Pre-gaming: teenage life gambling

Jordyn Haessler, Staff contributor

The legal drinking age in the United States is 21, but we all know minors have always found a way to get into contact with alcohol. Why not? It is like a forbidden fruit to them. They have been told their whole lives they have to wait for it. They are teenagers, though. Their brains have not fully developed the parts that correspond with decision making. This doesn’t only cause them to pursue alcohol; it also causes them to make unthoughtful decisions while in possession of it. Pre-gaming is a recent trend that has caught the eyes of many minors. It involves drinking heavy and drinking cheap. What is pre-gaming? What are the dangers of it? Is there any way we can stop it?

According to Medical Daily, pre-gaming is the act of “heavy drinking at home before heading out to a bar, club, or social venue.” This means instead of people slowly drinking throughout the night, they consume a large amount of alcohol at once and then head to their destination. There can be many reasons for teens, or even adults, to pre-game. John Haessler, father of two, stated, “Some adults might engage in pre-gaming to avoid expensive alcohol at bars.” It is widely known among people above the drinking age that alcohol can be up to two times as cheap when buying from a general store or alcohol distributor rather than buying it from a bar or club. This explains why adults pre-game, but why do underage people do it? Jake Lentz, a senior at Pleasant Valley High School, put it simply, “High-schoolers pre-game because it is illegal for them to drink everywhere. Whether they are going to a party or a school dance, they pre-game because they want to avoid getting caught drinking in public.” These teenagers take a huge risk and many will find out why the drinking age is set at a minimum of 21.

Pre-gaming and its risks are a bigger problem in the United States than in many other countries. Live Science claims it is due to the United States’ drinking age being higher than most countries. This, in turn, means there are more minors in the United States that can engage in illegal drinking. Research shows people who pre-game are likely to drink more than people who drink casually throughout an event. Brandon Letney, a senior at Pleasant Valley High School, says, “When teens pre-drink, they are not just doing it to get a couple drinks into their body, they are usually looking to get extremely drunk.” This causes more risky decision making, which the teenage mind already has problems with. Drinking heavily was also shown to be linked to teenagers being unaware of taking other substances. Letney says this is called “cross-fading, which is usually intensified by peer pressure.” There are many dangers to pre-gaming. Is there anyway we can prevent these dangers from happening?

Stopping pre-gaming is a very hard thing to do. Teenagers seem to always find a way to get what they desire. One way suggested by many was to reduce the availability of cheap alcohol. This would cause many problems. Many people would claim the government was trying to control the free market. A more rational approach, at least for teenagers, would be for parents to talk more openly about alcohol use. Haessler stated, “It is important to be open with your kids about the dangers of consuming alcohol. Having discussions can go a lot further than just always saying it is bad for them without giving a reason why.” Many psychologists have also agreed that this is the best way to approach an alcohol problem. The most important thing is for teens to not see alcohol as a forbidden fruit; they should see it as something they can wait for.

With open talk and more honesty, the United States may be able to combat the growing pre-gaming epidemic. If teenagers could understand the risks that come with it and if adults could find a way to discuss it with their kids, then it is possible we could deal with fewer underage tragedies in the coming years.