How Serious Is an Alcohol Blackout?

People at a party

About 50 percent of adults report having at least one alcohol-related blackout in their lives, but is a blackout serious? What are the symptoms of an alcohol blackout? And what exactly causes an alcohol blackout?

What Happens When You Black Out

When a blackout occurs, you are awake and functioning for a period of time, but you don’t remember what happened the next day or when enough of the alcohol has left your system. You may pass out after a blackout, then wake up and realize you don’t remember what happened, or you may just become aware that time has passed even though you don’t know what happened during that time.

Blackouts typically involve actions and events that take place while alcohol is in your system. You don’t lose memories that took place before or after the blackout. If you have memory loss and haven’t been drinking heavily, you may have a different health problem that needs attention and treatment.

Scientists have discovered what happens in the brain when a blackout occurs. While your brain is still processing information during a blackout, your memory can’t record anything new while a blackout occurs. This is why people will often tell you that you were the life of the party or about things you did while drinking, but you won’t remember any of it yourself. The bottom line about blackouts is that the level of alcohol in your system won’t let your brain form new memories, at least temporarily.

Man looking hungover after a substance-induced blackout

You may not realize you’ve experienced a blackout until you wake up the next morning.

When Blackouts Occur

Blackouts are most common when you drink a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time. Men and women experience blackouts in about equal numbers, but given the fact that more men drink heavily than women, and the fact that women tend to be physically smaller than men, it may be the case that women are more prone to blackouts when they drink a lot in a short period of time.

Drinking a lot over a longer period of time, such as starting in the morning and drinking throughout the day and night, is less likely to result in a blackout (although it can still be harmful in many other ways).

When to Get Help

Blackouts are scary whenever they occur. Not only do you not have control over your actions during a blackout, you may be engaging in risky behavior that exposes you to injury, diseases or being the victim of a crime, and you won’t even know it.

If you have experienced even one blackout and are continuing to drink heavily, you may need help to stop drinking and prevent future blackouts. You may be tempted to shrug off a blackout as no big deal, but the potential for negative things to happen during a blackout is high. You may commit a crime, or someone may commit one against you. You may engage in behavior that will cause you to contract an incurable disease, or you may have an accident that could injure you or take a life.

The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is ready to help you stop drinking so you can regain control over your behavior and life. Our Colorado addiction treatment resources can help you hold onto your memories and move forward into a new, sober life.  Contact us today to learn more. 

How Serious Is an Alcohol Blackout?
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