TEENAGERS are risking their lives in a reckless new digital drinking game that is sweeping South Lakeland.
The alarming trend on social media site Facebook sees youngsters ‘nominated’ to down strong drinks and carry out potentially life-threatening dares – which experts have warned could kill.
Health leaders, Cumbria police and rescuers are deeply concerned about some of the more extreme and possibly lethal stunts.
Local examples involve a young Kendal man downing a pint of cider then leaping from Hawes Bridge at Sedgwick into the icy River Kent below wearing only women’s clothing and then struggling against the current to clamber out.
Another involved a man diving head first from a bridge in the Lyth Valley after necking a pint while dressed as Batman.
In Kendal, a half naked man waded into the River Kent to drink his pint and complete his challenge.
Originating in Australia, the social media craze – called ‘neck and nominate’ or ‘neknominate’– has even reached the town's shopping centre in Kendal where one teen knocked back a pint and then went backwards up the escalator.
Mike Davis, training officer from Bay Search and Rescue, called the river jumps a ‘suicide mission’.
“Nine times out of ten jumping into flowing water like this ends badly,” he said.
“It ends with us having to pick them up and then go and tell their parents some awful news.”
The craze has spread virally on Facebook with participants sharing their exploits after filming them on mobile phones.
People have drunk pints of spirits as well as snorting a body building supplement, biting the head off a dead chicken and stubbing out a cig-arette on their tongue.
The ‘rules’ are that once someone has completed their challenge they then nominate someone else to take part within 24 hours.
Cumbria Alcohol and Drugs Advice Service said it was ‘extremely danger-ous to consume a large amount of alcohol in such a small space of time’.
Spokesman Helen Davis said: “Downing a pint of vodka has the potential to kill someone – especially if the drinker is not used to drinking in such high volumes.
“One pint of vodka is the equivalent to 22 units; the recommended intake for adult males is 3.4 units and for women 2.3 units per day.”
One teen from Kendal vomited violently after downing two cans of beer.
Retired Dr David Earnshaw, of Ambleside, branded it ‘appalling’.
He said: “This sort of drinking can be even fatal if spirits are involved. It is a form of drinking which will cause liver damage.”
Cumbria police warned youngsters not to put themselves in danger.
A spokesperson said: “This type of action is really irresponsible and we hope people see sense and do not become involved or feel influenced to do things due to peer pressure.”
Kendal’s Suzie Hayman, a trustee of the charity Family Lives – offering support to parents dealing with issues from bullying to coping with troubled teens – offered her own advice.
She suggested talking to children, not lecturing them.
She said: “Let them make their own decision and then offer your own advice.
“More teenagers than you think will make the decision that it is a stupid thing to do and not give in to peer pressure.
“Teenagers have always taken risks and parents will always worry about what they are doing.”
One local video even challenges Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron to take part.
"It might appear to be harmless fun to those involved, but it is plain stupid,” said Mr Farron. “I hope no-one hurts themselves as a result.”
With many rivers and local lakes extremely cold and fast flowing, as well as the aggravating factor of alcohol, officials have reiterated the dangers.
Kevin Clinton, Royal Society of the Prevention of Accident’s (RoSPA), said alcohol could make people overconfident
. Bay Search and Rescue said it took only 16 inches of flowing water to wash a person away and people could go into hypothermic shock.
However, comments left on Facebook describe it as ‘good fun’.
Katie O’Brien posted: “It’s good fun if you’re reasonable about it. Seen hundreds on Facebook... just waiting on my nomination.”
Lisa Young posted: “I have done this and it was a good bit of fun that’s all! It’s a sign of the times!!”
Leading health expert Professor John Ashton, said: “It is important that people should not get caught up in fashions like this and they must realise in life you must be your own person and not be somebody else’s fool.”