‘Drink a 12 box before you go’: pre-loading among young people in Aotearoa New Zealand

T. McCreanor, A. Lyons, H. Moewaka Barnes, F. Hutton, I. Goodwin, C. Griffin

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The practice of pre-loading—drinking large amounts of alcohol rapidly in private spaces prior to socialising in the night-time economy—has come to notice recently in the study of alcohol-related harm, but no studies have explored these phenomena in Aotearoa New Zealand. We used a theoretical framework developed with public health alcohol studies for understanding drinking cultures that conceptualises patterns of behaviours as arising within a dynamic interaction between forces of hedonism, function and control. We report findings from 34 focus groups conducted with 18–25 year olds as part of a project supported by the Marsden Fund, between 2011 and 2012, to investigate drinking cultures among young people. Our thematic analyses of participants’ accounts of pre-loading show that the term is in common use, applying to a range of practices motivated by price of alcohol but influenced by the pleasures of intoxication, the importance of peer processes and certain aspects of the regulatory system. We conclude with a discussion of the usefulness of the framework and the implications of the findings for public health policy that aims to reduce alcohol consumption and the harm that arises from it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-46
Number of pages11
JournalKotuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online
Issue number1
Early online date9 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • alcohol
  • drinking
  • New Zealand
  • pre-loading
  • young adults


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