University students are increasingly swapping food for alcohol in a frightening and dangerous trend dubbed “drunkorexia,” which is on the rise around the world. The practice, which involves either eschewing food before a night of binge drinking or getting in a vigorous workout beforehand, is meant to curb weight gain brought on by drinking and help people get drunk faster.
A recent study conducted by the University of Houston found that more than 80 per cent of college students had engaged in drunkorexia-related behaviour over the previous three months, including food restriction, excessive exercise, and taking laxatives or diuretics before drinking, or binge drinking and purging. Another study conducted by UK’s Benenden Healthcare Society found that 39 per cent of 18 – 24 year-olds and 40 per cent of 25 – 34 year-olds have skipped a meal to save calories for alcohol.
And it’s not a gendered practice, either. Benenden’s study also discovered that 19 per cent of women and 17 per cent of men are inclined to skip food to drink more booze.
The effects of drunkorexia are similarly disturbing.
“Potential outcomes may include less inhibition that could lead to more negative alcohol-related consequences,” Dipali V. Rinker, a research assistant professor in the department of psychology at the University of Houston, said to Science Daily. “Additionally, restricting caloric intake to those from alcohol could lead to vitamin depletion, as it may keep the individual from eating more nutrient-dense foods.”
These findings mimic those of a 2012 Simon Fraser University study that tracked 227 students at Toronto’s York University for four months. Researcher Daniella Sieukaran found that people who engaged in drunkorexia exhibited risky behaviours.
She also found a direct link to dieting and drinking. Of three types of disordered eating — dieting, emotional eating and external eating — only dieting was associated with alcohol-induced risky behaviour.
“With the other types of disordered eating, there was actually a decrease in those types of behaviours,” she said.
According to Addiction Centre, a rehab resource centre, the long-term effects of drunkorexic behaviour include liver, heart and brain damage, cognitive impairment, nutritional deficiencies, substance use disorders and advanced eating disorders.