A drinking game that is sweeping social media has been connected to five deaths.
The viral game, known as Neknominate, involves participants posting videos of themselves downing large quantities of alcohol while performing a spectacular act. They then nominate one or more of their friends and defy them to top the stunt. Friends are reportedly ridiculed online if they don’t accept the nomination.
Believed to have originated in Australia, Neknominate has already been linked to five deaths in the U.K., all men under the age of 30, the New York Daily News reports.
“This is a lethal game,” medical adviser for the U.K.-based charity Drinkaware, Dr. Sarah Jarvis, told CNN. “The point about alcohol is that it affects your ability to recognize that you're in danger, and it absolutely affects your ability to react to danger. So we have a double whammy.”
In one video, a man empties a bottle of alcohol into a toilet bowl and his friends lift him head-first as he proceeds to drink from it. In another video, a pair of friends choose to down 89 percent absinthe laced with hot sauce. A few of the more famous submissions include a woman drinking beer while in lingerie at a supermarket, a woman in a Baywatch bikini chugging a beer at a fast food restaurant and one man who blended a dead rat into his drink.
But the Neknomination craze has reportedly led to the death of a 20-year-old British rugby player, Bradley Eames. He died four days after posting a neknominate challenge online, in which he tried to drink two pints of gin, The Telegraph reports. Another Englishman, Isaac Richardson, died after drinking an alcoholic concoction of wine, whisky, vodka and lager.
Jonny Byrne, 19, from Ireland, reportedly fell into a river in the middle of a challenge of his own.
Schools are now being urged to educate more teens about the dangers of binge drinking. Some parents have also asked social media sites like Facebook to take down neknominate videos.
“We do not tolerate content which is directly harmful, for example bullying, but behavior which some people may find offensive or controversial is not always necessarily against our rules. ...We encourage people to report things to us which they feel breaks our rules so we can review and take action on a case-by-case basis,” Facebook said in a statement.
Brian Viner, whose son was once a part of the craze, is not happy about the answer.
“The whole thing is madness, and it needs some kind of sharp and swift action on the part of these social networks to stop it,” he told CNN.
Hoping to change the word neknominate into something positive, a new Facebook page has been set up to encourage young people to film themselves performing a random act of kindness, then asking a friend to do the same.