Infected Culture

Luke Luby takes a look at the drinking culture that is tarnishing young people’s reputations today.

More than 100 people were treated by paramedics for the effects of alcohol and, in many cases, drugs at a DJ Hardwell gig in Belfast in early February. Termed a “disaster zone” by many, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service also declared the scene outside the concert as a “major incident” due to the amount of resources they had to devote to the venue.

Throughout the night a total of 17 people had to be hospitalised after seeking medical help at the concert due to the seriousness of their conditions; three of which came from inside the venue. This figure is only a fraction of the 108 people who needed medical attention throughout the night.

According to police, 300 of the 10,000 ticket holders were refused entry to the concert due to their high levels of intoxication, many of which may have been under the influence of narcotics. A statement from the Odyssey Arena general manager revealed that those who were intoxicated were not allowed into the arena and were treated by paramedics outside the venue. However, it was later confirmed that more patients were treated inside the venue than outside its doors, with 68 people being treated inside the arena and the remaining 40 seeking medical attention after being refused entry.

Joe Hyland, the chief executive of the SOS Bus NI charity, noted in an interview with BBC Radio Ulster that “it was like a disaster zone, but that was primarily because of one factor – it was a compression. There was a period of about 45 minutes where we had something like 19 young people – 14, 15 years old, who were extremely ill. Some of them were very, very ill – life-threateningly ill, where they had over-indulged. We recognised an increasing threat to their life. We started to bring in paramedics, the ambulance service.”

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These recent trends have brought the Irish people’s often distorted relationship with alcohol, something which seems to have gotten steadily worse and worse over the last few years, into the spotlight yet again.

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Hyland continued by saying of the staff that were at hand: “Their resources were limited, they had something like seven ambulances tasked for the evening and when they realised that they were in a danger of not being able to cope they brought in their senior people, who I think made the very best decision.”

According to sources, parents of many of the concert goers were unable to contact their children, with many turning up at the arena near the end of the gig and waiting outside.

The events in Belfast coupled together with the recent ‘neknomination’ craze, highlighting the dangers of drinking, as well as the problems Irish people have with alcohol. As has been widely reported, many teenagers and people in their early 20s have started to video themselves quickly drinking an alcoholic concoction and then nominating two friends to ‘one up’ each other. Those nominated have a countdown of 24 hours in order to answer their nomination, and then nominate two more friends to do the same, before posting the video on social media websites. The ‘game’ – which has been branded as dangerous and idiotic – has, so far, claimed a number of lives, due to either the alcohol itself or the stunt the many partakers choose to do after downing their drink.

To date, it has even been reported that children as young as ten are downing cocktails of booze as part of the drinking craze. A boy of ten at a school in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, in the UK was left ‘violently ill’ after being nominated by friends to down some alcohol. He filmed himself drinking a glass with shots of vodka, Nando’s sauce and mayonnaise in it. A source claimed that “the boy’s mother was in tears that her son would try such a thing. He was fine in the end, apart from feeling sick as a dog.”

So far the game has been described as “Neck your drink. Nominate another. Don’t break the chain, don’t be a d***. The social drinking game for social media! #neknominate. Drink Responsibly.”

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To date, it has even been reported that children as young as ten are downing cocktails of booze as part of the drinking craze.

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President of the Union of Students in Ireland, Joe O’Connor, commented: “I know from my own Facebook feed how quickly the game has taken off. Last week most people hadn’t heard of it and now videos of ‘neknominations’ are all over the internet.” The USI has noticed a trend in the Irish abroad taking part in the game and nominating their friends back home.  He added: “The trend has become really popular among those who’ve emigrated. I suppose many people get a kick out of seeing their friends back home, some of whom they might not have seen in a while, take part.”

The game is thought to have been started in either London or Australia, where Irish emigrants started to partake and passed it on to friends back home. Those who have denied joining in the game have often been ridiculed, with many deeming the game as a form of online bullying.

These recent trends have brought the Irish people’s often distorted relationship with alcohol, something which seems to have gotten steadily worse and worse over the last few years, into the spotlight yet again. ‘Neknominations’ in particular highlight the extreme levels that teenagers and young adults are willing to go to in order to enjoy themselves. As the several deaths in recent weeks have shown, this unhealthy relationship has seemingly been taken too far.