Drunkorexia, A Real Concern Especially Among College Students

If the binge drinking trend continues on college campuses this school year, more than 1,800 students will die from alcohol-related accidents. These deadly incidents include mixing alcohol with other drugs, getting into a car with someone who has been drinking or falling from an apartment balcony. And now there is a new phenomenon experts are growing concerned with called “drunkorexia.”

According to Healthline, a health-information media company, drunkorexia is a restriction of food, carbohydrates or calories prior to consuming alcohol. It’s more prevalent among college students who may skip a meal before going to the bar to offset the calories they are likely to consume by drinking. Drunkorexia is not a clinical diagnosis, but it shares traits with recognized eating disordered behaviors such as restriction, eating and purging.

Dipali Rinker, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at The University of Houston examined the drinking habits of 1,184 heavy drinking college students between the ages of 18 and 26, and found that 81 percent of them reported engaging in drunkorexic behaviors over a three month period.

“If you’re not getting calories from food and you’re getting calories from alcohol, you’re getting a lot of empty calories,” she says. “You have concerns about dehydration, vitamin depletion. You’re just drinking in a riskier way.”

It doesn’t just effect college students.

Amanda, a 31-year-old Nashville woman says, “When I read about drunkorexia, it was like a light bulb went off. My behavior is the definition of drunkorexia. I would often eat little to nothing before an outing at the bars because I thought I’d get a stronger buzz on an empty stomach. And when my friends would order food I’d often pass even if I was hungry because I thought it would just make me full and tired and the party would be over. Then, when I did finally eat, I would binge. I realize now this behavior wasn’t only unhealthy, it was Getting the best sleep in addiction recoverydangerous.”

In a 2018 article out of the University of South Florida, researchers argued we should take the concept of drunkorexia seriously and give it an appropriate name: Food and Alcohol Disturbance or FAD.

So, is it more of an eating disorder or an substance use disorder? Each person is different, so a doctor would have to determine what the individual patient is suffering from. In some cases, it may be a dual diagnosis.