Why do we want to get pissed?

Why do we want to get ‘pissed’?

GrogWatch regularly advocates for regulations that have been proven to reduce alcohol-related harm, such as reducing the trading hours of licensed venues. But, this week we ask why we want to get drunk in the first place? Why is it that we want to drink until we can’t drink anymore?

The Australian alcohol guidelines indicate that having 5 or more drinks on any one occasion can lead to high risk behaviour, but this is still an amount that is commonly drunk in bars, clubs and homes across the nation. In fact, 1 in 6 people aged 14 years or over put themselves at risk of an alcohol-related injury from a single drinking occasion at least once a week¹. But do they realise they are putting themselves in harm’s way?

Studies asking people to define binge drinking demonstrate a general confusion around what the term actually means. A recent study of university students in the US asked 424 undergraduates how they defined binge drinking. Many indicated it had something to do with drinking large amounts in a certain period, but there were a lot of variables amongst answers.²

Perhaps the problem is that people just see drinking as a normal practice. In January this year Psychology Today reported that if you ask a young person why they drink you may be given a litany of reasons including:

“I was bored.”

“Everyone else does it.”

“I like how it makes me feel.”

“People like me when I drink because I act different.”

“I just wanted to see what it would make me feel like.”

“My parents do it so it must not be a big deal.”

“It helps me escape reality.”

While there are more people drinking at riskier levels than ever before, there are actually less young people drinking alcohol¹. It seems their eyes are being opened to the number of harms it causes, as demonstrated by the passionate article written by Year 10 student, Sam Wolfe, in the Sydney Morning Herald last week.

Sam is not alone in his views with 130 students having already signed up to a schoolies event in Vanuatu where adventure replaces alcohol, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday. The event sold out quicker than any other schoolies event offered by the travel agent, which said demand for this type of experience came from young people not their parents.

While drinking seems to be embedded deeply in our psyche, times are hopefully changing. Regulations based on evidence do reduce harmful drinking, but it will most likely be people choosing not to get ‘pissed’ that will finally create a responsible drinking culture in Australia.

Let us know your view by commenting below.



  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2011) 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey report, Canberra: AIHW
  2. Bonar et al. (2012) Quantitative and Qualitative assessment of university students definition of binge drinking, Psychology of Addictive Behaviours 26:2, p.187-193