'Neknominate' blamed for deaths
A young Irishman has pleaded for a halt to online drinking game Neknominate after his brother became one of two people in that country whose deaths have been linked to the game.
The body of Jonny Byrne, 19, was found in a river in County Carlow, Ireland, on Sunday morning (local time), after he reportedly jumped in after taking part in Neknominate on Saturday night.
The game, which may have originated in Australia, involves participants sculling or "necking" alcohol while being filmed, and then nominating a friend to do the same.
The game appeared to have reached New Zealand this year. All Black Steven Luatua publicly apologised after he appeared in an online video pouring a drink down another man's throat.
Video footage of the dares often involves outlandish stunts and costumes.
Byrne's brother, Patrick "Stretch" Byrne, called on people to stop playing the game.
"Everyone across the world please like and share," he wrote in a Facebook post.
"This neck nomination shit HAS TO STOP RIGHT NOW my young 19 year old brother Jonny Byrne from Carlow died tonight in the middle of his nomination. He thought he had to try and beat the competition and after he necked his pint he jumped into the river. After 5 hours of searching he is still not found. If people have any decency and respect they will refrain from any more of this stupid neck nomination shit."
The head of the Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW, Michael Farrell, said people involved in similar drinking games in US colleges had died.
Massey University associate professor of psychology Antonia Lyons, who for the past three years has been researching the effects of social media on alcohol consumption in young people, said the craze was hugely risky.
"It starts with somebody sculling a beer, and then it goes on to more extreme versions of alcohol sculling like vodka and then to get noticed people start doing it while they're driving, skateboarding on roads through intersections. Some of the behaviour is just idiotic.
"The vodka sculling - people die drinking alcohol like that."
Lyons said there was already a massive number of alcohol-related posts on young people's Facebook walls because that was when people were more likely to be taking photos and socialising.
"What we know is that young people, when they're drinking they're already using Facebook - they're posting photos when they're queuing at bars and tagging friends.
"If you talk about peer-modelling - everybody on Facebook looks like they're drinking. It feels like that is what everybody is doing, because even if they're not, it's what people are talking about."
A day before Byrne's body was found, Ross Cummins, 22, a Dublin DJ, died after a night of heavy drinking.
Cummins was found unconscious in the early hours of Saturday morning in a house in the centre of Dublin.
He was taken to hospital but was pronounced dead shortly afterwards, and Irish media are reporting his death is also linked to the game.
He had been filmed participating in Neknominate in a video posted to his Facebook page a week ago, the Irish Mirror website said.
Sydney Morning Herald