Going out drinking: The centrality of heavy alcohol use in English adolescents' leisure time and poly-substance-taking repertoires

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Using data from a large-scale longitudinal study, this paper highlights the development and centrality of regular, heavy drinking in the leisure priorities of a cohort of English adolescents (13-18 years). A core cohort (n = 815) with complete survey data across the study is used alongside qualitative interview data. Weekly drinking increased incrementally from 22.9% at 13 years to 73.7% at 18 years. A third of the cohort at 18 years, based on past 7-day consumption, were drinking over twice 'safe' limits. Heavy drinkers were far more likely to be smokers and two-thirds (67.5%) had also used an illicit drug in the past year. The combining of alcohol and illicit drugs was widespread on 'nights out'. Drug use was facilitated by going out drinking in respect of set, setting, access and intoxicated decision making. The 'going out' sub-sample in this cohort who drank heavily/used drugs have displayed few psychosocial risk markers. Most share the protective factors of being in education, employment or training and coming from conventional families. Practically significant 'risks' in the going-out group were situational and consequential, being related to their propensity to prioritise going out at weekends to get intoxicated as part of their 'time out'. Public health/harm reduction initiatives are recommended to reduce negative outcomes.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-135
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Substance Use
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2002