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Alcohol Blackouts: The Long-Term Impacts

Posted on 11/30/18: Addiction Recovery
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When it comes to alcohol consumption, binge drinking to the point of blackout has unfortunately become very common among adults and teenagers alike.

While many people take a blackout as one simply ‘drinking too much’, what they fail to realize is that these blackouts can have serious impacts on their brain. Blacking out involves the brain shutting down and going into a form of unconsciousness.

What is a Blackout?

excessive alcohol consumptionA blackout is a temporary condition that involves a loss of memory and is characterized by a sense of lost time. The most common cause of this is dangerously elevated levels of alcohol in the blood. When an individual drinks too much alcohol, they become intoxicated and alcohol impairs their ability to construct new memories. The old memories, however, remain as is.

The amount of memory loss may vary from individual to individual. However, one thing is clear: the more alcohol you drink and the higher the alcohol level rises in your blood, the more the length and the rate of memory loss will increase.

Typically, if the alcohol content exceeds the threshold of 14 percent, you will experience a blackout and will not be able to recall anything that may have happened during the blackout period.

In general, there are certain factors that may affect the rate and length of your blackout by affecting your blood alcohol level. These factors may include:

  • Your gender
  • Your body weight
  • The type of alcohol consumed
  • The speed at which the alcohol is consumed

Signs and Symptoms of an Alcohol Blackout

It is not easy to tell if someone is experiencing a blackout because chances are, they will behave normally. Many people who binge drink are likely to engage in unusual or risky behaviors, and they might be able to recall them the next day. However, there are some signs that may help you decipher whether an individual is just drunk or experiencing a blackout.

These signs and symptoms include:

  • Easy distractibility
  • Inability to hold the thread of a conversation
  • Repetitive sentences during a conversation
  • The tendency to forget where they were or what they were doing
  • No concern for the thoughts or feelings of people around
  • Engaging in risky behaviors that they otherwise would never dare to do
  • Consuming too much alcohol in a short period of time
  • Drinking without eating or drinking water

The Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Blackouts

The short-term effects of a blackout typically include mental health problems, such as depression, or physical issues, like an injury, a disturbing personal encounter, or a sexually transmitted infection. A blackout affects the decision-making ability of an individual, pushing them to get involved in dangerous behaviors and even perform illegal activities for which they would have to face legal consequences. While some people may not blackout upon binge drinking, it is important to note that heavy drinking may still have negative effects on their brain.

If an individual binge drinks alcohol and blackouts on a regular basis, they may face a serious brain damage. Excessive drinking for a long time, resulting in frequent blackouts, is likely to cause general memory loss in the individual, even when they are not intoxicated. This may lead to a difficulty in forming memories, including the most recent ones.

The severity of long-term effects of an alcohol blackout ranges from momentary memory ‘slips’ to serious conditions that are permanent.

Experts believe that too much consumption of alcohol can have a harmful effect on the frontal lobe of the brain – the part where cognitive functions are regulated. The frontal lobe is also responsible for the formation and recall of short-term and long-term memory. Hence, if an individual experiences regular chronic damage to the frontal lobe, it can result in impaired behavior and personality. It may also affect their task performance and the way they perceive and store information.

In addition to this, binge drinking and blackout can also negatively affect an individual’s ability to:

  • Make reasonable decisions
  • Walk straight and steadily
  • Control their impulses

They may also experience:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Difficulty breathing

It is imperative for alcohol drinkers to understand that a single blackout can be dangerous enough to cause significant damage to their brain.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol delays the brain signals that are responsible for the gag reflex and other autonomic responses. This explains why some people who have blacked out can throw up during sleep. This may even cause them to choke or suffocate on their vomit.

The Risk of Alcohol Blackouts

You may find it surprising that women are at a greater risk of blacking out than men. The reason is that they cannot drink as much alcohol as men before they become intoxicated. Moreover, their body composition and the difference in hormones also play a role. Since women get drunk on less alcohol, their blood alcohol level rises quickly and hence, they are more likely to experience a blackout.

In addition to women, young adults are also at a higher risk of experiencing a blackout as compared to older adults. In general, young adults binge drink more often and are also more likely to consume higher amounts of alcohol per binge. Considering their inexperience in moderate or consistent drinking, they also tend to underestimate how much alcohol they have downed and overestimate how much they can consume. Therefore, this exposes them to the risk of experiencing a blackout and thereby, facing legal, academic, financial, and personal consequences including illness, injury, sexual assault, physical violence, and hospitalization.

The bottom line is that alcohol blackout is not something to be taken lightly. Individuals who regularly binge drink without any care in the world can face some dire health consequences. If you are an alcoholic or know someone who is struggling with alcohol abuse and addiction, you can get in touch with a professional at the Sober Living AZ to help you get rid of this malignant habit and lead a sober life.

Content for Sober Living Arizona by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment and technology. Advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best. www.cohn.media


If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact Sober Living of AZ now to get the help you need. Sober Living offers an acclaimed recovery environment that merges upscale and luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare. Call us now at 602-737-2458.

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