Do you know about Drunkorexia
Today is January 23rd, 2008 and my ears pricked open when I happened to walk past the TV to catch an interview with therapist, Carrie Wilken, on the CBS early morning show about this new syndrome being picked up in addiction clinics.
What is Drunkorexia or drunk-arexia?
Will you find drunkorexia/drunk-arexia in the DSM-IV official manual for health disorders? Nope! At this stage, it's slang for the practice of limiting food intake so as to be able to drink more alcohol, still have fun and yet not gain weight.
And it's dangerous because without food in the stomach to absorb alcohol (which is basically a toxin), it can be absorbed into the liver in as little as 15 minutes. Whereas when there is food to absorb it, it can be absorbed and then released into the bloodstream more slowly.
Not only that but there's also an enormous trend towards combining hard liquor (spirits) with energy drinks such as Red Bull or Rockstar. Young girls who I've spoken to say this gives them energy to party all night.
Can you imagine what that little combo is doing to their bodies?
Who gets Drunkorexia/ drunk-arexia?
Many college age students admit to drinking in order to feel less inhibited. In these days when there are so many factors to take into 'being hip' (from clothes, to accessories, to the car you drive etc... etc...) alcohol (which is central to drunkorexia) can be thought of as a good way to overcome feelings of not fitting in.
The group of women most susceptible to drunk-arexia (or drunkorexia) are college or university-going. Statistics suggest that 30% of 18-24 year olds skip food in order to drink more.
Drinking amongst college students is also the cause of about 1,400 college students between these same ages losing their lives in 1998. And if you're drinking on an empty stomach, you get drunk a lot faster.
One of the TV shows had a studio audience and even some of the men admitted they also cut out eating in order to be able to go out and drink more. And part of the danger is that binge-drinking among young women have grown to resemble that of men.
I wasn't a college student when I cut calories so I could drink alcohol - this was my late high school years and my first few years of working. I worked in an industry where I had an expense account and boozing and entertaining were big.
What causes Drunkorexia / drunk-arexia?
Drunkorexia or drunk-arexia seems to be surprisingly prevalent amongst certain age groups and as I've just mentioned, I remember going through a period when I was in late high school years and my early 20's of doing it too. I was part of the 'skinny at all costs' AND wanting to go out, be poppular and party without gaining weight brigade.
I mean it combined two things every girl should apparently want - thinness with being a fun party girl!!! THESE things were being 'hip' and 'cool' which made me desirable and wanted!
In my calorie-counting days the one thing I became very aware of was just how many calories alcohol had in it. I felt like I couldn't go out and have fun knowing that alcohol was loaded with calories unless I cut the calories I was eating.
And no, I didn't think of the dangers to my body, my brain my liver or anything else. I didn't think that I was cutting out healthy food and substituting it for the empty (but sugar-high) calories of alcohol. Yes, logically I 'knew' all those things, but it didn't make the slightest difference. they were just the price to pay if I wanted to stay thin. And as we all know: you can apparently never be "thin enough or have too much money!
All I thought about was being, and staying, thin AND still being able to party. And besides not eating all day meant that the alcohol 'zing' hit me much faster which made I felt wittier and much more charming faster.
Ha! there's probably nothing further from the truth - what drinking really did was lower my defenses and put me in much riskier situations which is probably exactly what happens when you become a victim of drunkorexia too. Alcohol definitely helped me feel more confident in social settings in which is was often very easy for me to feel insecure.
Another TV show interviewed a self admitted Drunkorexic, Fern Jarvis, an aspiring model who hails from London. She admitted knowing all too well that what she was doing was dangerous but also went on to say that she just tries to brush that out of her mind and not think about it.
She told a story about how she went on a diet of beetroot and butternut for a few days and lost 6lbs knowing that she then had spare 6lbs of calories to drink!
Another motivation she mentioned was that by not eating all day (and some girls take this to greater extremes and don't eat for a number of days), she also felt more attractive going out because she didn't feel bloated.
Could we make a similar case for Drugorexia too?
And then there's the whole question of what I'll just label speed and other amphetamine-based drugs in order to curb their appetite and eat less.
In one study done in the United Kingdom with 2000 twenty-three years olds, 11% had taken speed or cocaine believing it would step up their metabolism and help them lose weight.
Fortunately I never got hooked into the recreational side of drugorexia nor do I know much about it, nor have I ever heard anyone else refer to it using this term. BUT I've certainly spoken to young people who have admitted smoking cigarettes (actually many older women admit to this too) and taking recreational drugs to curb their appetite so they could stay thin.
But actually - the more I think about it - the more I believe there's a strong case to me made for the term drug-arexia being applied to the amount of slimming pills we consume in an effort to lose weight.
In the same United Kingdom study 34% of those 23-year-olds admitted to having taken slimming pills in order to lose weight and I know that I was hooked on a cocktail of them for years.
Just because they are apparently 'approved' doesn't mean they're healthy or desirable, or even that they work to help you lose weight.
Just like alcohol, slimming pills hook many people, but can be bought over the counter. Their aim is to take away your appetite and that's exactly what the 'rexia' part means: appetite. So any drugs that take away your appetite could just as well be referred to as 'drug-arexia.'
I mean when you really think about it... why on earth do we want to take away our appetite. Our appetite is our body telling us when we are hungry -
it needs to be honoured
not taken away. What we do need to do is to recognize the difference between tummy hunger (when our body needs fuel) and
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