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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Harm reduction, students and pleasure: An examination of student responses to a binge drinking campaign

Recent debates about ‘binge drinking’ in New Zealand have positioned alcohol consumption amongst young drinkers as of concern. Research notes that students drink more heavily than their peers and that they have a higher incidence of alcohol related harms. In response, a harm reduction campaign aimed at first year university students was developed at a New Zealand university.

This mixed methods study used questionnaires (225) and a small number of semi-structured interviews (4) to elicit student responses to the harm reduction campaign.

The majority of students in this study can be characterised as binge drinkers, although their drinking does not appear to cause them concern. The term ‘binge drinking’ is explored in three developed categories; ‘light’, ‘moderate’ and ‘heavy’ bingeing. Results are considered within a discussion of pleasure as a hindrance to harm reduction campaigns.

The concept of ‘determined drunkenness’ and the notion of pleasure are important in students’ motivations for drinking and may contribute to the resistance they have in viewing their alcohol consumption as concerning. It is argued that students already felt that they exercised control over their drinking for pleasure and this produced contradictions in responses towards the campaign compared to actual behaviour.

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