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Blacking out Drunk Is Not Normal. Here’s Why It Is a Big Warning Sign

In certain conversations, the experience of blacking out can seem perfectly normal. But is it really all that common — and is it safe? 

One study of college students found that 40 percent of them reported blacking out in the past year. So, while blacking out certainly isn’t uncommon, it also isn’t true to say that “everyone does it.” 

Blacking out is also commonly misunderstood. It was once thought to be caused by heavy drinking, but now we know that rapid increases in blood alcohol content actually cause blackouts. This means that it is possible to be dangerously intoxicated or even addicted to alcohol, but never black out.

However, blacking out still isn’t safe. Here’s what you should know about what it means and why it’s a warning sign. 

What Causes Blacking out Drunk? 

Blacking out can be confusing and hard to understand — and not just for the person experiencing it. As it turns out, blackouts don’t affect everyone equally. 

For a long time, people thought that only alcoholics would black out. But research proved that blackouts can affect everyone, even people who don’t need alcohol abuse treatment. In fact, blackouts may be more likely to affect those who don’t drink often, since these people don’t have a tolerance. 

During a blackout, people still have short-term memory, but they can’t move those memories into long-term storage in the brain. Researchers think that’s because the rapid intoxication temporarily blocks the hippocampus from doing its job of creating new memories.

Some people experience total blackouts, while others experience partial ones, where they have some gaps in memory but not a complete empty space. Bodyweight, smoking, drug use, and other factors all affect an individual’s likelihood of blacking out.  

Why an Alcohol Blackout Is a Warning Sign 

Blacking out isn’t necessarily a sign of alcoholism, and it can be affected by many personal factors. Still, it can be a serious warning sign — here’s why. 

Blacking out doesn’t always signify alcohol use disorder. But if someone blacks out regularly, that is a sign that they may have a more serious problem with alcohol. Think of blacking out frequently as one of many possible symptoms of alcoholism.

Even without alcoholism, though, blacking out can still be a warning sign that risky behaviors, injury, and illness are more likely. While in a blackout, a person may seem perfectly normal. However, they’re actually much more likely to engage in risky actions, injure themselves, or become victims of assault. 

How to Prevent Blacking out Drunk 

Since some people are more prone to blacking out than others, how can you keep this from happening? 

Drinking smaller quantities of alcohol, and consuming them more slowly, is the top way to prevent blackouts. However, eating, drinking water, and getting enough sleep before consuming alcohol can also help. 

If blackouts happen to you or someone you love often, though, that is a sign of a problem with alcohol. Blackouts are only a symptom, but it’s important to seek treatment for the underlying cause as soon as possible. 

Looking for more ways to take control of your health? Check out our Patient Resources section for everything you need!