What Really Happens When you ‘Blackout’

The Dangers of Excessive Alcohol Consumption

While many people downplay ‘blacking out’ when drinking alcohol, it is a serious side effect that can be detrimental to your health, safety and wellbeing. If you experience a lapse in memory and regularly question, “What happened last night?”, you may be on a slippery slope toward alcohol abuse. Blacking out can result in poor decisions and also has a huge negative impact on your mind.

A blackout occurs when there is a lack of memory capacity while under the influence of alcohol. When an individual drinks excessive amounts of alcohol, it doesn’t allow the hippocampus zone of the brain to retain information or new events, therefore, affecting memory retention. The mind cannot form new memories when the individual is ‘blackout’ drunk which can leave them guessing what happened the next morning.

Passing Out vs. Blacking Out

These terms are often used in conjunction with one another. Contrary to popular belief, these two terms are very different from each other. When an individual passes out as a result of drinking excessively, they lose consciousness and are unresponsive. Blacking out, conversely, is when an individual remains conscious and continues to function normally but does not remember the events that took place. The biggest problem with those who blackout is that they can put themselves and others in harm’s way such as getting behind the wheel and driving during this highly-intoxicated state.

The two main types of blacking out are:

  • Fragmentary Blackout
  • En Block (complete blackout)

During a fragmentary blackout, bits and pieces of the night are puzzled together the next morning while during an en bloc blackout, the individual has no recollection of certain parts of the night whatsoever. It doesn’t matter which type of blackout an individual experiences; if they reach a point of blacking out, they are drinking to excess and abusing alcohol. 

Risk Factors for Blacking Out

Those who consume alcohol on an empty stomach will increase their BAC (blood alcohol concentration) much more quickly than an individual who consumes alcohol on a full stomach. Risk factors also include the type of alcohol the individual is consuming as well as at the rate they are consuming it. Your body type and weight also play a role in how you will metabolize alcohol. The rate at which an individual consumes alcohol will also play a part in how alcohol will affect them. The general rule of thumb is that individuals should consume one alcoholic beverage per hour followed by a glass of water with a maximum of three alcoholic drinks per night. This pattern will ensure that you do not overdo it and that you are staying hydrated. 

If your drinking has become out of control and you are experiencing blackouts on a regular basis, there is a chance that you have an alcohol abuse problem. Getting assistance can help you better manage your drinking so that you don’t continue down this dangerous and chronic path of alcohol abuse. It’s important that you seek help as soon as you realize there is a problem.




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.