Alcohol and Blackouts

alcohol blackouts

Alcohol blackouts are also referred to as alcohol-related amnesia. This occurs when a person drinks a large amount of alcohol and passes out. He or she will then wake up the next day with no recollection of the night before.

It can be embarrassing and sometimes even terrifying to wake up after a blackout from drinking alcohol. Although it’s possible that you only participated in some everyday activity like watching TV, it’s also possible that you could have driven a vehicle or gotten into a physical altercation. Blackouts are a sign of alcoholism, whether or not they have caused trouble in a person’s life.

Understanding Alcohol-Induced Blackouts

An alcohol blackout occurs when you drink so much that you can’t recall what happened while you were drinking. It can be difficult to determine when you are experiencing a blackout as you may still function in a relatively normal way. You may be able to carry on a conversation with a friend, cook dinner, play a game or engage in other normal activities. No matter how normal you act while you are drinking, if you can’t remember what happened, you have experienced an alcohol-induced blackout.

If you do recall snippets of the evening when you become sober, you could have “browned out”. This is a term for a fragmentary blackout. Blacking out and browning out are not the same as drinking until you pass out although if you are experiencing any of these three things, it’s likely that you have a serious alcohol problem.

While blacking out might be short term, it has consequences that are lasting. Alcohol abuse can cause brain damage at any level, but blackouts can cause additional problems. The long-term effects of alcohol-induced blackouts may include an alcohol amnesia disorder. An example of this is Korsakoff syndrome, which is a chronic memory problem that is typically caused by alcohol abuse. It can interfere with your ability to remember recent events and learn new information. Even if you are able to function normally, Korsakoff syndrome can lead to memory gaps that are so severe, you can’t recall entire stretches of your life.

What Causes Alcohol Blackouts?

The answer is simple: a large consumption of alcohol causes alcohol-induced blackouts. The more alcohol you consume and the faster you consume it, the more likely you are to experience a blackout. Some people are more likely to blackout than others, however.

Just as alcohol addiction is often tied to genetics, blacking out may be tied to genetics as well. Recent studies have indicated that alcohol blackouts tend to run in families.
Your body weight will affect your risk for blacking out. The less you weigh, the easier it will be for you to consume too much alcohol.
You are more vulnerable to a blackout if you are drinking while you are malnourished. Often, people who struggle with alcoholism don’t get the proper nutrition they need. Even if you don’t drink on an empty stomach, drinking alcohol regularly may interfere with your ability to absorb nutrients from the food you have consumed.

Facing Legal Consequences Associated with Blacking Out

A person is so drunk during a blackout that they behave in a drastically different way than they would sober. Duke University researchers recently conducted a survey of the activities of 772 people who experienced alcohol-induced blackouts. They found that of these 772 people:

  • 27% spent money
  • 24% engaged in sexual activity
  • 16% got into a fight
  • 16% vandalized property
  • 6% had unprotected sexual intercourse
  • 3% drove a car

The excuse of not remembering a crime due to a blackout from drinking alcohol doesn’t tend to sit well with a judge, and often, people who suffer from alcohol addiction will serve time in prison for a crime they can’t remember committing.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Frequent alcohol-induced blackouts is a major sign of alcohol addiction. The Recovery Village Ridgefield offers medically-supervised detox, residential treatment programs, partial hospitalization programs, outpatient treatment programs and aftercare programs for the treatment of alcohol addiction. We are conveniently located just three hours from Seattle, Washington and thirty minutes from Portland, Oregon. If you are suffering from alcohol addiction, reach out to us today, and begin your path to recovery. It’s never too late to ask for help.

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