What is “Drunkorexia”? And Is It Becoming More Common?

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What is “Drunkorexia”? And Is It Becoming More Common?

“Drunkorexia” is a slang term for a behavior that is best describes as an eating disorder + alcoholism. Moreover, the person engages in starvation or bingeing and purging activities in combination with excessive alcohol use.

The behavior is typically used as a means of weight control in order to compensate for high caloric intake during binge drinking. However, it can be used for other reasons.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’d never heard the term drunkorexia until recently. And here I am, a recovering alcoholic, who in the past has avoided food during binges in order to cut down on calories.

I’ve heard other similar terms: an old friend of mine called it “the booze diet”. I myself have used the phrase “I’ve been drinking my dinner”.

One classic example of a “drunkorexic” was Amy Winehouse, the award-winning soul/blues/jazz artist who died of alcohol poisoning in 2011.

However, drunkorexia is not a new disorder – the interaction between excessive drinking and a reduction in food intake is a phenomenon that is well- known. But now it has a name.

But what is new, is that more and more people, particularly students, are engaging in the behavior. Of increased risk are students who live in sorority and fraternity housing,

The Studies

Not surprisingly, research has been largely focused on college-age women, but the behavior has also been seen among young men.

One 2011 study by the University of Missouri revealed that up to 30% of female college students admitted to restricting food intake in order to swap calories for upcoming alcohol consumption. In the same study, men engaged in similar behavior, but to save money rather to restrict calories. The time frame was just 12 months prior to the survey.

According to the study, roughly two-thirds of those who skip meals for alcohol do so to avoid gaining weight. Disturbingly, about 21% say they did so to increase intoxication.

A recent study from the University of Houston found that of the 1,184 heavy-drinking college students surveyed, over 80% admitted to having at least one episode of drunkorexia in the past 3 months.

Behaviors involved in drunkorexia binge drinking included self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives or diuretics, and refusing to eat before drinking.

The Problem With Drunkorexia

Well, where do I start? Eating on an empty stomach will definitely increase blood alcohol concentration, simply because there is nothing there to absorb the alcohol. This increase is more likely to result in blackouts, injury, and poor decision-making.

It also can result in temporary dehydration because of excessive urination and lack of thirst. Also, engaging in this behavior frequently can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

These are some of the more immediate effects, but longer term effects can include increased damage to the liver and kidneys, as well as alcohol addiction.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

Related: Eating Disorders and Alcoholism: Why Do They Often Occur Together?

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