Young people drink significant quantities of alcohol before they go out as they find bars and nightclubs "scary", according to a study.
Researchers at Plymouth University said "pre-loading" - drinking alcohol before a night out - is increasing in revellers aged 18-23.
This is due to them not liking the traditional pub environment and needing alcohol to cope with the "scary" atmosphere of bars and nightclubs, a study found.
The differing price of alcohol in shops and licensed premises was also a major factor in the study, which set out to explain the growth of pre-loading.
Dr Adrian Barton, associate head of Plymouth University's School of Government, led the study, published in the current edition of journal Drugs and Alcohol Today.
"In our minds, pre-loading is fast becoming a significant cultural shift in the consumption of alcohol in the UK," Dr Barton said.
"But policy-makers' understanding of the practice is limited, meaning that alcohol policies locally and nationally are failing to reflect its significance.
"This is predominantly down to an over-reliance on the assumption it is linked to economics, and until policy-makers and those leading the night-time economy industry (NTE) recognise it as a significant cultural shift, alcohol policy will continue to fail to reach as much as 80% of some people's alcohol intake."
In a previous study conducted by Dr Barton and Dr Kerryn Husk, from the University of Exeter Medical School, found 60%-70% of people drink some alcohol before going out.
Around 50% of these consume "significant quantities", the study found.
The research was carried out over a three-month period, with people aged 18 to 23 interviewed at length about their drinking habits.
They were asked to recount their pre-loading experiences based around frequency, planning, rituals and its relation to going out.
Their answers showed more planning was often put into the pre-loading than the rest of the night, but also revealed insight into their perceptions of going out, Dr Barton said.
Among the responses to questions about why young people pre-load were: "I get scared in clubs so drinking before I go out gives me the courage to face it," and: "What I like is the feeling of being with my mates but feeling safe. I don't get that in the pub but I do get it at home."
Dr Barton said the responses showed the tendency to pre-load was based on young people's fear of bars and nightclubs, rather than price.
"Beyond price, young people seemingly need alcohol to cope when going out and many of the young respondents prefer the comfort and safety drinking with people known to them brings," Dr Barton said.
"Equally, those charged with designing pubs and clubs are seemingly failing to understand or accommodate the needs of young drinkers. Those working within the NTE and alcohol policy communities need to be aware that despite some good improvements in safety and environment, the NTE still remains a place where some young people feel afraid."