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“Drunkorexia”: The Dangerous Trend, and the Facts You Need to Know

In an alarming trend sweeping the nation’s college campuses, “drunkorexia” has become all-too common. The non-medical slang term, which refers to a combination of symptoms related to both alcohol abuse and eating disorders, has splashed across the headlines of US university newspapers in recent weeks, offering insight into this dangerous and widespread on-campus habit.

Although this term entered the scene years ago, it has recently gained momentum in light of several college campus alcohol bans. With a magnifying glass on college drinking trends, drunkorexia is on its way to becoming an epidemic.

What is Drunkorexia?

The connection between addiction and eating disorders is persistent and devastating to many. Drunkorexia combines alcohol abuse behaviors with behaviors of those afflicted with eating disorders. Namely, large groups of students across the country are severely limiting their caloric intake during the day in order to “leave room” for calories imbibed via alcohol consumption later at night.

As students head out to parties with nothing in their stomachs, they are getting drunk faster. Skipping meals leads alcohol to be absorbed rapidly through the stomach lining. Other individuals choose to self-induce vomiting post-binge drinking, ridding themselves of the calories consumed.

In a recent study by the University of Houston, 1,200 students were surveyed regarding their drinking habits. Results revealed that up to 80 percent of these students were engaging in practices of calorie restriction, overexercising, or purging in combination with binge drinking. Dipali Rinker, a UH research assistant professor, stated that drunkorexia may lead to less inhibition and more “alcohol-related consequences,” as well as vitamin depletion due to calorie restriction. The risk of alcohol poisoning is also of chief concern.

The Today Show’s recent report on the subject produced interviews with college students in the Chicago area, three girls who shared their personal experiences with binge drinking and drunkorexia. Available to watch here, the piece discusses the realities of the trend and the struggles of campus officials to fight against it.

As the desire to remain thin remains prevalent among American young adults, so too does the tendency to engage in risky behavior to attain and maintain this goal. The potential health-related impacts are too devastating to tempt fate, and the signs and symptoms of drunkorexia can lead to even more serious mental health issues and addictions down the road.

With body image and addictive tendencies so closely related in this disturbing trend, the risks are innumerable. As young people continue to engage in this dangerous practice, awareness, education, and availability of treatment are more important than ever before.

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