You might have heard of the term “drunkorexia” before — and based on a few studies, it’s getting a lot of press these days. While it sounds like a fun, made-up word, it’s way more harmful than cute. Drunkorexia is a lesser-known eating disorder that also ties in a dependency to alcohol, and it’s starting to gain traction all over college campuses.
Drunkorexia leads to both men and women purposely skipping meals, or even purging meals, in order to make caloric room for alcohol. Since binge drinking can often cause weight gain, drunkorexics try and counteract this by failing to eat proper meals if they’re anticipating a big night of partying. But since drinking on an empty stomach will also cause someone to process the alcohol much quicker, it’ll also cause the buzz of alcohol to start much sooner.
“Having food in your stomach reduces peak blood alcohol levels about a third, so if you flip that, your peak level is significantly higher, increasing risk of blackouts, injuries and poor decisions. The consequences are worse than the consequences of not saving the calories,” said a director at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
The University of Houston recently conducted a study by interviewing 1,200 students who had experience with alcohol. They found that in the span of a month, eight out of ten students had participated in risky, drunkorexic behavior, whether it be purging, skipping meals, or abusing laxatives.
“Our data suggest that college students are more likely to engage in these specific compensatory behaviors if they are athletes, are already heavy drinkers, are coping with negative emotions, are engaging in disordered eating practices already, and, most importantly, because they perceive it to be a highly normative behavior among college students,” said Dr. Dipali V. Rinker, a research assistant professor at the university.
But, this isn’t just an act that’s occurring in the United States — Australia did a similar study, and found that 60% of students fit the drunkorexic mold.
Does that sound alarming? You bet it does. While a drunkorexia lifestyle might be a warped way to manage calories, it does a lot of harm to your body, and can also lead to really dangerous situations. Food gives us energy, and without it, we’d perish — so, cutting out food could easily lead to patterns that’d promote malnutrition, and multiple other health issues. And of course, binge drinking, and getting that buzz rather quickly, might make us vulnerable to dangerous behaviors, situations, and accidental injuries. Or, alcohol poisoning. Waking up in a hospital probably isn’t the ideal way to end a party.
Getting used to skipping meals and substituting food for alcohol might seem like an innocent, one-time occurrence today, but it can often lead to more destructive behavior down the road. If you notice yourself partaking in this risky behavior, try and put a stop to it now before it may become something you have trouble controlling. And as always, make sure to drink responsibly.