Have you ever woken up from a night out with your friends, confused how you got from Point A to Point B, or wondering why you blew up your ex's phone? Chances are you might have experienced alcohol-induced amnesia, more commonly referred to by college students as "blacking out." Although you have no recollection of what happened last night, this does not mean you passed out or were unconscious, actually, it's very likely that you could've held a conversation with some of your friends throughout the night and acted as if everything was normal.
With social drinking becoming more of a trend, blacking out is not uncommon among young adults, however, it is rather misunderstood.
While blacking out seems harmless and carefree, it is actually very dangerous, especially if your friends are unaware of how much you have had to drink and don't realize that you might need to be watched over.
There are two types of blackouts; en block, also referred to as a complete blackout, is when you wake up with no recollection whatsoever of the events that took place during the time that you were drinking. This occurs when information cannot be transferred from short-term to long-term storage during a drinking episode. You can sufficiently keep information in short-term memory to engage in conversations, drive a car (which you shouldn't do if you've been drinking any amount of alcohol), and participate in other activities. Nonetheless, this information is lost due to the brain's failure to transfer the person's short-term memory to long-term memory storage.
There is also fragmentary-memory loss, which means that you have some memory of some of the events that took place during the time of your drinking. This type of blackout is more common and occur when memory formation is only partially blocked. Unlike complete blackouts, fragmentary blackouts permit the recall of all memories that were stored during the drinking event, however, it might require some prompting or jogging of your memory.
Studies on blackouts show that although alcohol is required to initiate a blackout, alcohol alone (no matter the quantity) is not enough to cause a blackout to occur. Some studies show that it is possible for people to blackout even when they aren't at the peak of their alcohol consumption. There are several factors that affect blacking out, including drinking on an empty stomach or consuming a large quantity of alcohol in a short amount of time, due to the fact that this would raise your blood alcohol content (BAC).
Studies also show that women are at a higher risk for blacking out even if they consume less alcohol than their male counterparts. This is due to the fact that women have less water in their system in comparison to men, causing alcohol to be less diluted in their bloodstream.
Women also have a significantly lower concentration of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) metabolizes alcohol before it passes into the bloodstream. In turn, women have a higher blood alcohol content and experience greater intoxication than men.
Lastly, women, in general, have more body fat than men. Due to the fact that fat does not directly absorb alcohol, they maintain higher concentrations of alcohol in their bloodstream in comparison to men.
Besides causing damage to your memory, there are several risks associated with blacking out. According to a study performed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, college students who reported blacking out found that students often participated in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex, driving, and vandalism or destruction of property.
That being said, next time you decide to go out with your friends, remember to drink water and avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Although blacking out has become somewhat of a trend among young drinkers, the risks associated with it aren't worth it.