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As a slang, non-medical term, Drunkorexia refers to someone who restricts food calories to make room for alcoholic drink calories. (Drunk-drinking alcohol, (ano)rexia-restricting food/calories) Others may purge their food and alcoholic drink to avoid the calories. Despite the known risks of these behaviors, studies have shown that 30% of women between 18 and 23 diets so they can drink.

“Drunkorexic” behaviors most often come from the fear of weight gain from alcohol and are more prevalent in college-aged women and more dangerous too, although men also do experience them. In extreme cases, the behaviors may be related to bulimia or anorexia, in which the alcohol is used to make vomiting easier or to help manage eating anxieties. However, individuals without eating disorders that restrict their intake before going out may still struggle with “drunkorexia.”

The dangers of being a drunkorexic for women

Because women weigh less, they have fewer metabolizing enzymes and less diluting body water. A mixed drink on an empty stomach sends alcohol shooting into the system, skyrocketing blood sugar levels. The resulting upheaval in the body’s metabolic process causes serious instability. Those with disordered eating patterns disintegrate from the inside out. Alcohol consumes their vitamins and nutrients leading to serious health problems such as hypoglycemia, fainting, and cognition impairment.

Statistics on drunkorexia in college students

A recent Southeastern University study of first-year college students found that 14 per cent restricted calories before drinking, six per cent of that number doing so in order not to gain weight. A startling 70 per cent were female. According to the CBC, 35 per cent of people with substance abuse issues also have eating disorders. The statistics pare down drunkorexics to one out of five college students.

Effects of drunkorexia

Cutting food calories in favor of drink calories carries several risks. Compounding the risks is the combination of eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, and binge drinking, which pose a great threat to an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional health.

  • Drinking on an empty stomach gets you drunk faster, which in turn reduces your self-control and predisposes you to make bad decisions
  • Binge eating may also be experienced because the person is extremely hungry and may be unable to control their urges
  • Purging often follows after these spurts of binging on food
  • Reducing food caloric intake puts a person at risk of not getting the nutrients needed to function properly
  • Self-starvation and alcohol abuse can also lead to blackouts, alcohol poisoning, alcohol-related injury, violence or illness.
  • Drinking on an empty stomach can make the drinker more vulnerable to alcohol-related brain damage.
  • Drinking on an empty stomach can also have a detrimental impact on hydration of the body being able to hang onto minerals and nutrients which can exacerbate symptoms of malnutrition and cognitive problems.

Long-term effects of drunkorexia include osteoporosis, brain damage, cirrhosis of the liver, cardiac problems, and death. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, those aged 18-24 with eating disorders have the highest rate of death—12 times higher than the average.

Drunkorexia is not a new trend. Drunkorexia has been going on for a long time and is prevalent among young first year college women. The latest trend to come from the Drunkorexic mentality is smoking alcohol which poses even more risks to those who are trying to restrict calories.

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