Have you ever woken up panicked and confused, wondering how you got home or what you did last night? If you answered yes, you might have experienced an episode of alcohol-induced amnesia, also called a blackout. If you have, you certainly are not alone. One report shows that about 50% of people who drink alcohol have experienced blackouts.
At the end of my drinking career, blackouts were an almost daily occurrence. I can remember frantically searching through my phone for some clue as to who I had talked to or what I had said. My blackouts raised concerns about how alcohol was affecting my health and whether I might injure myself, but I think that the biggest cost to me was the loss of precious memories with my friends and loved ones.
A blackout involves losing your memory while you are still awake and conscious. The body can’t process an extreme amount of alcohol and the overload impairs the way your brain transfers memories from short-term to long-term. A blackout is not the same as passing out. During a blackout, you can move around, engage in a conversation, drive a car, and participate in all kinds of risky activities.
Sounds like a situation that could lead to injury and disaster, right?
When do blackouts occur?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports “Blackouts tend to begin at blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of about 0.16 percent (nearly twice the legal driving limit) and higher. At these BACs, most cognitive abilities (e.g., impulse control, attention, judgment, and decision-making) are significantly impaired.”
Many blackouts are a result of binge drinking, which is one pattern of excessive drinking. Usually it is defined by 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more drinks for men — in about 2 hours time.
When I decided to “celebrate” or “relax” with alcohol, I didn’t intend to drink excessively. Maybe I went straight to Happy Hour without any food. Perhaps I lost track of how many times I filled my wine glass. But I would never have thought of myself as a binge drinker.
I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.
A special message for women
The same fact sheet from the NIAAA informs us that “Because females, on average, weigh less than males and, pound for pound, have less water in their bodies, they tend to reach higher peak BAC levels than males with each drink and do so more quickly.
This helps explain why being female appears to be a risk factor for having blackouts.”
So, how do we avoid blackouts and the possible negative results? For me, the only answer was to find freedom from alcohol.
With honest, intensive work within This Naked Mind methodology, I was able to lose my desire for alcohol. With no desire to drink, changing the behavior was easy and effortless. If you are interested in knowing more about how to find this freedom, you can schedule an appointment to talk with me. (It’s free and there is no pressure to make a commitment.)
If you are not ready to change your relationship with alcohol yet, the following tips might help you avoid blackouts:
- Try to sip your drink rather than taking gulps or chugging
- Drink some water between each alcoholic drink (or add water to your drink)
- Be extremely careful with drinking while taking medications
- Make sure to eat before and during the time you are drinking
- Avoid binge drinking (four or more drinks in two hours)
These are temporary steps that can help you avoid the risks and regrets of blackouts until you are ready to make changes.