Drinking too much and too often are apparent signs of alcohol abuse. Some people who drink too much experience what is known as a blackout. This is the term used to describe short term memory loss caused by consuming unsafe levels of alcohol, usually on an empty stomach. While binge drinking and blackouts have become somewhat common at college parties or other social events, there are residual health consequences to consider.
Experts say binge drinking or overconsumption of alcohol can shut down the brain’s glutamate or synaptic receptors. These receptors are responsible for encoding and storing short-term memories and transiting them into long-term memories. When alcohol deactivates these receptors they are unable to translate events that occur during the blackout period into lasting memories.
If you suffer from alcohol abuse or addiction, it’s time to find the help you need from a certified rehab center. Individualized treatment plans can be created in order to address your specific needs.
A blackout typically occurs when the drinker’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is between .14% to .20%. The person can experience feelings of excitement, elevated confidence, weariness, depression and confusion, among other symptoms. Scientists explain that a blackout is not the same as passing out because the person is still awake and functioning. When a person passes out from drinking too much they are asleep or in a state of unconsciousness. Blackouts usually end when the person passes out.
Beyond the shame and remorse that often accompany a black-out event, there are also potentially dangerous behaviors users can engage in, such as:
- Engaging in unsafe sex that can lead to contracting HIV, Hepatitis C or other sexually transmitted diseases
- Severe and potentially fatal injuries from falling or as a result of an accident
- Continue drinking, which can lead to alcohol poisoning
- Attempting to drive a car that can lead to a fatal or debilitating accident
- Experiencing sickness such as nausea, headaches, anxiety, tremors and fatigue
- Making irrational, inappropriate or dangerous decisions that can have long term effects
Excessive drinking has been shown to cause brain damage, and blackouts are directly linked to consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. Teens who experience frequent blackout episodes can develop psychological problems such as depression, personality disorders, or suicidal thoughts later in life. Studies also show that when heavy drinkers with alcohol-induced brain damage abstain for a period of one year, they usually experience some improvement in brain function.
Scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism report that most cognitive functions are impacted by alcohol. To further emphasize the danger of excessive drinking and blacking out, NIAAA scientist used the analogy that “if recreational drugs were tools, alcohol would be a sledgehammer. Since blacking out occurs from acute alcohol intoxication, the drinker is also at risk of experiencing a wide spectrum of symptoms that may later not be associated with the blackout event.
Blackouts are another dangerous component of alcohol abuse. If you or a loved one has experienced one or more alcohol-induced blackouts, it may be time to seek help for alcohol abuse. Contact a certified rehab center to learn more about your options for treatment today.