New Zealand Students and ‘Cultures of Intoxication’

Fiona Hutton


The drinking practices of New Zealanders have been the subject of much concern, culminating in a report by the New Zealand Law Commission in 2010 which presented evidence-based recommendations for implementing effective alcohol policies in New Zealand. Within debates about alcohol consumption and drinking practices, New Zealand University students have been identified as a group of young people who drink more heavily than their peers, as well as suffering from more alcohol related harms.
The following discussion focuses on a group of eight university students, aged 18–19, some who were non- or light-drinkers, and their reflections on the cultures of intoxication that they negotiate, as well as their experiences of peer pressure. The aim of this article is to discuss the drinking and abstinence prac- tices of this group of New Zealand university students to explore how they interact with or resist contemporary cultures of intoxication in the particular context of university life. Eight qualitative, semi-structured interviews were thematically analysed and the themes: cultures of intoxication, peer pressure and inexperienced ‘drinking disasters’ are discussed. This paper critically ex- plores these key themes and discusses the New Zealand context in relation to the international literature about student drinking cultures (Hernandez, Leotini and Harley 2013; Romo 2012; Supski, Lindsay and Tanner 2016), including young people who are light or non-drinkers (Conroy and de Visser 2014; Nairn, Higgins, Thompson, Anderson and Fu 2007; Fry 2010; Herring, Bayley and Hurcombe 2014). The interviews identified an overarching New Zealand culture of intoxication, as well as more local cultures of intoxication, which students bring with them to a university setting.


Alcohol, students, cultures of intoxication, harm reduction

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