New study shows extent of 'preload' drinking in QLD

SOCIALISING and cost were the two main reasons punters drink at home before heading out on the town, new research by the Queensland Police and Griffith University has found.

The research is some of the early findings from the Smart Start preloading engagement project at the Australasian Drug and Alcohol Conference in Brisbane.

The first study of its kind to include police on the beat, the Smart Start project saw police and Griffith University researchers survey more than 3200 people in entertainment precincts from the Gold Coast to Mackay.

80% of people surveyed preloaded before they came out citing 'socialising' and the price of alcohol as their main reasons for doing so.

12% said they preloaded with energy drinks and a high proportion of people said they had woken up with a stranger and had nights when they had blacked out or could not remember what had happened.

The average blood alcohol reading for those who preloaded, was 0.07% for both men and women, much higher than previously suggested by other research.

Officer in Charge, Senior Sergeant Corey Allen said he was pleasantly surprised with the reponse they had from young revellers.

"People have told us that they want to be where their friends are, they want to be social and have a reasonably priced drink," said Senior Sergeant Allen.

"The issue of preloading seems to be compounded by the fact that people are not coming out until around 11:30 pm, resulting in five or six hours of cheap drinks at home or at a friend's place before they come out. If we could shift this social gap, bring people out earlier for a decent meal the levels of risk may well reduce significantly." 

Griffith University Associate Professor Grant Devilly said his team was surprised at the positive engagement from party goers.

"We were hoping to get up to 800 participants," he said.

"People were so willing to participate and so supportive of the friendly contact from police and researchers that we would often have people lining up to help out,"

Surveys conducted at train stations, taxi ranks and near popular venues included the chance for patrons to undertake a voluntary breath test after estimating what their reading may be.

"Many people were very keen to contribute and compare how intoxicated they feel with an accurate breath test, it has been suggested that access to accurate breath testing throughout the night could be the best way to fill the knowledge gap we have identified," said Professor Devilly.

Police also noticed some operational outcomes as the engagement took place in and around areas linked to alcohol related violence.

The results from the research engagement are already helping to guide strategies into the future. A wealth of high value information about a range of factors including consumption of energy drinks with alcohol, the suburbs where the heaviest preloaders reside and their previous involvement in alcohol related incidents are influencing decision makers.

The project which has so far been federally funded by the National Drug Strategy Funding Committee is seeking further funding to continue this type of engagement at the end of the drinking night as people make their way home, with a view to lining the two studies together.

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