What Happens During a Blackout — And Why Are They Risky?

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:

You have probably had a blackout if you have ever had to ask yourself, “What happened last night?” after drinking or trying to put the night together with a hazy recall. 

Blackouts: The Science

Blackouts are gaps in recollection induced by deficits in memory consolidation while inebriated, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. They occur when a person consumes enough alcohol to inhibit the brain’s hippocampus from creating new memories. As a result, a hole appears in the brain’s record-keeping mechanism, preventing the person from recalling all that happened.

A blackout is not the same as passing out – in fact, they are pretty different. Passing out causes a person to lose consciousness in a condition similar to that of sleep, but they are unlikely to respond to stimuli such as being prodded or talked to. 

When a person blacks out, on the other hand, they are still awake and may make decisions, have conversations, and even drink. They will, however, have no recollection of what occurred. This is highly hazardous because the individual may go behind the wheel and drive recklessly, have unwanted or unprotected intercourse, take drugs, or engage in other risky activities that may result in severe injury to themselves or others.

There Are Two Types of Blackouts

There are two types of blackouts: partial/fragmentary and full blackouts. The most frequent type is a fragmented blackout, in which the person may not recall what happened right away, but specific triggers might bring memories back. 

However, en bloc or full outages are more severe. When memory is completely impaired, it feels as if entire periods of time have been wiped or never happened at all. It is known as “time travel” because no matter how hard a person tries, they will never be able to recollect these periods of time. As a result, the memories were never created and so do not exist.

While there is no one type of individual who will have a blackout, studies show that it is more likely to happen when alcohol enters the circulation fast, leading the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to rise rapidly. If someone drinks on an empty stomach or consumes an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time, this might happen. 

Factors like your weight and the sort of alcohol you consume also have a role. Finally, due to their tendency to attain greater peak BAC levels with each drink, women are more prone than males to experience blackouts.

Frequent blackouts due to the intake of excessive alcohol can be a sign of a serious drinking problem, but the good news is that treatment can help. Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. Our licensed, experienced health care professionals will work with you to restore your mind, body, and spirit. If you are ready to seek treatment, call us today at (844) 857-5992 for a consultation.

We will work with most out of network PPO and POS policies

Call to verify your insurance benefits today!