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Starving for alcohol: Is “drunkorexia” becoming a college craze?

Column photoBy: EMILY YUSSUM
Staff Writer

A vodka-cranberry cocktail—one of the lowest calorie drinks—roughly contains 200 calories. This means that some young adults consume 1,200 calories in booze per sitting.

That math seems to weigh on quite a few students’ minds and it has been leading to a condition known as drunkorexia.

A rising number of students, professors and health specialists consider it to be a dangerous occurrence. Some dismiss it as a media-driven hype. Others argue it’s an exaggeration of an activity college students have been participating in for years.

As a college student, I’d been told time and again about drinking and partying, even though IU South Bend prohibits alcoholic beverages on campus grounds. I’ve also been advised, “Don’t drink on an empty stomach.” But this trend of drinking while starving yourself takes it a bit further than that.

If you have never heard of the term, don’t be surprised. Though health professionals haven’t deemed “drunkorexia” an official eating disorder, they are noticing the growth of this trend, combining a bad blend of drinking and dieting.

The term first entered our culture back in 2008, when The New York Times profiled the disorder. Across research and academic studies, “drunkorexia” is defined by behaviors that include skipping meals during the day in order to save calories when drinking later that night. Excessive exercising usually follows to compensate for the calories gained from drinking.

In short, it’s mixing anorexic behaviors and alcohol abuse, although students and adults may be reluctant to realize that, thinking they’re only partaking in extreme food restriction.

Body image problems may intimidate some into becoming “drunkorexic.” Others may worry about the impending “freshman 15,” the idea that incoming college freshmen gain 15 pounds in their first year.

College students may resort to this tactic to avoid gaining weight while allowing the effects of alcohol to hit the body faster, resulting in a quick “buzz.”

According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 percent of 18-24 year olds restrict their calorie intake in order to drink more alcohol. One in six adults admit to binge drinking at least four times every month. Additionally, the Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC) noted that up to 40 percent of college students engage in binge drinking.

While drunkorexia isn’t solely limited to college students, given that binge drinking is more prone to happen on college campuses, much of the research has been focused on the growth of the disorder within this demographic.

Because drunkorexia is not yet an official medical condition, there is no definitive treatment plan. Its behaviors sometimes stem from addiction to alcohol or food, so treating these compulsions can help treat behaviors associated with drunkorexia.

In addition, some beer and liquor manufacturers advertise their products to young adults who want to consume alcoholic beverages with fewer calories, including low-calorie count beers, “skinny” cocktails and “lite” versions of fruit-flavored liquors. But even then, some young women and men watch their calorie intake and purge themselves even when drinking these types of alcohol options.

In an effort to gain awareness, we must be informed about the trending hypes and myths associated with alcohol and become aware of the extremes dieting has in relation to drinking. In and beyond college, alcohol is everywhere, and binge drinking has become immersed in our culture.

It’s not to say drinking is to be looked down on or discourage college students from enjoying themselves. However, the extremes dieting and drinking can take should be addressed and known across as well as outside campuses.

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