Why Do Some People Black Out?

No matter if you suffer from alcoholism or only occasionally have a crazy night out, chances are that you have experienced a blackout at some point. This phenomenon happens when someone drinks too much and doesn’t remember anything they said or did from the previous night. 

Seen by some fraternities and college students as a rite of passage, blackouts can happen to anyone at any time while they’re out drinking; however, many may not understand the exact mechanics behind “blacking out.” So, why do some people black out while others don’t?

How Many People Experience Blackouts?

Some studies have shown that roughly 50% of people that drink alcohol have reported experiencing blackout symptoms at one point or another. As they begin to drink in excess, the higher the chances become that they will experience a blackout. However, they may find that they are confusing “blacking out” with “passing out.” 

A true blackout means losing your memory while still awake, conscious, and moving about. In some cases, you can even seem completely fine to those around you, even though you no longer have the ability to transform short-term memories into long-term ones. 

Are There Different Kinds of Blackouts?

Not every blackout is created equal. Depending on the amount of alcohol you consume and your tolerance levels, you may experience two distinct kinds — a true blackout or a fragmentary, or “gray out.” 

While you still have distinct gaps in your memories, you can still recall certain events from the night before, whereas a total blackout means you don’t remember anything at all. Otherwise known as an “en bloc blackout,” you can lose hours of your life where you can’t remember anything from what you said, interacted with, or did. 

Do Blackouts Affect Alcoholics Differently?

When the average person over drinks, their behavior may become erratic and belligerent and let their companions know it’s time for them to go home and sleep it off. However, for alcoholics, knowing when they have crossed the threshold of where they can remember their actions and into a blackout state can prove more challenging. 

Heavy drinkers have subjected their bodies to increased levels of beer, liquor, spirits, and other types of alcohol that they have become used to perform higher-level functions while under the influence. They can hold full conversations, perform routine tasks, and act completely coherently, but as soon as the next day rolls around, they recall nothing of the night before.

What Areas of the Brain Are Affected?

The brain remains one of the most complex organs of the human body and one that we know little about. However, we believe that the hippocampus plays a role in processing incoming information that eventually becomes our short and long-term memories. During a night of drinking, it’s thought that the hippocampus has become momentarily impaired, preventing it from taking new information and converting it into long-term memories. 

What Are the Risk Factors Influencing Blackouts?

While the total amount of alcohol you drink remains the biggest factor, other risks can influence your likelihood on a given night to black out. Some of the most common include:

  • How much you ate beforehand
  • Sleep deprivation
  • How quickly you drank
  • How often they have been drunk recently
  • The person’s body weight
  • Genetic predisposition

Many alcoholics may believe that blacking out is simply a part of their daily life and that there is nothing they can do except live with the lost time. However, it doesn’t have to be such a common occurrence. 

Discover How Silver Pines Treatment Center Can Help

If you have had enough of experiencing blackouts, knowing where you can go to get the support you need to quit drinking for good becomes crucial to your recovery. Silver Pines Treatment Center provides a safe alcohol treatment center in Mahanoy City, PA, for people to stop drinking and have the resources they need to stay sober. 

If you or someone you love are seeking assistance getting sober, don’t hesitate to reach out. Learn more about our admissions process and how we can help you today.