'Neknomination': Deadly online drinking craze cleans up its act

The lethal 'game' has claimed several lives, but now some nominees prefer doing good to behaving badly

Standing in front of a camera in his kitchen, 22-year-old Oakley opens a bottle of sambuca, fills a pint glass almost to the top and pours in a dash of WKD Irn Bru. In less than nine seconds he has swallowed the lot. Choking slightly, he points at the lens and reels off three friends' names to take up the challenge, saying: "You've got 24 hours, lads. Get it done."

Oakley is one of thousands of Britons who have taken part in neknomination, an online drinking craze that has escalated to lethal levels as its young participants try ever more hazardous stunts.

Just hours before Oakley uploaded his video last Sunday evening, the body of Jonny Byrne, 19, was discovered in the river at Milford Bridge in Co Carlow after he jumped in as part of a "nomination". Ross Cummins, 22, died in hospital after being found unconscious at home in Dublin. He is understood to have been drinking spirits at the time and had previously taken part in the game. (Neither death had any connection to Oakley.)

The craze is believed to have started between college friends in Western Australia, before spreading across the world. What began as drinking just a pint of beer or a shot for the camera and nominating a friend to do the same has escalated into more and more outlandish videos.

A Durham woman rides a horse into a local supermarket for her neknomination A Durham woman rides a horse into a local supermarket for her neknomination Oakley, who does not want his surname published, thinks the game is still fine if people know their limits – though these limits do not apparently preclude drinking a pint of 42 per cent spirits. "Some people take this stuff too far," he said. "I did drink quite a lot of sambuca, which is a strong alcohol, but I did it in the safety of my own home. It was an awful lot, though. I poured way more than I meant to but I'd broken the seal of the bottle, so I couldn't start again."

Oakley, who has his own YouTube channel called Oakelfish, has had his drinking binge viewed by more than 27,000 people. "There are people like myself who are doing it for a laugh, but there are also people doing it with something to prove.

"Now it looks really stupid and not fun at all because people have died from it."

For Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, some are already taking things too far. He said: "This lethal 'game' shows just how hard we have to work to de-normalise binge drinking among young people. But it's not just about young people: they take their cues from society's attitude to drinking, and it's this we have to change for all our sakes."

Others have found different ways to shock. Johnnie, a 26-year-old tutor, filmed his friend dressed as a sheikh drink down a pint of beer in a Muslim area of Coventry and strip off in the road. "We've taken it down now," he says sheepishly of the YouTube clip. "Looking back, it probably wasn't the most intelligent thing to do."

Since the deaths, many people have pledged to remove their videos from the internet. One neknominate Facebook group has even been changed to an alcohol-awareness page. But Johnnie thinks such measures are too heavy-handed: "I think these pledges to get videos taken down are silly. If you're going to jump into a canal or a lake after a drink, there's a chance you might die.

"If you down a litre of spirits, there's a chance you might die, but if you're just having fun with it I don't see the problem."

Brent Lindeque feeds a homeless man instead Brent Lindeque feeds a homeless man instead A more imaginative backlash against the drinking culture encouraged by the game was started by South African Brent Lindeque. Having received a neknomination, he posted a video of himself handing out a packed lunch to a homeless man from his car, and it went viral.

Allan Price, a friend of Mr Lindeque's who now lives in London, decided to bring the idea to Britain. Mr Price, 34, filmed himself distributing 10 £10 notes across the capital. Each was in a plastic bag with a piece of paper instructing its finder to spend it on a good deed.

Mr Price said: "I was nominated by my cousin who was already drunk when he did four shots and a tumbler of spirits for his neknomination. I wanted to do something cooler.

"It's not as if I can afford £100, but doing something that helped people felt really awesome."

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

    £90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

    Investigo: Finance Business Partner

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

    Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

    £8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project