What Happens When You ‘Black Out’?

Too Much Alcohol Can Have a Nasty Effect

Many of us have been there before; drinking too much, blacking out, and wondering how in the world we got home safely. Not only is blacking out a side effect of excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking, but it is also extremely dangerous and can leave you in a very uncertain situation. ‘Blacking out’ is also known as amnesia as a result of alcohol.

It’s important to remember that blacking out defers from passing out. When an individual blacks out, they lose their ability to remember the night. When it is difficult to recall the entire event the morning after a night of drinking, this is considered an ‘en block’ blackout. When an individual can recall various segments of the night, this is known as ‘fragmentary memory loss’. Passing it occurs when an individual suffers the sleepy side effects of alcohol and simply ends of falling asleep but they can remember the evening.

Short-Term and Long-Term Memory

Any sort of lapse in memory as a result of alcohol consumption is damaging to the brain and is also extremely dangerous. Lapses in memory could mean that you drove home drunk without remembering a thing; an action that could cost you your life. When an individual is drinking and they end up ‘blacking out’, they may be able to carry on a conversation and remember things during this time period, but that is all lost as the brain fails to transfer to the part of the brain that is responsible for long-term memory.

While en block-type blackouts will never allow the individual to recall the night, those who have fragmented blacks will slowly begin to remember the night as time goes on. In this type of blackout, the brain is able to retain long-term memory of events that were held the night before.

Causes of Blackouts

Aside from consuming too much alcohol, blackouts are more likely to happen to certain individuals based on sex, genetics, and ethnicity. One isolated event of blacking out is harmful, but repeated blackouts can be a sign of alcoholism or alcohol use disorder which is an issue concerning college students. Drinking on an empty stomach and drinking very quickly can result in a blackout as well. Women are at a higher risk of blacking out when drinking due to the fact that they have less water in their system which means they cannot dilute the alcohol as easily as men can.

Women are particularly vulnerable to blacking out if they do not take the proper precautions due to the fact that they have more body fat than men. Since fat doesn’t absorb the alcohol right away, alcohol remains in the bloodstream for a longer period of time compared to men.

Blacking out can also influence you to partake in dangerous activities such as driving under the influence and having unprotected sex, among many others. These actions can have life-long consequences. The culture that colleges and universities have is conducive to binge drinking and heavy, excessive drinking. This is a recipe for blacking out and, consequently, partaking in dangerous activities.




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.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.