Author: Gary Jackson

Alcohol-Related Blackouts

Leading this research, Elizabeth Loftus has authored over 200 books and thousands of peer-reviewed articles which demonstrate the many ways in which memory for events can be distorted or contaminated during the process of recall (Loftus and Davis, 2006; Morgan et al., 2013; Patihis et al., 2013). Provision of misinformation, the passage of time, and being asked or interviewed about prior events can all lead to memory distortions as the individual strives to reconstruct prior events (Loftus and Davis, 2006; Nash and Takarangi, 2011). Consequently, the reliability or accuracy of memories that are recalled following a period of alcohol-induced amnesia are likely to be suspect.

  • Research also indicates that a person who has experienced one blackout is more likely to have blackouts in the future.
  • You can recover from an alcohol blackout by drinking water and beverages containing electrolytes, such as sports drinks.
  • Despite advice from experts and beer commercials, most people do not drink responsibly.
  • It’s unclear whether blacking out causes serious long-term damage, but heavy alcohol use and risky behaviors while blacked out can have serious long-term health effects.

Six publications described consequences of alcohol-induced blackouts, and five studies explored potential cognitive and neurobiological mechanisms underlying alcohol-induced blackouts. One study found that the frequency with which people had gotten drunk in general in the last month was a risk factor for whether someone experienced a blackout. • A blackout occurs when the brain is temporarily unable to record memories. It can be induced by drinking, because alcohol disrupts the activity of the hippocampus, inhibiting its ability to create long-term memories. “It’s like a temporary gap in the tape,” Aaron White of the US’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism told BBC Future in an earlier story on blackouts and drinking.

Interrupted Memories: Alcohol-Induced Blackouts

If you start the night by taking shots, chugging beer or playing drinking games, the odds of remembering everything the next day drop drastically. If you or someone you know is blacking out often or struggling with alcohol abuse, reach out for professional help. This work was supported by a Research Excellence Award (PI Miller) from the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University. Author effort was also supported by research grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (K23AA026895, PI Miller; K01AA022938, PI Merrill). NIH had no role in study design; data collection, analysis, or interpretation; manuscript preparation; or the decision to submit the paper for publication.

A person with a total blackout feels like the events that occurred while intoxicated never occurred. This is the most common type of blackout, sometimes called a “grayout” or “brownout.” It refers to a spotty recollection of events with “islands” of memories. Typically, a person with a fragmentary blackout can remember some things but miss entire events.

Blackout Drunk: Signs, Effects, and How to Stop It

The term blackout refers to an instance of short-term memory loss when intoxicated. Too much alcohol can temporarily inhibit the brain’s transfer of memories from short- to long-term storage. In humans the amount of alcohol that triggers a blackout varies from person to person.

Participants’ typical alcohol use was assessed using the Daily Drinking Questionnaire (Collins, Parks, & Marlatt, 1985). Participants provided the number of standard drinks (e.g., 12oz beer) that they consumed on each day of a typical week in the past month. Responses were summed across all days of the week to obtain an estimate of drinks consumed per week for each participant.