifically for female participants," Cameron said.

Cameron cited a 2004 study in which participants were questioned about their motives for playing drinking games.

"Some of the ones that males reported, that females didn't, were that some of their motives were to intoxicate other players or to facilitate sexual contact," Cameron said.

"When you look at those differences in BACs for males and females, you can see where that could lead to some of that."

Silvestri said drinkers should give their bodies time to catch up after playing a drinking game.

"You may not feel the effects of how much you drank when you were playing that drinking game," Silvestri said, "because it usually takes your body some time to process that alcohol."

Correia said participants should avoid playing with hard liquor and, for Beer Pong, decide beforehand how much beer will go in each cup.

"The No.1 thing is knowing that you can always stop," Correia said. "That's something to keep in mind for any drinking situation you're in."

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