"Drunkorexia" Stalks Young Women Around the World

By Will Godfrey 10/31/11

Starving yourself before binge drinking is now common in Australia—and a recent study shows 16% of US college students engage in the dangerous practice.

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College girls are particularly at risk. Photo via

It's the ultimate false economy. But "drunkorexia"—starving yourself in order to "spend" your desired daily calorie consumption on alcohol instead, while saving cash both by not buying food and then by requiring less booze to get you drunk—is now widespread in Australia, reports the Aussie Sunday Telegraph. Dr. Naomi Crafti, spokeswoman for the Australian Eating Disorders Foundation, said: "This is tied in with the increase in binge drinking in Australia... We also know there is an increase in the number of people suffering from eating disorders...and there is no reason to believe that their alcohol intake is any different." She says "many" young women in Australia suffer from these twin problems: "They are not eating all day because they know they are going to drink at night so they are saving their calories. Then they are drinking large quantities of alcohol which has no nutrients, getting excessively drunk because they have no food in their stomach and often engaging in promiscuous sexual activity...and later on purging to rid themselves of the calories of alcohol." The harmful consequences of this behavior far outweigh any "savings." Earlier this month, a University of Missouri study found that "short- and long-term cognitive problems including difficulty concentrating, studying and making decisions" can be added to the risk of physical issues such as liver and blood pressure problems. Yet 16% of American college students—three quarters of them female—engage in the practice. Unsurprisingly, the word "drunkorexia" is a media term, rather than a medical one, but research confirms that alcoholism and eating disorders frequently co-occur—roughly half of women with eating disorders are thought to have a drink problem as well. The combination has been widely-reported in the States in the last few years. Dr. Douglas Bunnell, former president of the National Eating Disorders Association, told the New York Times back in 2008, "Both disorders are behaviors that are glorified and reinforced. Binge drinking is almost cool and hip, and losing weight and being thin is a cultural imperative for young women in America. Mixing both is not surprising, and it has reached a tipping point in terms of public awareness.”

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of Substance.com, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.