Jenna (name changed for safety and legal reasons) is a current Boise State student and recently turned twenty-one and legal drinking is now a common activity.
Some students, like Jenna, have participated in what’s known as “Drunkorexia.”
“I’ve done it before,” Jenna said. “I’m trying to avoid a hangover is my thought process, but it doesn’t help.”
Dr. Vincent Serio, director of Medical Services for University Health Services, said though he has seen the non-medical term before, he hasn’t heard it on Boise State’s campus.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Serio said. “I’ve seen this in a couple places before.
According to an article provided by Serio, titled “Drunkorexia: Understanding the Co-occurrence of Alcohol consumption and Eating/Exercise Weight Management Behaviors,” “Drunkorexia” consists of three behaviors:
1) Skipping meals in order to save calories or compensate for increased caloric intake from consumption of alcoholic beverages
2) Excessive exercising in order to compensate for calories consumed from drinking
3) Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol in order to become sick and purge previously consumed food.
A University of Texas study found 30 percent of females between the ages of 18 and 23 had participated in one or more of these behaviors.
Dr. Karla West, director of counseling at University Health Services, hasn’t seen any indication that “Drunkorexia” is a problem on Boise State’s campus.
“What has been reported through us has been minimal,” West said.
However, West believes there may be a reason numbers are so low.
“It might not be reported,” West said. “People don’t tend to disclose eating disorders readily.”
University Health Services does regularly screen patients for indicators of either substance or alcohol abuse.
“We do screen and ask questions about substance abuse, alcohol abuse,” Serio said. “I’m not sure that we really ask the question ‘do you substitute alcohol for food products?’ but we may need to.”
Several different factors may contribute to participating in “Drunkorexia,” including peer pressure, a way to become inebriated faster and financial reasons.
“Sometimes the behaviors are engaged in in order to save money, as less money is spent on alcohol if one gets drunk faster,”
According to Jenna, she believes the behavior is more for financial reasons.
“(My roommates) definitely don’t eat so they can save money for alcohol, but at the end of the night they eat everything at every fast food restaurant,” Jenna said.
She has also witnessed friends who withhold calories to get drunk faster.
“Most of my friends don’t eat so they can get drunk faster; that’s the main reason,” Jenna said. “If they have a big meal before they go out drinking they’re half-pissed when they’re drinking because it takes longer (to get drunk).”
What you should know:
Females can have two drinks in one sitting, while males can have three drinks in one sitting. A “drink” means one serving of alcohol, whether it’s a beer, a shot of liquor, a mixed drink or a glass of wine.
Per week, females can have up to 10 drinks, while males can have up to 14 drinks.
“These aren’t (numbers) we make up,” Serio said. “Women are generally not as efficient at processing alcohol in their liver. They are more likely to have a higher alcohol level in their blood stream.”
Anything above the maximum puts the individual in the “at-risk” zone, where side effects are likely to skyrocket.
Both West and Serio recommend drinking a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink. However, drinking water does not slow down the rate at which alcohol is metabolized, which is typically at the rate of one alcoholic drink per hour.
“Drinking a glass of water in between is a healthy way to pace your drinking,” West said. “We’re in an orally-fixated society. (Drinking water) keeps you hydrated and in pace with your group.”
Jenna, though she has participated in it in the past, doesn’t advocate that others do it.
“It isn’t the safest,” Jenna said. “I wouldn’t recommend others try it.”
How to protect yourself:
- Engage in healthy eating and drinking behaviors
- Know your limits
- Moderation is key
- Choose wisely who you surround yourself with
- Contact University Health Services