ALCOHOL chiefs have issued a warning to people taking part in an internet drinking craze to be aware of the dangers.
The internet craze, known as Neknomination, has been sweeping social media sites and is doing the rounds in Hartlepool and East Durham.
Participants film themselves downing a pint and then nominate two other people to do the same within a 24-hour period.
But safety concerns have been raised about the game which has developed so that people are filming the challenge in a variety of different, and sometimes dangerous, scenarios.
Two deaths in Ireland at the weekend have been potentially linked to the social media drinking game.
The body of Jonny Byrne, 19, was recovered from the River Barrow at the weekend and it is believed he had been playing the game before jumping in the river.
And the death of a Dublin DJ Ross Cummins, 22, who was found unconscious in a house in the city on Saturday, has also been linked to the social media drinking game.
Colin Shevills, director of North East alcohol office Balance, said: “While this might seem like fun, we need to remember that this can be very dangerous – and press reports are now linking this craze to two deaths.
“Alcohol is a poison and drinking it in these quantities can have some very damaging effects on a person’s health in both the short and long term.
“This sort of behaviour is what happens when the price, promotion and availability of alcohol is not controlled – drinking to an excessive degree is allowed to become a social norm, which is extremely worrying.
“I would strongly discourage everyone from taking part in this current craze and to drink within the safe limits recommended by the Government, which are no more than two to three units a day for women and no more than three to four a day for men.”