'Neknomination': Internet drinking game linked to two deaths over the weekend grows in popularity amongst British students
Emily Dugan is social affairs correspondent for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards.
Social Affairs Correspondent
Monday 03 February 2014
An online drinking craze linked to the deaths of two teenagers over the weekend continued across Britain today, despite warnings that it was lethal when taken to its extreme.
The internet trend, known as "neknomination", involves young people filming themselves gulping down large amounts of alcohol in increasingly dangerous settings and posting them online. At the end of the video they shout out a friend’s name and nominate them to perform their own stunt.
Jonny Byrne, a 19-year-old from County Carlow, Ireland, was discovered floating in a river on Saturday after jumping in as part of a nomination stunt. In an emotional plea to his son’s generation, his father Joe Byrne told Irish broadcaster RTE: “I'm pleading to every youngster to think of the things they're doing.
“It has cost my son his life. The whole family is devastated and our lives will never be the same again. I hope this message is heeded because for us, life is virtually over,” Mr Byrne said.
Jonny’s brother, Patrick Byrne, posted online: “This neck nomination s*** HAS TO STOP RIGHT NOW my young 19 year old brother Jonny Byrne from Carlow died tonight in the middle of his nomination.
“He thought he had to try and beat the competition and after he necked his pint he jumped into the river. After five hours of searching he is still not found. If people have any decency and respect they will refrain from any more of this stupid neck nomination shit.”
A Facebook page dedicated to the craze called NI NeKnomination has now been discontinued and turned to an alcohol awareness page.
Just hours before the discovery of Jonny Byrne’s body, Ross Cummins, 22, was found unconscious in a house in Dublin and died later in hospital. Irish media reported that he was drinking spirits at the time of his death and that his extreme drinking was part of a neknomination.
The Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust said last night that at least one person had been admitted to North Devon’s accident and emergency department as a result of the craze over the last month.
The craze is understood to have started in a private college in Western Australia, before spreading across the world. It is particularly popular amongst students, many of whom continued to participate in it across the UK today.
Nishad Sanzagiri, a student at Edinburgh University, was sitting in a lecture on democracy yesterday afternoon when it was disrupted by someone performing a neknomnation. He said: “This guy got up and stood in the front next to the lecturer. He had a huge glass with him and opened the beer and started chugging. It was really shocking because the news had only just come out about the two guys that died.”
Other students also posted online about lectures being interrupted by a neknomination in Nottingham yesterday.
The mix of alcohol, dangerous stunts and peer pressure is noxious, according to experts. Once someone is nominated there can be pressure to accept the dare and those that do not can become a target for bullies.
Dr Sarah Jarvis, a GP on the DrinkAware advisory board, said: “ We know people who drink alcohol are at much greater risk of falls and accidents so if you combine alcohol with outdoing each other in dangerous situations it’s a real, real concern.
She said the likelihood of alcohol poisoning from drinking such large quantities in a very brief amount of time was high. “The sadness is we have now had deaths and serious injuries. You’d have thought that would make people think, wouldn’t you?”
Amongst the more extreme examples posted by Britons online include a man cheered on by a crowd as he downs an entire litre of rose wine in less than four seconds and a man drinking a mixture of vodka, cat food and urine.
In a video filmed last Wednesday afternoon in Coventry, a man dressed as a sheikh stops traffic in the middle of a busy road to down a pint and then strips naked. In another, a young man posted a video of himself drinking several cans of lager whilst riding his bike around Bristol.
Gerard Hastings, an expert on the promotion of unhealthy products at the University of Sterling’s Institute for Social Marketing, said the craze was indicative of how accepting society had become of binge drinking. “We’re bringing young people into a world where drinking is very much part of the everyday agenda and we don’t recognise alcohol as the very dangerous drug that it actually is”, he said, “We need to bring a balance back.”
“The reality is that for the young male age group alcohol is already a major killer. This social media effect provides another avenue for that. It’s a symptom of alcohol being more central in our lives than is healthy.”
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