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Drunkorexia is a colloquialism for self-imposed starvation or binge eating/purging combined with alcohol abuse.[1]

Research on the combination of an eating disorder and binge drinking has primarily focused on the patterns of college-aged women, but the phenomenon has also been noted among young men. Studies show that college students engage in this combination of self-imposed malnutrition and binge drinking to avoid weight gain from alcohol.[2] A study by the University of Missouri found that 30% of female college students admitted that within the last year they had restricted food in order to consume greater quantities of alcohol.[2] The same study found that men are more likely engage in similar behavior in order to save money for purchasing alcohol. According to the study, 67% of students who restrict calories prior to alcoholic beverage consumption do so to prevent weight gain, while 21% did so to facilitate alcohol intoxication.[3]

According to the Eating Disorder Center of Denver, of the participating college-aged females in an adjunct research study, about 75% met the criteria for alcohol abuse.[4]

'Showbuzz', a CBS news site, has broadcast that, "Drunkorexia is a media coined term reflecting an alarmingly real trend among young women. The non-medical slang term refers to women who choose to eat less so they can party without gaining weight.” [5]

R. Andrew Chambers, MD, Assistant Professor, Institute of Psychiatric Research and Director, Laboratory for Translational Neuroscience of Dual Diagnosis Disorders notes that many celebrity blog sites report similar patterns of behavior among young actresses such as Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, and that the condition could be mimicked within the entertainment industry and contemporary youth culture at large.[5]

History of binge drinking and eating disorders among college students[edit]

A 2002 study from O'Malley and Johnston reviewed data from the national College Alcohol Study, the Core Institute, Monitoring the Future, and the National College Health Risk Behavior Survey affirming that 70% of participating college students reported consuming alcohol within the prior month and 40% had engaged in binge drinking.[6] First-year college students have been identified as uniquely predisposed to binge drinking.[6]

According to disclosure from the National Eating Disorder Association in 2006, approximately 20% of college students, both male and female, admitted to suffering from an eating disorder at some point in their life. Clinical eating disorders encompass binge eating, chronic dieting, fasting or purging and the use of laxatives to control weight.[7] Furthermore, first-year college students are predisposed to eating disorders as an attempt to avoid the fabled "Freshman 15," weight gain that results from adjusting to a college lifestyle. [6]

A 2001 CASA report estimated that 30-50% of individuals with bulimia and 12-18% of individuals with anorexia had previously abused or were currently dependent on alcohol. 35% of those with alcohol or drug dependency reported a concurrent eating disorder. Results demonstrated a clear correlation between individual histories of eating disorders and binge drinking and/or alcohol dependence.[6]

The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reports that 72% of women who admit to alcohol abuse also classify as suffering from an eating disorder.[4]

Effects of drunkorexia[edit]

The combination of self-starvation and alcohol abuse can lead to an array of physical and psychological consequences. For example, drinking in a state of malnutrition can predispose individuals to a higher rate of blackouts, alcohol poisoning, alcohol-related injury, violence, or illness. Drinking on an empty stomach allows ethanol to reach the blood system at a swifter pace and raises one's blood alcohol content with an often dangerous speed. This can render the drinker more vulnerable to alcohol-related brain damage. In addition, alcohol abuse can have a detrimental impact on hydration and the body's retention of minerals and nutrients, further exacerbating the consequences of malnutrition and denigrating an individual's cognitive faculties. This can ultimately have a negative impact on academic performance.[2]

These harmful consequences can be more easily induced in women, as women are oftentimes less capable of metabolizing alcohol than men.[3] On CBS News, Carrie Wilkins, PhD, of the Center for Motivation and Change (a private practice group based in New York City) describes how women are more vulnerable to particular toxic side effects of alcohol consumption.[8]

Drunkorexia as a diagnosis[edit]

Co-existing, and self-reinforcing starvation and alcohol disorders are gaining recognition in the fields of dual diagnosis, psychiatry, and addictionology.[5]


  1. ^ Reimold, Dan (May 29, 2012). "College Word of the Year Contest contenders: Drunkorexia, shmacked and FOMO". The Washington Post. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Osborne, V. A.; Sher, K. J.; Winograd, R. P. (2011). "Disordered eating patterns and alcohol misuse in college students: Evidence for "drunkorexia"?". Comprehensive Psychiatry 52 (6): e12. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2011.04.038. 
  3. ^ a b "'Drunkorexia:' A Recipe for Disaster". ScienceDaily. October 17, 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Mitchell, Deborah (October 22, 2009). "Drunkorexia: Eating Disorder Plus Binge Drinking". EmaxHealth. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c Chambers, R. A. (2008). "Drunkorexia". Journal of Dual Diagnosis 4 (4): 414–416. doi:10.1080/15504260802086677. 
  6. ^ a b c d Burke, S.C.; Cremeens, J.; Vail-Smith, K.; Woolsey, C. (2010). "Drunkorexia: calorie restriction prior to alcohol consumption among college freshman". Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education 54 (2). Retrieved 12 Nov 2012. 
  7. ^ "National Eating Disorders Association Announces Results of Eating Disorders Poll On College Campuses Across the Nation". National Eating Disorders Association. September 26, 2006. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  8. ^ "Alcoholism Definition Becoming Fuzzier". CBSNews. February 11, 2009. Retrieved 16 November 2012.