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AAM_908279_Caluzzi,G_2020.pdf (355.19 kB)

Re-configured pleasures: How young people feel good through abstaining or moderating their drinking

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posted on 2023-08-08, 05:00 authored by Gabriel CaluzziGabriel Caluzzi, Sarah MacLeanSarah MacLean, Amy PennayAmy Pennay
Background: Alcohol use has strong associations with the pursuit of pleasure, yet trends in young people's drinking have been declining in Australia for more than 15 years. Therefore, it is important to examine how the increasing number of young people who drink lightly or abstain think about pleasure and alcohol, and how this might reflect changing practices around drinking for pleasure. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 50 young people aged 16–19 from Melbourne who abstained from alcohol or drank within Australian guidelines for risky drinking. Participants reflected on how they socialised whilst drinking lightly or without drinking at all, and how they experienced pleasure in this context. These responses were analysed thematically. Results: Four key themes emerged; authenticity, intimacy, control, and vicarious pleasure. Some participants felt that by not drinking, they were enacting authentic or better versions of themselves, whilst developing a stronger sense of intimacy with their sober friends. Others described the displeasure of potentially losing control of their emotions and bodies in social situations and were able to instead experience enjoyment vicariously through their friends’ drinking. Conclusion: Drinking has long been regarded as a way to build a connection with others, relax and feel a sense of pleasure. However, it is important to recognise that avoiding drinking and drunkenness provides an alternative means by which some young people pursue feelings of pleasure and enjoyment. In a time of declining drinking rates, participants here drew on notions of authenticity, intimacy, self-control, and vicarious enjoyment to construct light or non-drinking as a pleasurable pursuit, and a positive part of selfhood.


Gabriel Caluzzi is supported by an Australian Research Council Research Training Program Scholarship. This research was funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project funding scheme (project number DP160101380). Amy Pennay is supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DE190101074). The Centre for Alcohol Policy Research is co-funded by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.


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International Journal of Drug Policy



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© 2020. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license

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