Blackouts are episodes that are caused by the rapid, excessive intake of alcohol or drugs and are a type of amnesia. They are not the same as passing out under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Short and long-term memory creation in the brain is impaired by blackouts. People who blackout from alcohol or drugs usually can’t recall some or all of the events that happened while they were intoxicated. Blackouts can be worsened in individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders, causing more distressing symptoms. And people who suffer from impairment of the liver have their own unique problem because liver impairment allows more alcohol to reach the brain and this also causes blackouts. Substances that are associated with blackouts include alcohol, marijuana, LSD, Xanax, Clonazepam, Valium, Phenobarbital and the date-rape drug Rohypnol. Blackouts can cause a complete loss of memory, or it can be a fragmented type of memory loss; previous memory creation will not be impaired by blackouts. These episodes are usually accompanied by a rapid rise in blood alcohol content (BAC).
A person can function normally while in a temporary state of blackout amnesia and the people around them will not notice anything different about them. The person can engage in all types of activities but will not have any memory of doing any of those things. Blackouts cause all types of dangerous situations for individuals under the influences of drugs or alcohol. While high on drugs or alcohol a person can commit a crime and not even realize or remember it later because of a blackout. They will not be able to defend themselves against criminal activity because they won’t remember anything that happened. They can also discover that they are in an unfamiliar place with strangers and also realize that they have engaged in unsafe sex. A person can find themselves in all kinds of dangerous, bizarre situations after experiencing a blackout and they will not remember how they got there.
Currently there is no substantial evidence that blackouts are a symptom of alcohol addiction. Many occasional drinkers have experienced blackouts once in their life and did not become alcoholics. And there are also alcoholics who claim that they have never experienced a blackout. The rapid rise of blood alcohol content seems to be more closely related to blackouts rather than the amount of alcohol a person drinks. The rapid rise is associated with how quickly a person consumes alcohol, and if he does so on an empty stomach. This would explain why social drinkers experience blackout episodes even though they only drink on occasion. There is also evidence to suggest that some people are more genetically pre-disposed to blackouts than others. These types of people will usually experience more than one blackout in their life. Many social drinkers will experience a hangover the next day after over-indulging in alcohol.
When hangovers become a constant pattern of alcohol use, it is usually a sign that the person is abusing alcohol and stands the risk of developing an addiction. There are safeguards that a person can use to help prevent hangovers and blackouts.
Some of these safeguards include:
- Only consume up to two drinks per day for men, one drink per day for women and people who are over the age of sixty-five. One drink is equivalent to a glass of wine or a can of beer.
- Drink slowly to prevent a rapid rise in BAC, and never drink on an empty stomach.
- Do not mix alcohol with legal or illegal drugs.
- Avoid mixing drinks and drink water in-between alcohol intake.
- Do not engage in binge drinking.
Sometimes people who get high will get into an accident or injure themselves and not remember how it happened. They may have had a seizure during intoxication and not realize it. Operating machinery or driving a car is also a dangerous activity to do during a blackout. These types of incidents are dangerous and often quite disturbing to the people who experience them. It you or someone you love is experiencing blackouts, you should ask your physician for help.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.