PHOENIX — It’s the latest craze sweeping through social media, but it’s no funny cat video — it’s called Neknominate, and it is already linked to as many as five deaths.
Neknominate is an online drinking game, believed to have started in Australia, where participants video themselves guzzling alcohol, often while doing outlandish things. They then nominate two other people to out-do the challenger within 24 hours.
Geffen Liberman, a licensed independent substance abuse counselor, said games that require the consumption of alcohol at such a fast rate can be very dangerous.
“Obviously, anytime you’re consuming alcohol rapidly, it gets into your system quicker,” he said, adding that quick consumption can cause problems in the body’s nervous system, which then can affect breathing or heart rate.
As the challenges have become more outlandish, so has the amount and type of alcohol participants have been consuming. Where some users once chugged a pint of beer, others have taken to drinking pints of hard liquor or combining several types of alcohol in an effort to out-do others.
Liberman said the fact that binge drinking is a part of the game only increases the risk of danger.
“The chance of an incident or something negative happening is going to be increased when you’re doing it for sport or for a game like that,” he said. “Especially when dealing with young people, who have a tendency to want to push the envelope anyway and kind of, one-up the next group of people…I think we’re starting to see that it’s progressed from beer consumption to hard liquor.”
Those dangers have been very real in the United Kingdom, where the game is believed to have killed five men under 30. The Telegraph reported that a 20-year-old man died after attempting to drink two pints of gin, and then another was killed after drinking a cocktail of wine, whisky, vodka and lager.
While the game has not become popular in the United States and there have not been reported deaths on this side of the Atlantic, Liberman said it’s not difficult for a game such as Neknominate to spread quickly.
He encouraged parents to teach their children ways to say no and avoid alcohol and substance abuses and added that too often parents might not take games such as Neknominate seriously.
“The biggest word of education…would be take it seriously; at least look into it if you find out something like this is happening,” he said. “Have some discussions about it within your own family and if it is coming up with your son or daughter, be willing to have some serious conversations with them about it.”