Over the past academic year, the five-syllable word has become the most publicized new disorder impacting college students.
A growing number of students, researchers, and health professionals consider it a dangerous phenomenon. Others dismiss it as a media-driven faux-trend. And still others contend it is nothing more than a fresh label stamped onto an activity that students have been carrying out for years.
The affliction, which leaves students hungry and at times hung over, involves “starving all day to drink at night.”
As a new report in The Daily Pennsylvanian at the University of Pennsylvania further explained, it centers on students “bingeing or skipping meals in order to either compensate for alcohol calories consumed later at night, or to get drunk faster. . . . At its most severe, it is a combination of an eating disorder and alcohol dependency.”
Drunkorexia surged into the spotlight most prominently last fall after an an eye-opening study by University of Missouri researchers revealed “one in six students said they restricted food in order to consume alcohol within the last year.”
Why are these students allegedly engaging in such behavior?
The Calgary Herald confirmed, “They say they’re aiming to get drunk faster, they want to save food money for booze, and they want to keep their weight down.”
While their rationales are clearly defined, students told The Marquette Tribune that many undergrads are unaware of the related dangers.
One Marquette University freshman said an overview of related risks should be part of incoming students’ mandatory alcohol education instruction, noting, “When students replace their calories with alcohol, they don’t think about the consequences.”
According to the Missouri study’s lead researcher, the consequences involve “short- and long-term cognitive problems, including difficulty concentrating, studying, and making decisions.”
Some other problems cited: “an elevated risk for violence, risky sexual behavior, alcohol poisoning, substance abuse, and chronic diseases later in life.”
Significantly, in the short term, not everyone believes the hype surrounding drunkorexia. Some see it as symptomatic of a sensationalist press more than an actual student disease.
In the Daily Pennsylvanian, the director of an eating disorders program at the University of North Carolina said, “Drunkorexia is just a term. It’s part of a parade of ‘orexias’ the media has come up with.”
A separate response to the Pennsylvanian feature by Philadelphia Magazine health & fitness editor Emily Leaman also expressed doubt about the phenomenon’s new ‘It’ status.
In a blog post headlined, “I Don’t Buy This Whole ‘Drunkorexia’ Thing,” Leaman wrote, “[T]his doesn’t seem like the new, out-of-nowhere phenomenon people are making it out to be. Isn’t it practically cliché at this point to talk about binge drinking on college campuses? Despite the fact that it’s super unhealthy and, yes, even dangerous, drinking and partying have become a rite of passage for many college students. . . . To me, what we’re really talking about here is what we’ve always talked about when it comes to these issues: college kids making poor decisions in the name of getting drunk– nothing more.”
What do you think? Is drunkorexia simply a new name for a long-time rite of passage? Or is it a genuine trend increasingly playing out on college campuses?
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