What Is An Alcoholic Blackout?
An alcoholic blackout is temporary amnesia caused by excessive drinking. During a blackout, a person is engaged with and experiencing life. However, that person’s brain is severely impaired, and he or she has temporarily lost the ability to make a memory about what they are experiencing. After the person “comes to,” he or she is unable to remember exactly what happened during the blackout. There may be partial and/or vague memories of what happened (fragmentary blackout), or there may be no recollection of events whatsoever regardless of what occurred (en bloc blackout).
What Causes An Alcoholic Blackout?
Some people are more likely to have an alcoholic blackout than others. Those who have had blackouts in the past are more likely to have blackouts in the future. Drinkers who have frequent blackouts are more likely to injure themselves while in a blackout. Studies show that of college students who drink, one in four will have an alcohol-induced blackout within one year. Blacking out appears to be a fairly common occurrence for drinkers whether they are alcoholics, binge drinkers, or social drinkers.
According to a study conducted by Dr. Reagan Weatherill at UC, San Diego, blackouts are associated with poor judgement and significant impairment of the frontal lobe of the brain. The frontal lobe controls attention and memory, and this area appears to shut down during periods of excessive alcohol consumption.
Is An Alcoholic Blackout The Same Thing As Passing Out?
Passing out is when someone falls asleep or becomes unconscious because they drank too much. Blacking out means that someone simply can’t remember what they did for a period of time, because alcohol had shut down their memory system. The person might have engaged in all sorts of activities and still have no recollection of events. When someone is in a blackout, they can seem perfectly normal; however, the next day they can’t remember what happened.
Are Alcoholic Blackouts A Symptom Of Drinking Too Much?
A 2002 study by Aaron White, Department of Psychiatry Assistant Research Professor at Duke University Medical Center, found that of 800 college students, 50 percent had experienced one or more alcohol-related blackouts. Forty percent said they had experienced a blackout within the last year, and almost ten percent had experienced a blackout in the last two weeks.
Who Is Most Likely To Experience An Alcoholic Blackout?
There appears to be a connection between drinking too much too fast and then experiencing a blackout. Studies have found that an alcoholic blackout is more likely to occur when someone drinks a large amount of alcohol quickly. Researchers speculate that consuming large amounts of alcohol over a short period of time can shut down the brain’s memory circuits, thereby causing an alcoholic blackout.
Binge drinkers typically consume 4-5 or more drinks within a two hour period. Binge drinkers are more likely to experience blackouts than those who pace their drinking. Blackouts occur more frequently in women than in men, and blacking out is more common among social drinkers than previously supposed. Twin studies show that if one twin is prone to blackouts, the other twin will be prone to blackouts as well. The tendency to have blackouts as a result of excessive drinking may be genetic.
Do Blackouts Mean That Someone Is An Alcoholic?
Research suggests that although blackouts are common among alcoholics, they occur regularly in non-alcoholics as well. This suggests that blackouts are due to acute alcohol intoxication rather than to alcoholism.