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As colleges around the country gear up for the start of a new school year, some alcohol-related trends are catching the attention of administrators, parents, and students.

Eating disorders meet alcohol misuse

This summer Dipali Rinker, a researcher at the University of Houston, presented a paper at the 39th Annual Research Society on Alcoholism about the increase of “drunkorexia” among college students.

The trend involves students starving themselves or purging—behaviors often associated with eating disorders—in order to increase how much they can drink. The goal: to drink larger amounts without gaining weight or to get drunk more quickly. Students fast or purge to replace food calories with those from alcohol or so that the alcohol hits their system faster. In addition, some students intentionally vomit while drinking—known as “resetting”—to allow them to party harder and longer.

Statistically women are more likely than men to struggle with an eating disorder. However, surprisingly Rinker’s research found no clear differences between male and female students who engage in drunkorexia to either accelerate the impact of alcohol or limit their caloric intake (though she notes more research is needed). This scary new trend is especially worrisome because alcohol misuse and disordered eating both come with psychological and physical problems, and the combination of the two could amplify those consequences.

Alcohol sales at college games

Historically, colleges and universities have banned drinking at their sporting events. But according to CBS Sports, as of fall 2016 alcohol sales will be permitted at 40 schools around the country. That number has doubled since the Associated Press reported on the trend in 2014.

Schools argue that alcohol sales boost game attendance by giving fans what they want while generating hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue. In addition, some supporters of the trend claim that it many actually prevent alcohol-related problems. Because they know they can buy booze inside, fans may be less likely to “preload” at tailgate parties or sneak alcohol into the game.

However, critics question the ethics of introducing alcohol at venues where a large number of attendees are under the legal drinking age. Moreover, many colleges already struggle with underage drinking and alcohol-related problems, leading some to question the wisdom of bringing even more booze onto campus.

College students and problem drinking

These trends are part of larger concerns about binge drinking, alcohol misuse, and underage drinking on campus. According to the NIAAA, a quarter of college students report academic problems related to their drinking, such as missed class or lower grades. In addition, approximately one in five students meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Experts reiterate the need for continued education about alcohol-related problems at colleges, especially among first-year students at the start of the school year. NIAAA reports that freshman are more likely to experience serious alcohol-related consequences during their first six weeks on campus “because of student expectations and social pressures.”

What do you think of these latest trends?

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Alison Betts

Alison Betts

Alison Betts has nearly two decades of experience as a communications professional and researcher in corporate, nonprofit, and high education settings. Betts joined SCRAM Systems in 2013 and is the Director of Marketing & Public Relations. Prior to coming to SCRAM Systems, she held research and teaching positions at universities in Arizona and Colorado. Betts has also served as a public relations professional and grant writer in the nonprofit sector, where she saw first-hand the devastating impact of alcohol and substance abuse on families and communities. Betts holds an MA in English from the University of Colorado and a Master’s in Applied Communications from the University of Denver.

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