Drunkorexia: What Is It and Should Your Campus Be Concerned?

Posted by Josh Young on 12 January 2017 |

drunkorexia what is it and should your campus be concerned“Drunkorexia” is a non-medical term that applies to the use of extreme weight-control methods to accommodate planned binge drinking. These methods routinely bear a striking resemblance to common eating disorders (e.g., food restriction, excessive exercise, binge eating/purging).

With studies dating back to the early 2000s, drunkorexia does not seem to be a new campus phenomenon; however, it does seem to be on the rise, at least according to research conducted by the University of Houston that was presented in July 2016 at the 39th Annual Research Society on Alcoholism Scientific Meeting.

As part of a survey of 1,184 college students who had participated in heavy drinking – five drinks in one sitting for male students or four drinks for female students – in the past 30 days, the university found that 81 percent of respondents claimed to have engaged in at least one drunkorexia behavior in the previous three months.

Students may engage in these risky behaviors for a number of reasons, but research conducted by the University of Missouri indicates that students are most likely looking to either avoid gaining weight (64 percent) or to get drunk faster (25 percent). Students also cited saving money and peer pressure as additional motivating factors.

Who Is At Risk?

Initially, drunkorexia was primarily considered a problem among female students. However, according to the previously mentioned study from the University of Houston, while female students are more likely to engage in this behavior, male students are still equally at risk. Further, the research identified a number of high-risk populations that are more likely to exhibit drunkorexia behavior, including students that:

• Participate in athletic programs
• Live in sorority/fraternity housing
• Are coping with negative emotions
• Have a history of heavy drinking
• Suffer from existing eating disorders

What Are the Consequences?

By simultaneously engaging in behavior that combines elements of an eating disorder and alcoholism, students can take a severe toll on their overall health. Drunkorexia can lead to increased risk for:

• Alcohol poisoning
• Blackouts
• Vitamin deficiency and malnutrition
• Long-term cognitive problems
• Dehydration
• Liver damage
• Substance abuse
• More serious eating disorders
• Mood swings
• Injuries
• Risky sexual behavior
• Violence

What Can Your Campus Do?

Make resources available either on or off campus for students dealing with alcohol or drug abuse issues as well as eating disorders. If possible, provide a hotline or email address that can either deliver students with direct support or get them in touch with responsible organizations.

Discourage risky behavior by providing your students with alcohol education. Often, the reason students engage in such potentially damaging activities is that they are not aware of the potential long-term damage that their short-term decisions can cause.

Ideally, any training that you offer should provide students with the tools to identify the warning signs of alcohol abuse and provide them with strategies to help their at-risk peers.


While students often think of themselves as indestructible, alcohol abuse and heavy drinking can have a severe impact on their immediate lives and result in lasting damage to their futures. By helping your students to form a more healthy relationship with alcohol, you can create a safer campus that can still have fun on the weekends – assuming it’s of age.

If you would like to encourage the students on your campus to make smarter decisions regarding alcohol use, consider our alcohol and drug abuse prevention training courses. Just fill out the form on the right to schedule a demo.

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