Open Access Research

Cross-sectional measures and modelled estimates of blood alcohol levels in UK nightlife and their relationships with drinking behaviours and observed signs of inebriation

Mark A Bellis1*, Karen Hughes1, Zara Quigg1, Michela Morleo1, Ian Jarman1 and Paulo Lisboa12

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University, 5th Floor Kingsway House, Hatton Garden, Liverpool, L3 2AJ, UK

2 Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Liverpool John Moores University, Byrom Street, Liverpool, L3 3AF, UK

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Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 2010, 5:5  doi:10.1186/1747-597X-5-5

Published: 20 April 2010

Abstract

Background

Management of nightlife in UK cities focuses on creating safe places for individuals to drink. Little is known about intoxication levels as measuring total alcohol consumption on nights out is complicated by early evening interviews missing subsequent consumption and later interviews risking individuals being too drunk to recall consumption or participate at all. Here we assess mixed survey and modelling techniques as a methodological approach to examining these issues.

Methods

Interviews with a cross sectional sample of nightlife patrons (n = 214) recruited at different locations in three cities established alcohol consumption patterns up to the point of interview, self-assessed drunkenness and intended drinking patterns throughout the remaining night out. Researchers observed individuals' behaviours to independently assess drunkenness. Breath alcohol tests and general linear modelling were used to model blood alcohol levels at participants' expected time of leaving nightlife settings.

Results

At interview 49.53% of individuals regarded themselves as drunk and 79.43% intended to consume more alcohol before returning home, with around one in ten individuals (15.38% males; 4.35% females) intending to consume >40 units (equal to 400 mls of pure alcohol). Self-assessed drunkenness, researcher observed measures of sobriety and blood alcohol levels all correlated well. Modelled estimates for blood alcohol at time of going home suggested that 71.68% of males would be over 0.15%BAC (gms alcohol/100 mls blood). Higher blood alcohol levels were related to drinking later into the night.

Conclusions

UK nightlife has used substantive health and judicial resources with the aim of creating safer and later drinking environments. Survey and modelling techniques together can help characterise the condition of drinkers when using and leaving these settings. Here such methods identified patrons as routinely getting drunk, with risks of drunkenness increasing over later nights. Without preventing drunkenness and sales to intoxicated individuals, extended drinking hours can simply act as havens for drunks. A public health approach to nightlife is needed to better understand and take into account the chronic effects of drunkenness, the damages arising after drunk individuals leave city centres and the costs of people avoiding drunken city centres at night.