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This paper aims to report the occurrence of preloading within a Mackay sample; collected in early February of 2015. The report is based on a sub-study of ‘Smart Start - A Preloading Project’ which ran predominantly in the Brisbane CBD between August, 2014 to late February, 2015. Three sub-studies have been completed from the Smart Start project, including Gold Coast, Mackay, and Melbourne Cup. Generally, the aim of the Smart Start project is to assess:

  • Who is preloading
  • Where they are preloading
  • Type of preloading
  • How much they are preloading
  • What motivates people to preload
  • Participants’ experiences of negative physical, psychological, and social consequences when preloading
  • Participants’ perception of level of intoxication (i.e., Blood Alcohol Content – BAC reading) after preloading; and
  • Levels of intoxication after preloading via recorded BAC readings

An important first step in understanding the phenomenon of preloading is to operationalise it. For the purposes of the Smart Start project, preloading was defined as drinking, taking drugs (illicit), or mixing energy drinks with alcohol (MEDA) before heading out to licensed entertainment venues (i.e., pubs, bars, or clubs) in the CBD of a city. Further to this, it is important to note that eating out at restaurants and frequenting a local bar or similar establishment were included amongst the places where people could have preloaded.

Preloading is suspected to be an activity that is engaged in nation-wide (Foster & Ferguson, 2014). In consideration of this, it was deemed important to expand the scope of our Smart Start project to include other popular night-time entertainment districts that are known for their high levels of alcohol consumption and related negative consequences. Reviewing preloading practices in other cities and towns is also important for the discovery of idiosyncratic location driven findings that may result in improved alcohol-related interventions.

In Queensland, Mackay CBD is recognised as a regional town that caters to mining and agricultural industries. These factors alone have been linked to greater consumption of alcohol and other drugs (AIHW, 2014). In view of this, the town implemented a City Safe initiative in May, 2008 which aims to address alcohol-related violence in the Centre’s nightclub precinct (Working Safe in Rural and Remote Australia Project, 2015). The town identifies that its nightclub precinct, located primarily in Victoria Street, is a common target for shift workers and locals to participate in respite and refreshment (Working Safe in Rural and Remote Australia Project, 2015). In recognition of Mackay’s focus on reducing alcohol related harm in the CBD, particularly its nightclub precinct where approximately 2000 people come on Friday and Saturday nights, it was considered important to investigate preloading practices. Results retrieved from the sub-study can help identify areas for change and improvement to the town’s already active City Safe initiative which aims at reducing alcohol fueled violence and harm.

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