Alcohol and other drug use at school leavers' celebrations

February 2015
Lam, T., Liang, W., Chikritzhs, T.N. and Allsop, S. (2014). Alcohol and other drug use at school leavers' celebrations. Journal of Public Health, 36(3), 408-416. DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fdt087.

The issue: A significant proportion of adolescents who attend celebratory events often engage in substantial alcohol and other drug use. We examined patterns, influences and impacts of drug consumption at an end of schooling life celebration.

What we did: Seventeen- to 18-year-old Australians who intended to attend (n = 541) and who attended the celebration (n = 405), respectively, completed pre- and post-event surveys.

What we found: Males consumed 18.44 and females 13.24 Australian standard drinks on an average day during the school leavers’ event. Compared with their last social event, there was greater alcohol (P < 0.0005) and ecstasy use (P < 0.046 for Day 1 and P < 0.008 on Day 3). However, the number of drinks consumed per hour appeared to be similar across contexts. Most (87%) experienced at least one negative outcome attributed to alcohol and other drug use. Safety strategies were frequently used and appeared to be protective against some of the most common harms (hangover, vomiting, black out and unprotected sex).

Implications: The use of alcohol and other drugs at this celebratory event appears to be reflective of the greater than usual number of drinking hours that are available to participants. The use of safety strategies can be successful in mitigating some of the most common drug-related harms.