Drunkorexia: a new fad on college campuses?

Posted July 13

Referred to as "drunkorexia," eating or purging to allow for more drinking with less weight gain is another indication of campus alcohol issues. (Deseret Photo)

A survey conducted by a psychology professor at the University of Houston suggests alcohol may govern college campus life even more than most people suppose, and it may be affecting the way students eat.

The term used in frat houses and college dorms is "drunkorexia," and it involves students fasting, purging or otherwise altering their diets to make more room for alcohol so they can get drunk faster.

A new study by Dipali Rinker, a public health professor at the University of Houston, found that among students who engaged in at least one heavy drinking episode in the last month, 80 percent had engaged in some form of "drunkorexia," Inside Higher Ed reports.

Contrary to some inflammatory news reports, Rinker clarified in an email that her study focused only on students who had engaged in some form of binge drinking in the past month.

To put that in context, a 2007 study by USA Today found that nearly half of full time college students binged on drugs or alcohol at least once a month. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that 40 percent of college students binge drink.

Either way, Rinker's study points to a hefty percentage of the student population.

"These behaviors range all the way from vomiting, taking laxatives, and purging (arguably more severe) to eating low-calorie meals or drinking low-calorie alcoholic drinks (arguably less severe), before, during, or after drinking," Rinker said in the email.

The link between college drinking and eating disorders has health experts concerned, even setting aside the health and assault risks inherent in blackout drinking.

“Long term, it’s not a good idea to skip nutritious meals in order to consume more calories from alcohol,” said Aaron White, the program director of college and underage drinking prevention at the NIAAA, to Inside Higher Ed in response to the study.

“Then there are the short-term consequences," White added. "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.”

The NIAAA notes on its website that 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, 690,000 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking, and 97,000 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

Additionally, the NIAAA reports, "About 25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall."



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