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What is drunkorexia?

Dangerous growing trend among college students

A new, troubling trend called “drunkorexia” has emerged across college campuses, leaving many parents concerned about their students’ safety.

Drunkorexia is the deliberate choice not to eat in order to cut calories and feel the powerful effects of drinking alcohol in a shorter amount of time.

Kim Ragan, clinical supervisor for Transitional Recovery Services at Novant Health UVA Health System Haymarket Medical Center located in Haymarket, Virginia, said that while it’s alarming, this type of behavior isn’t surprising. “Budgets are tight and there’s a pressure to be thin when you’re in college,” she said. “I think there’s also that immortality feeling of ‘nothing bad has happened yet, so nothing bad will ever happen.’”

“It’s kind of like turbo-binge drinking,” Ragan added. “You’re not only bingeing heavily, but you’re also not eating, which maximizes intoxication.”

Young adults often forget that alcohol is a poison, Ragan said. “In detox, we work with really young people who have overdone it tremendously and nearly died, and that’s the part college students don’t hear about when they participate in this kind of behavior.”

Ragan said she believes that keeping communication open with your child will open doors for them to feel comfortable approaching you. “Laying that foundation and being able to communicate leading up to college is a big factor.”

Getting help

For severe cases where added support is needed to manage alcoholism, Haymarket Medical Center now offers medical detoxification treatment that can be personalized for adults who are diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. The service is the first of its kind offered by the entire Novant Health system.

The support service provides medically supervised detoxification in the hospital setting, including:

  • Short-term inpatient stay on a medical hospital unit.
  • Medication management.
  • Education.
  • 24-hour medical supervision and care.
  • Individualized support and care connection.
  • Family sessions.
  • Aftercare planning.

How to enroll

People can go to the emergency room and ask to be screened. If they qualify, they can be safely treated on a medical floor, where they’ll receive care from a nurse and doctor. The patient also receives care from a therapist who specializes in addiction therapy. “That therapist will see the patient every day. When patients allow it, therapists will also meet with and involve the family in discharge planning and addiction education,” Ragan said.

She said that an effective detox treatment needs assessment, stabilization and preparation for the next step. “After going on a weeklong binge, you might need treatment to make sure you don’t have medical complications while going through withdrawal,” she said.

You don’t have to be addicted to alcohol to receive treatment. “You don’t have to drink every day for alcohol use to cause problems in your life,” Ragan said. “It only takes one instance of being caught driving under the influence or placed on academic probation. If you find it’s hard to alter your drinking habits to improve situations in your life, it might be time to consider treatment of some sort.”

Patients must be evaluated to ensure the right level of care for the service. These evaluations can be done at the emergency room at Haymarket Medical Center. Once patients complete the inpatient treatment, they are discharged with an aftercare plan that meets their long-term goals.

Most insurance plans are accepted. For questions about the service, call 703-369-8864.

Published: 9/8/2016