Project Presentation by Michel Marcus, Executive Director, FFSU

« The threat behind binge drinking is addiction »

Since its first manifestos and conferences, the French Forum for Urban Security has put forward the central principle according to which as concerns addictions, there is a necessary balance between public health, public security and prevention of delinquency. In that perspective, cities set up the most efficient framework in order to implement this balance.

Efus and FFUS participate in this reflexion on the cities’ roles and defend the importance of the city as the strategic level to intervene on the “drugs” topic because its represents

  • Places where contradictions and conflicts must be managed
  • An area of proximity with residents
  • The appropriate area for experimental actions
  • An area of public spaces management and where different categories of population live together
  • An area where a balance between public health and security can/must be found
  • An area where the residents’ needs and drug users’ do not match


The SDS project deals with excessive alcohol consumption in public spaces. It has an original approach on two axes :

  • The consequences of binge drinking from a security- and risks-based perspective (for victims or perpetrators), yet without excluding safety risks
  • The participation of the “local” towardsEurope, which is the Forums’ principle of action

In 1997, the Forum worked on a rather similar topic within the prevention programme in summer music festivals. Recommendations and priorities where then set up at the end of the works. Ultimately, they aimed at changing the way public services worked so as to enable public servants to meet the needs in terms of people and goods protection. Such changes were ambitious both in terms of quantity (strengthening existing personnel) and quality (new methodology in services to be made public).

In 2001, Efus suggested the debate “The city by night”, about specific topics based on the night in the city and the functioning of night-time prevention and security public services (educators, local police).

Since then, the DC&D I and DC&D II projects have also integrated the questions of partying, of the night and of drug consumption via the “Quality Night” label and the question of risk reduction in party scenes.

InFrance, relationship with alcohol remains ambiguous : alcohol is regarded as a symbol of French culture and gastronomy. In spite of its harmful effects, alcohol is deemed to foster conviviality and to have socialising and celebration virtues.

One can anthropologically define “the invention of partying as a sort of collective management of the meeting/encounter between new generations” (Véronique Nahoum Grappe). Partying backs men all along with a certain codification/encoding; it is an area of social inversion.

Parting is legitimate, because its function is to foster exchanges and encounters, with excess becoming the norm. It acts as a social bound, an initiation, an experience, an encounter, a rite of passage. Therefore, it implies risks : products consumption, the pursuit of drunkenness and the cohabitation between two worlds, that of the night and that of the residents, which makes it necessary to manage tensions linked to night spaces and night time..

The binge drinking phenomenon is not new but has quickly spread not only in cities, but also in rural areas. That requires timely responses that comprise the question of night and nightlife management. Binge drinking mobilises local public services because the public that devotes itself to such consumption practices/habits is essentially a so-called “ordinary” youth, which in this context adopts risky attitudes. This public requires the implementation of an action doctrine.

Its fieldwork evolves constantly and gives rise to significant media coverage (for instance the famous “Facebook aperitifs”) and manifold reactions, especially in the political and academic worlds. For elected representatives and public tranquillity workers, it also raises questions in terms of nightlife management and governance.

FFUS answered by creating a work group between2007 and 2009 which backed a network nurtured by exchanges and practices. The solutions stem from a collective work which is based on the study of timely, transferable and assessable local answers.

The partnership dimension must take into account the risk management in public spaces and risk reduction in terms of addictions. Seeking a balance between public tranquillity management and safety aspects is an essential stake.

Therefore, the managerial initiative must rely on the principle of allying prevention, repression and solidarity. The fields of primary prevention, risk reduction, public space regulation and educative actions must be dealt with.

The acknowledgement of losing a social and collective sense, a collective belonging to a social body, individual and family isolation, this decline of the social bound has consequences on partying, which appears as an aggressive demeanour. The “threat” behind the binge drinking phenomenon is addiction because partying within this initiation phase may amplify addiction to alcohol. This will have to be studied in parallel to the Efus-led reflexion on drugs. The link between partying and binge drinking, which crystallises social tensions and the reflexion on addictions, remains in the background. It seems important to heed the sociological and anthropological aspects of binge drinking, even though this phenomenon implies a risk for public tranquillity.

The « Safer Drinking Scenes » project must pave the way for a common elaboration of leads and recommendations, stemming from the cities’ experiences, the confrontation of actions and researches. These recommendations must be timely implemented according to the field and help French and European local actors who face this phenomenon.

This post is also available in: French