Drinking and Safer Nightlife

 Going to a bar or hitting a club can be an adventure some nights. The beer we have at a friends place before heading out becomes eight drinks, the bouncer who was looking at you funny when you walked in the door suddenly has a problem with your presence. At moments it can seem like all this has happened before, and that’s because it has. TRIP! in conjunction with the Toronto Safer Nightlife Committee, have released the results of the Toronto SaferNightlife Survey.

TRIP scoured bars, clubs and party goers for the information of 334 participants over the year of 2010, ranging from as far north as Newmarket and as far south as Hamilton, polling them about their habits when they go to a bar or club. The range of questions included: Do they pre-drink or just hit the bar, do they drink water before, during, or after? What goes wrong most often, and what do the bars (in the average users humble opinion) need to change?

One of the big trends noticed was the number of people pre-drinking. More and more this habit has become popular, being just what it sounds like: pre-drinking means having a couple of drinks at home before heading out to the bar. 90% of people polled said they had at least one or two drinks beforehand, while half of the pre-drinkers reported they had three to five drinks before heading out. A fifth reported having between 5-10 drinks, and smaller percentages reporting upwards of 10. The major reason for pre-drinking in the survey was apparently to save money. Pre-bar socializing came a close second reason.

However, when one arrives to the pub, there can come a time when they think to themselves, “Maybe I shouldn’t have had that tenth shot of tequila.” How do the others, as a group, know when to refuse drinks, if they are just as drunk? According to the polls, 62% of participants “knew” when they “felt drunk enough” to stop themselves, and their friends, from reaching to the point some like to call, “heading to your happy place”. 36% of the participants in the polls seemed braver, though, and stopped drinking as soon as they felt ill (which is probably the preferable thing to do). Lastly, a stalwart 32% of individuals only ceased drinking when the bar issued last call.

Apparently, most youth in the GTA take one step further than drinking alcohol when they have a night out with friends. 80% of participants in the survey reported illicit drug use while in a bar or club. Of those people, 88% are more likely to be men who get high at the bar, versus 74% of women. A substantial amount of youth is following this trend of illicit drug use, with 76% being under eighteen. The substances that are most likely to be used are amphetamine-type substances, such as meth and MDMA/ecstasy; and hallucinogen-type substances, such as ketamine, or cannabis.

Of course, when one spends a night out with friends, it is common to wonder what the neighbours must be thinking. Well, apparently, 57% of individuals polled are mindful of local residents, while 27% are only mindful in relation to how drunk they were. A smaller group reported that they did not see entertainment districts as residential, so were not mindful at all. The results between youth from Toronto and youth from outside the city are identical, which might be surprising to some people.

Upon asking what the biggest problems usually were, a few common headaches became clear. Most of the polled participants gave personal problems with injury, loss of personal items, and illness as their top three answers. Two interesting facts also arose: Firstly, frequent pre-drinkers were more likely to report harms and injuries. Also, those under eighteen, and those over thirty, had the lowest percentage of substance overdose or alcohol poisoning.

The lesson taken away from this survey seems to be that if you go out clubbing or just out to a bar is that if you pre-drink, be careful of how much you have before heading out and keep track of yourself and your belongings as the night goes on. Easy ways to help this are to drink water between rounds, have a drinking buddy to check in with every so often, and as always, know your mind, know your body, and know your source (or in this case, your bar).