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“I don’t really like the pub […]”: reflections on young people and pre-loading alcohol

Adrian Barton (Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, based at Plymouth University, Plymouth, UK)
Kerryn Husk (Associate Research Fellow, based at University of Exeter, Exeter, UK)

Drugs and Alcohol Today

ISSN: 1745-9265

Article publication date: 27 May 2014




Recent research (Barton and Husk, 2012) suggested that in the UK we are seeing a shift from the traditional “pub-club” drinking pattern to a “home-pub-club” pattern. In the latter model often excessive early evening drinking is occurring in the private sphere in the absence of external control, leading to problems when the drinkers enter the public sphere. Moreover, pre-loading has become a key aspect in the drinking patterns of many of the Night Time Economy (NTE) population with around 60-70 per cent of people drinking some alcohol prior to going out. In the previous work (Barton and Husk, 2012) 50 per cent of people were drinking significant quantities of alcohol prior to entering the NTE. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


However, whilst these statistics give a general overview of patterns of drinking, they fail to provide the depth required to uncover potential mechanisms. It is generally assumed that the driving force behind this cultural shift in alcohol use is price. However, the feeling is that this is too simplistic. To explore this, the authors conducted a set of in-depth qualitative interviews with young people to ascertain why pre-loading is such an entrenched aspect of their drinking culture (n=20).


This paper provides the preliminary findings of that research. It shows, amongst other things, that beyond the price factor many young people seemingly need alcohol to cope with the NTE; that they prefer the safety and control of the environment that drinking in the private sphere provides; and that some of them (despite drinking alcohol) simply do not like pubs.


The paper adds to the discourse on pre-loading by suggesting richly described underlying mechanisms of action.



Barton, A. and Husk, K. (2014), "“I don’t really like the pub […]”: reflections on young people and pre-loading alcohol", Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 58-66.



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