Both eating disorders and alcohol abuse pose serious health problems for those who experience them. But researchers are most alarmed when people combine the two.
Labeled as “drunkorexia” by some, using anorexic behaviors to “save calories” for drinking alcohol has become common enough in the United States, especially across college campuses, to worry experts. Although there’s no official number on how many people combine these addicting behaviors, one estimate of 700 students put forth that as many as one fifth of students have practiced drunkorexia and more than half say they’ve heard of the idea before.
What makes drunkorexia so dangerous is the fact that a person deprives his brain of nutrients and energy while exposing it to alcohol, one researcher noted in a modified press release. People who restricted calories or purged in anticipation of a night of drinking were more likely to experience substance abuse problems, partake in risky sexual behavior and develop serious health conditions later in life. It’s unclear whether these results stem directly from the behavior or if they’re more likely to occur among people who mix eating disorders with alcohol. Either way, the short-term risks of alcohol poisoning matter equally.
For young women, the pressures to drink and stay skinny may motivate drunkorexia, while for young men, hitting the bars on an empty stomach speeds up feeling intoxicated and saves money, according to one ABC News article.
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