Coronavirus: stay safe with our facts, information and practical advice about alcohol and your health

Why are drinking games dangerous?

Drinkaware is an independent charity working to reduce alcohol misuse and harm in the UK. We're here to help people make better choices about drinking. 

Don't be fooled into thinking they are harmless fun, drinking games can lead to risky behaviour and alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal, and can have consequences for your long-term health too.

How drinking games work

A drinking game is any activity that puts someone else in control of how much alcohol you drink. They’re often played as a way for strangers to bond – like during Freshers’ Week at university.

During drinking games players might have to drink alcohol when they hear a certain word, or as a forfeit when they break the game’s rules.

These rules become harder to follow the more alcohol players drink – which means they make mistakes and end up drinking more.

This encourages players to drink more alcohol than they want, faster than they’d like, which can put them at risk.

Social risks of drinking games

Alcohol makes people feel less inhibited1, which means you might make bad decisions if you drink too much.
For example, you may decide this is the perfect time to text your ex and tell them how you really feel. Or you could behave in embarrassing ways in front of new friends that’ll be all over social media the next morning.
Drinking games can also be very expensive – buying huge rounds at the bar can rapidly burn through your student loan or wages.

Top tips for keeping you and your friends safe when drinking

Health risks of drinking games

Drinking too much alcohol too quickly during a drinking game can lead to alcohol poisoning. This life-threatening condition happens when the body becomes overwhelmed by alcohol.

If you recognise the symptoms of alcohol poisoning  – which include confusion, vomiting or seizures – call 999 immediately.
Drinking too much alcohol can also make you vulnerable to situations that might be risky, like walking back to your house alone.

Alcohol makes people less inhibited which could also mean you’re more likely to be involved in an accident and the more you drink, the more likely that may become. Alcohol can also slow down your reactions, upset your balance, and impair your vision and hearing making it difficult to be alert to things that could pose a risk to your safety.

Playing a drinking game as part of a large group of people can make it difficult to tell when people are in trouble.
You’re always safer on a night out if you stick with your friends and regularly check they’re OK.

Find out more about Staying with Your Pack

Drinking games and the low risk drinking guidelines

The UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines recommend that both men and women are safest not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week.

Getting involved in drinking games can seriously speed up the rate you drink so you’re more likely to exceed the guidelines.
Regularly exceeding the guidelines doesn’t just increase your risk of getting serious conditions like cancer and heart disease. It can also affect your appearance, lead to weight gain and increase anxiety and stress.

See how many calories and units are in your favourite drink

Take a different approach to drinking games

  1. Opt out: Choose not to get involved in drinking games and make it clear you’d rather be in control of the amount of alcohol you drink.
  2. Be Freshers’ Week-aware: If you’re a student our Freshers’ Survival Guide will help you enjoy your first weeks as a student and stay safe.
  3. Think differently: From paintballing to preparing a shared meal, there’s plenty of positive ways to bring people together that don’t involve drinking games.
  4. Look out for others: If friends are playing drinking games check they’re OK – and help them opt out if they’ve drunk too much alcohol.
  5. Keep tabs on your drinking: Download our free Drinkaware: Track and Calculate Units App to keep tabs on how much alcohol you’re drinking.

What does binge drinking really mean?

  1. Gan, G., Guevara, A., Marxen, M., Neumann, M., Jünger, E., Kobiella, A., Mennigen, E., Pilhatsch, M., Schwarz, D., Zimmermann, U.S. and Smolka, M.N., 2014. Alcohol-induced impairment of inhibitory control is linked to attenuated brain responses in right fronto-temporal cortex. Biological psychiatry, 76(9), pp.698-707. Available at: [Accessed 23 February 2017].


live chat

Chat with an advisor