Alcoholic Induced Blackouts - A Defective Consciousness
Posted Sep 29 2008 7:12pm
Drink Alcohol long enough and hard enough and you start experiencing some ill effects to the drinking that you may have only heard about. Blackouts are like that. They happen without warning from consuming too much alcohol and BANG! Next thing you know you are wondering where you are and what you’ve been up to since your last waking thought.
Pretty scary stuff since you have no recollection of the last 12 -24 hours or more. Even more frightening is research is showing that alcohol induced blackouts are becoming more common in social drinkers. They occur more frequently when alcohol is consumed rapidly which may help explain the social drinker factor related to blackouts. Someone not used to consuming high levels of alcohol quickly can succumb to a blackout and it is totally out of character. Many college drinkers suffer from blackouts and the ramifications can range from embarrassing to illegal. Some people seem to have a predisposition to blacking out from drinking alcohol, leading some to believe there may be genetic factors at play.
Whatever the reason for an alcohol induced black out, they are an enigma. The person experiencing the blackout doesn’t just temporarily forget what happened. They literally fail to form ANY memory of events due to the alcohol consumed. Imagine having a pilot flying a passenger jet who is experiencing a blackout; or a surgeon performing an operation while blacked out. These scenarios have been documented! People seem to be behaving fairly normally and appear conscious it’s just that they are not forming memories of their behavior while blacked out. Their pre blackout memory is whole and can be recalled.
A blackout should not be confused with passing out. Drinking oneself into unconsciousness and not be active during this time is passing out. Blackouts are when one is drinking and appearing conscious albeit perhaps acting somewhat intoxicated. You can’t be in one state when you are in the other, you cannot be unconscious when you are conscious and vice versa.
Just because someone suffers blackouts does not mean this individual is an alcoholic. Studies have shown that over time if someone suffers from blackouts early in their drinking history that same person 10 years later may not have any further incidence of blackouts in their lives due to drinking. In short there is no direct correlation between blackouts and alcohol dependence. That said, blackouts are a good indicator that a current or future problem with alcohol exists and sufferers should closely examine their drinking habits.
There is some evidence that blood alcohol content plays a role in the occurrence of blackouts. Drinking on an empty stomach and drinking hurriedly or gulping alcohol will increase the BAC levels which mean alcohol will be getting into your system faster thereby hitting your brain faster and perhaps surprising certain brain sections off guard.
Whatever the science is regarding blacking out there are some common sense facts that every drinker whether they are a social, binge or full blown alcoholic should consider. If you are a lightweight person male or female who is in an environment where drinking activity is heavier than usual be cognitive of the fact that you are more susceptible to impairment because of your physical make up. It simply doesn’t take as much alcohol to get you intoxicated. The fact that there is heavy drinking going on makes it easier to overdue it and drink passed your normal limit faster.
When you are drinking alcohol try to sip it and watch your intake of air, no gulping. The objective is not to raise your BAC faster than normal levels. If you know you are in for a night of drinking and probably to excess than eat something before you start. Drinking on an empty stomach is inviting intoxication. If you are a social drinker specifically a women, in a college atmosphere be very careful of your alcohol ingestion and pour your own drinks to ensure your alcohol intake is within your limits. Avoid silly drinking games designed to intoxicate. Being forewarned of these caveats can mean the difference between having an enjoyable time or one of the worst experiences of your life. Your inability to take these precautions may preclude any notion that you are in fact only a social drinker and you should take a serious look at your drinking patterns.
If you are concerned that perhaps you’ve suffered an alcohol induced blackout and you previously thought you may be drinking excessively, take this as a warning that your drinking habits have gone beyond social drinking and you may be on a hazardous path. You should immediately seek out your options for controlling or abstaining from drinking altogether.
Alcoholic blackouts are more prevalent in those people whose tolerance is to the point that they can consume greater amounts of alcohol quicker than normal and still appear to be only slightly intoxicated. These are the people who will drive, operate machinery or worse because they “feel fine” and appear normal or near normal to most of their peers. When a blackout happens they are so intoxicated there is no accounting for their behavior.
A chilling fact is that some people who experience blackouts can turn violent and have absolutely no recollection of their conduct during the blackout. Unfortunately some apparently decent citizens have ruined their lives and that of others because they have killed and or maimed people during these malfunctions of consciousness. There are numerous stories of horrifying car accidents, viscous assaults and murderous rampages all blamed on the perpetrators suffering from alcohol induced blackouts.
A final unsettling fact is that this condition is common enough that any day of the week there could be millions of people experiencing an alcohol induced blackout and you may not even notice them until it’s too late.
To set up an appointment with Michael Pearlman, M.D., Call 1 (866) 285-3400 toll-free or (617) 620-2230,