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Pregaming (called prefunking in Europe and preloading or prinking in the UK), is the process of getting drunk prior to going out socializing in a manner as cost-efficient as possible. Although typically done before a night out, pregaming can also precede other activities, like attending a college football game, large party, social function, or another activity where possession of alcohol may be limited or prohibited. The name ‘pregaming’ spread from the drinking that took place during tailgate parties before football games to encompass similar drinking periods.

Pregaming first became popular in the US in the 1990s, becoming a common practice after MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) pressured the federal government to coerce states into increasing the legal drinking age to 21 nationwide. It is also an unintended consequence of alcohol laws that prohibit happy hours and other discounts on alcohol, as well as rising tuition and other costs for students. Pregaming minimizes the cost of purchasing alcohol at local bars and clubs and can reduce the problems associated with obtaining and using fake identification listing an age permitting legal consumption of alcohol.

Pregaming sessions are often single sex, and can feature men playing drinking games or video games, and women ‘drinking vodka sodas or a peach-flavored Champagne called André and refusing to head out until they have captured the perfect photo, which they promptly post to Instagram and Facebook.’ Other drinking games associated with pregaming include ‘Power Hour’ (players drink a specified number of alcohol shots within one hour; e.g. one shot of beer every minute for an hour, or 10 shots within one hour), ‘Quarters’ (players attempt to bounce a quarter into a shotglass) ‘Kings’ (players must drink and dispense drinks based on cards drawn; each card has a rule that is predetermined before the game starts), and ‘Asshole’ (a card game for three or more in which the players race to get rid of all of the cards in their hands in order to become ‘President’ in the following round). One function of the pregaming games is to increase camaraderie, while offering competition and social interplay.

Other activities that can accompany pregaming, especially for women, are primping and trying on different outfits. Another element of pregaming is texting friends to find out about social opportunities for the night, flirting, and trying to locate a potential sexual partner. Pregaming and the games that go with it can also build solidarity among the drinking group, mentally preparing them with the confidence needed to handle the experience of nightlife. Pregaming is also often more conducive to socializing with friends than the loud nightclubs and bars where the group will eventually arrive.

Local bars and clubs lose business from pregaming both because students purchase alcohol elsewhere and because pregaming can delay students’ arrival. Young adults often don’t arrive until 11:30 pm or midnight, relatively near the time bars are required to close in many States. In addition, nightlife establishments may become liable for fines and civil and criminal penalties under local laws prohibiting the serving of alcohol to an intoxicated person or permitting a person to be intoxicated in the bar, even when that person pregamed elsewhere.

Pregaming has been associated with binge drinking and other dangerous activities, leading some universities to attempt to crack down on the practice. The furtive nature of pregaming and bingeing can lead to massive quick consumption, acute alcohol poisoning, hospitalization, and death. A 2012 study of more 250 Swiss students indicated that those who ‘pre-loade’ ended up consuming more total alcohol over the night (seven drinks rather than four) and engaged in riskier behavior. They had a 24% chance of reporting negative consequences from drinking (such as injury, unprotected sex, and unplanned drug use), compared to 18% chance for those who did not pre-drink.

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