First, we should be very clear that no one actually try to drink for the purpose of blacking out. This is considered a dangerous drinking practice, and we personally condemn any type of irresponsible drinking that endangers your life or the lives of others around you. That being said, the mechanics of alcohol consumption and their effects on drinkers, including blackouts, are interesting to say the least. They also have a medical basis, and understanding them can help us understand a little more about hangovers as well.
Like the vast majority of questions pondered by our species, there is no definitive answer to this question. Suffice it to say, the more you drink, the more likely you are to blackout and need IVs in the Keys when you wake up. Blackouts are highly undesirable. At the point that you’ve blacked out, you have drunk so much alcohol that your brain has lost the ability to form new memories.
Factors that result in blackouts are:
- Your BAC level;
- The frequency of your alcohol consumption;
- How much you’ve had to eat; and
- How much you weigh.
Those most likely to black out are those who binge drink; specifically, those who hit it hard on the weekends. Unlike other drugs, instead of being desensitized to alcohol, some become sensitized. In other words, it takes fewer drinks for them to get wasted than it did before. Of course, there are many alcoholics who drink all day just to maintain a baseline. But they aren’t binge drinkers. Binge drinkers have other issues, such as blackout sensitization which means blackouts become more likely the more they drink.
What Happens During a Blackout?
Cutting to the chase, alcohol disrupts the neurotransmitter glutamate which is responsible for different parts of the brain communicating with each other. First, your inhibitions are themselves inhibited. Then your motor and speech centers are compromised. Then your hippocampus shuts down. Your hippocampus is responsible for making new memories. Once it shuts down, memories from that period just aren’t made. They won’t “come back to you” because they were never stored anywhere to begin with.
People who are blacked out don’t necessarily appear blacked out to those around them. They can still have conversations, laugh at jokes, and even drive their cars home without remembering how they got there. When they wake up, they have no memory of the events. Why?
The reason is that, while you still have access to your own memories (you don’t forget who you are) and your short-term memory is still working, but it isn’t passing information to your long-term memory. So those experiences are lost. Forever.
Blackouts and Brownouts
There are two kinds of blackouts: Those in which you completely stop making new memories and those in which you make them sporadically. The latter are known as brownouts. You may remember snippets of what happened, but not everything.
Am I an Alcoholic If I Black Out?
There are many people have experienced a blackout who are not alcoholics. If you are routinely blacking out when you drink, however, you need to question your approach and maybe consider getting some help.
Talk to the Hangover Experts at the Hangover Hospital
Chances are if you can’t remember last night, you’re in for a brutal morning. The Hangover Hospital can help. Our hangover cure will have you feeling up and at ‘em within 45 minutes of taking it. Give us a call today for the relief you need.