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Extreme Dieting and Binge Drinking: Curbing ‘Drunkorexia’ on College Campuses

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SACRAMENTO -- That first taste of freedom in college draws many students to party.

That means shots, pitchers of beer and mixed drinks.

"Binge drinking is kind of a normality for a lot of college students,” Sacramento State student Royce Austin said.

When the alcohol is flowing, students admit resisting the temptation to join in can be difficult.

"You’re kind of on this high, and you can’t stop because then it seems like, 'Oh, I'm the party pooper,” Sac State student Erika Legg said.

But sometimes the pressure to drink meets the pressure to look thin or fit.

"Girls know, I have to look really cute and really slim in my dress,” said Legg.

A dangerous trend is created. It’s called Drunkorexia.

"I've seen my friends do it, and people do it so they can get drunk faster,” said one student.

It means skipping meals, over exercising and even throwing up to make room for more alcoholic drink calories for a faster buzz.

"I can see it for two reasons: maybe weight or they just want to get more drunk,” said Austin.

Drunkorexia is not new but the research is -- and it’s alarming.

A recent study from the University of Houston found eight out of every 10 college students surveyed admitted to cutting calories before a night of heavy drinking.

Legg admits she has skipped meals before going out to drink, but she never thought it was harmful.

"I don't remember eating before going to a party,” Legg said.

Student Terrance Galloway has done it too, and he sees no problem cutting down on food before downing a few drinks.

"I don't eat a lot if I know I'm gonna drink,” said Galloway.

They see it as normal and that’s the danger says eating disorder specialist Jennifer Lombardi.

"At the end of the day, you're playing Russian roulette with your life,” said Lombardi.

Lombardi urges friends and parents not to stay silent when they see symptoms of an eating disorder combined with heavy drinking -- the warning signs of drunkorexia.

"When you put those two dangerous behaviors in combination, it really can be quite deadly,” said Lombardi.

The key is education, says Lombardi.

Sacramento State and UC Davis both understand they can’t stop students from drinking.

"We definitely try to combat that perceived notion of everybody's doing it, or that's what you're supposed to do when you go to college,” said Lara Falkenstein, health educator at Sac State.

But they can encourage them not to overdo it.

"We know many students in our campus -- in fact the majority of them -- drink alcohol. We just try and reduce the risk,” said Raeann Davis, UC Davis Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Health Educator.

On a Thursday night in Davis, FOX40 joined this three wheel cop car with a UC Davis Police Officer and Student Health Educator as they preached party safety.

They knocked on doors of fraternity houses and spread the message to any student they came across near campus.

They can’t stop the partying, they can only encourage smart choices and hope students see the difference between safe drinking and binge drinking before it’s too late.

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