Drunkorexia: The Toxic Alcohol Diet Amongst Young Adults

What is drunkorexia?

According to recent research done by the University of South Australia (UniSA) on Australian female college students, more and more of them are engaged in “drunkorexia”. Still not recognized in the medical world, this eating disorder dangerously mixes alcoholism and anorexia, since it consists quite simply of replacing meals with alcohol.

A typical female suffering from drunkorexia will starve herself all day so that she can binge drink at night.

Alcoholic Spirits

Alcoholic Spirits

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The principle is simple: replace the calories of meals with those of alcohol to avoid gaining weight while getting drunk. The behaviors are similar to those of a classic anorexia disorder – skipping a meal, being vomited, or playing an intense sport – with the added benefit of drinking alcohol.

Very Common In Colleges

A study, presented recently in Australia, was conducted on 479 female students from Australian universities. The respondents were on average 18-24 years old.  The results showed that 82.7% of the sample had engaged in “drunkorexia” in the past three months. It was also established that over 28% were purposely skipping meals regularly, consuming sugar-free/low-calorie alcoholic beverages. They were also shown to be exercising heavily and purging after their binging episode to help with reducing calories ingested from alcohol.

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All the students questioned within the framework of this study admitted to reducing their caloric intake during meals (even if it means skipping them) to favor calories contained in alcohol.

Risky behaviors

As frightening as it may seem, drunkorexia is a practice that unfortunately tends to become more widespread in universities and on campuses.  Indeed engaging in drunkorexic behavior is very toxic and self-destructive, since it can lead to serious health problems (both physical and mental).

Clinical psychologist and lead UniSA researcher Alycia Powell-Jones indicated that young adults are more likely to participate in risky behaviors, including excessive drinking.  Adopting such behavior is not only very bad for health, but it is also well known that not eating before drinking alcohol only increases the state of intoxication.

Indeed, ingesting the fewest calories possible while drinking large amounts of alcohol can be synonymous with:

  • Severe nutritional deficiencies (due to too low intake of lipids, carbohydrates, and proteins.)
  • Chronic fatigue, anemia, and impaired concentration.
  • Risky behaviors: When drunk, students are more inclined to pass out, get behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol, fight, etc.
  • Bulimic episodes

More findings

It was also established that in Australia, one in six people drink alcohol at alarming levels, putting them at lifetime risk of an alcohol-related disease or injury. Excessive drinking, coupled with restrictive eating behaviors to cut some calories, is highly toxic.

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Undertaken in 2 stages, the first phase of the study estimated the predominance of self-reported compensation and restrictive activities in relation to their alcohol abuse.

Phase 2 distinguished participants’ Early Maladaptive Schemes (EMS) or thought patterns, discovering that the subset of schemas most foretelling of Drunkorexia was emotional deprivation, insufficient self-control, and social isolation.

Powell-Jones added that distinguishing the early maladaptive schemas associated with Drunkorexia is an eye-opener in recognizing the harmful condition.


The idea of drunkorexic behavior seems to be driven by two critical social norms for young adults – consuming alcohol and thinness.

If “drunkorexia” is not considered to be a disease in its own right, it is present in our society, especially among young people. It is therefore essential that society gives it more attention before it goes out of hand.


Drunkorexia: An investigation of symptomatology and early maladaptive schemas within a female, young adult Australian population



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