What Happens During a Drinking Blackout

What Happens During a Drinking Blackout?

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A blackout is one of the many negative effects people experience after drinking heavily. Alcohol-induced blackouts are gaps in a person’s memory that occur while they were intoxicated.[1] They can appear fully conscious and not remember certain events that happened while they were under the influence. This is one of the reasons why blackouts are so dangerous. We’ll explore what exactly happens during a blackout, some signs of an alcohol-induced blackout, and how an alcohol rehab in Scottsdale can help if you or a loved one has a drinking problem.

What Happens During an Alcohol-Induced Blackout?

During an alcohol-induced blackout, a person drinks enough alcohol to temporarily block the transfer of memories from short-term to long-term storage in the brain.[1] The alcohol consumed impairs your body’s ability to create and store memories. Someone can appear fully conscious and experience a blackout. Blacking out does not mean that you fall asleep or lose consciousness. It is more of a break in your ability to process memories.

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What Causes an Alcohol Blackout?

Drinking too much alcohol too quickly can lead to a blackout. Blackouts tend to begin when someone has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of approximately .16 percent or higher.[1] But blackouts can occur at a much lower BAC if people drink and take medicine for sleep or anxiety.

Blackouts are more likely to happen when alcohol enters the bloodstream quickly because it causes the BAC to rise rapidly. If someone drinks on an empty stomach or has a large amount of alcohol in a short amount of time, their BAC will rise quickly.

Weight is also a factor when it comes to alcohol blackouts. Because females typically weigh less than males and have less water in their bodies, they tend to reach higher peak BAC levels quicker than males. This is why women are at higher risk of blackouts than men.[1]

Different Types of Blackouts

Two different types of alcohol-induced blackouts are defined by the severity of memory impairment.[2]

Fragmentary Blackout

This is the most common type of alcohol-induced blackout. It is characterized by having spotty memories of events that happened while drinking. Someone may be able to recall what happened if prompted by another person.

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“En bloc” Blackout

This is complete amnesia that often lasts for hours. With this type of blackout, memories do not form and typically can not be recovered. For people experiencing this type of blackout, it’s as if the events never happened when in reality, they did.

Signs and Symptoms of an Alcohol Blackout

Since losing consciousness does not constitute a blackout, it can be difficult to determine when someone is experiencing one. But typical signs and symptoms include:

  • Difficulty Walking
  • Trouble talking
  • Difficult standing
  • Impaired judgment
  • Impaired vision
  • Short attention span, difficulty following a story
  • Repeating the same thing over and over, although others have acknowledged what was said

If you notice these signs in someone who has been drinking heavily, they may be experiencing an alcohol-induced blackout. It’s best to get them to a safe place so that they don’t harm themselves or fall victim to someone taking advantage of them in this state.

Short-Term Effects of an Alcohol Blackout

Several problems can occur when someone has an alcohol-related blackout.

  • Blackouts make you more susceptible to injury from a fall or car crash.
  • You can get taken advantage of sexually.
  • You may hurt someone else and not remember.
  • You may make poor decisions.

Besides these dangerous consequences, having even one blackout has other severe implications. Alcohol delays brain signals controlling gag reflex and other autonomic responses.[3] When someone blacks out from drinking too much, they could vomit while sleeping due to the loss of reflex control. This can lead them to choke on their own vomit.

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Long-Term Effects of Reoccurring Blackouts

When people drink heavily regularly and have frequent blackouts, it can lead to many long-term effects, such as:

  • Memory loss
  • Liver disease
  • Frontal lobe damage

When people experience frontal lobe damage, it can impact their ability to store information and perform tasks. It can also affect your personality and overall behavior.

Whether you’re looking at the short-term or long-term effects, any alcohol-induced blackout can lead to dangerous consequences that can put you or someone you come in contact with in danger.

How to Prevent Alcohol-Related Blackouts

The best way to prevent alcohol-related blackouts is to limit the amount of alcohol you are consuming.

  • After binge drinking and eating on an empty stomach.
  • Drink slowly rather than chugging your drink.
  • Consider drinking a glass of water between alcoholic drinks to limit how quickly you consume alcohol.

A blackout ends for a person when their body can finally absorb the alcohol, and the brain can make memories again. The amount you drink, how long it took you to drink, and your physiology all play a role in how you recover from a blackout. Sleep can also help to end blackouts because it gives the body time to process the alcohol.

It’s important to remember that all blackouts should be taken seriously because even one can prove fatal.

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How an Alcohol Rehab in Scottsdale Can Help

If you or someone you love has been drinking heavily and experiences blackouts frequently, they may have a drinking problem that requires a treatment program. At Desert Cove Recovery, we provide various treatment options for people dealing with an alcohol use disorder.

As an alcohol rehab in Scottsdale, Arizona, we provide detox referrals, a 12-step program, and holistic approaches to treating addiction. We believe that everyone’s addiction is different, so they need a customized plan to help them overcome it. We get to know our patients to determine the best treatment for them.

Call us today or reach out to us online so that we devise a treatment plan to get you on your road to recovery.



[1] https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/interrupted-memories-alcohol-induced-blackouts

[2] https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-2/186-196.htm

[3] https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-dangers-of-alcohol-overdose