To estimate the prevalence of heavy episodic drinking (HED), consumption patterns, protective and risk behaviours and motivations in a sample of young Italians with recent alcohol use. Design:
Cross-sectional study. The target population was young people (18–29 years) living in the metropolitan area of Bologna (Northern Italy). A mixed study design with quantitative and qualitative instruments was used. Findings:
Four focus groups were held; 500 young people were interviewed. The results show ample alcohol misuse among youths and highlight a process of normalization of excess-oriented practices. Following single episodes of HED, almost all the interviewees experienced health problems or negative consequences in the fields of relations and social commitments. A particular group of habitual alcohol drinkers (frequent and repeated misuse) were identified with a high likelihood of encountering problematic situations and stated that their motivation for their last episode of HED was boredom and the search for psychoactive effects. From the current focus, it can be seen that those who take large quantities of alcoholic beverages do so to reach a state of inebriation. Young adults seem to be well-informed as to the psychoactive properties of alcoholic beverages and are aware of the related risks. Originality/value:
A gradual loss of traditional references in the alcohol culture emerges among Italian youths. Future studies targeted at the cultural aspects of alcohol misuse are needed.
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