‘Drunkorexia’ at NJ colleges? Disturbing trend worries experts
Skipping meals in favor of alcoholic drinks. It sounds dangerous and stupid, but the pattern exists at college campuses everywhere, experts say.
The term "drunkorexia" is not a clinical diagnosis. However, the National Eating Disorders Association is well aware of the disturbing behavior practiced typically by college students.
To either offset caloric intake or to increase the effects of alcohol, the student may trade lunch and dinner for a few shots, or maybe a few beers or glasses of wine.
"Prevalence rates for drunkorexia aren't available, but we do know that nearly 50 percent of individuals with an eating disorder are also abusing drugs and/or alcohol, a rate five times greater than what is seen in the general population," said NEDA CEO Claire Mysko.
Dr. Petros Levounis, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, has seen a number of drunkorexia cases both in the emergency room and within his psychiatric practice.
"Especially a lot of our college women are particularly preoccupied with body image, and they may opt to get their calories through alcohol instead of food in order to not gain weight," Levounis told New Jersey 101.5.
According to Levounis, the trend is mostly prevalent among the younger college grades.
And it can have a devastating impact, both physically and mentally, he said, with the most imminent risk being alcohol poisoning.
The sometimes deadly consequence can be associated with the symptoms of slow breathing, vomiting and unconsciousness — all of which can arrive much quicker for someone who's gone without food for hours.
"On the alcohol side, you end up with addiction and poisoning your liver and several of your organs because of the alcohol toxicity," Levounis said. "On the non-eating side, you don't get essential vitamins, essential amino acids, essential nutrients."
If you or someone you know is dealing with an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorders Hotline can be reached at 800-931-2237.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.