“Drunkorexia” a disturbing and dangerous trend on college campuses

FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, file photo, mixed drinks sit on a hotel bar in San Francisco. Government researchers say "deplorably" few college students are warned by doctors about dangers from alcohol and drugs or encouraged to cut down or abstain, according to a study published Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, in JAMA Pediatrics. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

ROANOKE (WSLS10)– As college students across the country prepare to head back to campus, doctors are warning about a dangerous drinking habit they’re calling “Drunkorexia.” The practice involves skipping meals and working out excessively before a night of heavy drinking, as students try to cut calories and get drunk faster.

It’s not a new condition, but what is new is the number of students that are taking part in the risky behavior– which is higher than previously thought. A study of just over 1,000 college students in Texas found that more than 80% had engaged in at least one drunkorexia-related behavior in the three months leading up to the study.

Previously, researchers believed that more women engaged in the risky drinking practice, but experts say men are just as vulnerable to the binge drinking tactic. Whether the student is male or female, doctors say drunkorexia starves the body of the nutrients it needs. That causes the body to absorb alcohol a lot quicker than normal, leading to other issues as well.

“Your body is not designed to be in continuous starvation mode and getting your calories from only alcohol,” says Dr. Paul Stromberg with Carilion Clinic. “You’re going to be setting yourself up for other electrolyte problems and malnutrition as well.”

Dr. Stromberg says college is a time when a lot of young adults are experimenting with alcohol for the first time– with no regard of their family history. A student who has two parents with a history of alcohol abuse is seven times more likely to become an alcoholic than other young adults.

“You see a lot of the drinking patterns that get established in college are things that get carried on into life after you graduate or leave college,” he says. “Be safe, moderation don’t drink to excess or drink to get drunk. Also be aware of what you’re bringing into the situation and what your family background is like.”

Experts say the students who have the highest tolerance for alcohol are the ones with the highest genetic risk of becoming an alcoholic– so it’s important to watch for warning signs early on. It’s also important to have a family conversation about drinking habits and family history, so students are aware of what they’re bringing into the situation.

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