While many people can safely enjoy a drink or two at the end of the day, or a few beers at a summer barbecue, others simply cannot. People who struggle with alcoholism cannot stop drinking at will; once they start drinking, they just cannot stop. This level of heavy drinking can lead to a variety of problems, both physical and personal. Friendships may be destroyed or jobs lost. Health problems such as liver damage and malnutrition may develop. Some people who heavily drink will experience alcohol blackouts, in which their brains fail to record memories while under the influence of so much alcohol. Here, we will discuss exactly what an alcohol blackout is, the causes, signs, symptoms of an alcohol blackout, and how to help someone suffering from them.

Causes of an Alcohol Blackout

An alcohol blackout is a condition in which a person’s brain stops recording new memories. The individual does not pass out or fall asleep. He or she will continue to walk, talk, and appear to be aware of what is going on. But because the brain is not recording what is happening, the individual will have little to no recollection of what happened once the blackout started. That person will experience the events as lost time, as if that time had passed but nothing had ever happened. Conversations with others will be forgotten. Even actions such as driving will be forgotten, leaving the person to wonder how he or she arrived at the current location. This situation is unsettling, to say the least, to the person experiencing the blackout and can be extremely frustrating to others who were with them during the blackout.

An alcohol blackout is caused by extremely high blood alcohol levels, around 14 percent or higher, much higher than levels produced by typical drinking. How many drinks it takes to reach these levels depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Body weight
  • How much food was consumed prior to drinking
  • How much alcohol is in each drink
  • How quickly you drink

Binge drinking, which is defined as consuming five or more drinks for men or for or more drinks for women in two hours, is more likely to produce a blackout because of how quickly it will cause blood alcohol levels to rise.

Signs & Symptoms of an Alcohol Blackout

It can be hard to tell if someone if having an alcohol blackout. While they will most likely appear drunk, it may not be obvious that they are in the midst of a blackout. They may appear coherent and continue to walk, talk, and drive. Some signs that indicate that a person is experiencing a blackout include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Irregular or slowed breathing
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty understanding normal speech
  • Difficulty maintaining consciousness
  • Difficulty remembering recent events

Consequences of an Alcohol Blackout

The aftermath of an alcohol blackout can be unpleasant for the person drinking and for those around him or her. The person suffering from an alcohol blackout may wake up in a strange place, unable to remember how they got there. They may have made risky decisions, such as drinking and driving or engaging in unprotected sex, while drinking. Imagine the terror of waking up under these circumstances. The people around the person drinking can also suffer. They may be in the car driven by someone who is blackout drunk, or have sex with someone who is blackout drunk, only to find that the next day the other person has no recollection of these events. The results can be as minor as being frustrated that the “lost time” included unrecalled conversations to the serious consequences of drinking and driving, including injuries and fatalities.

How To Help Someone In Need

If you are with someone who has a history of alcohol blackouts, and that person is already drinking, encourage him or her to take preventative measures to avoid another blackout. Such steps include:

  • Avoid binge drinking–consume no more than one drink per hour
  • Alternative water with alcohol
  • Consume food to slow the absorption of alcohol into the blood

Alcohol blackouts are a sign of alcohol abuse. To truly help someone struggling with alcohol abuse and addiction, encourage him or her to seek treatment. Inpatient rehab can be an effective way for people struggling with alcohol addiction to detox under supervision and learn how to live a sober lifestyle. At Blu By The Sea, our professional staff is ready to help you achieve sober living. If you or someone you love is exhibiting blackout signs or other indications of alcoholism, reach out to us today.