alcohol blackout
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For many, waking up with fragmented or completely missing memories of the previous night is a jarring experience that drives home the immediate dangers of alcohol misuse. At Hope by the Sea, we believe in educating people about these risks and when it might be time to ask for help.

Why Do Blackouts Happen?

Alcohol-induced blackouts occur when your blood alcohol content becomes high enough to significantly compromise your cognitive functions. Though you might not seem impaired to outside observers, your brain’s ability to record new memories shuts down due to the impact on the hippocampus, which is responsible for forming short-term memories and transferring them to long-term storage.

No specific number of drinks universally triggers a blackout because individual responses to alcohol vary based on body weight, gender, metabolism and consumption rate. In other words, a bout of drinking that causes you to black out might not affect your friend the same way.

There are two types of alcohol blackouts. In a partial blackout, or brownout, you will remember some fragments of events, especially when prompted. In a complete blackout, you will not recall anything that occurred while you were intoxicated, even if others try to remind you.

Understanding the Risks of a Blackout

Outwardly normal behavior is one of the most perilous aspects of a blackout. You may do things like eating, shopping or even driving with no awareness or memory of them. Your lack of judgment and inhibitions can lead to dangerous situations, including risky sexual behavior or injuries from falls. Because you seem to be coherent, your friends might not realize how impaired you are.

While a single blackout episode does not imply permanent brain damage, frequent heavy drinking can prematurely age you. This accelerated aging manifests similarly to dementia, with marked memory loss and cognitive decline. As a drinking problem worsens, your brain’s capacity will diminish, potentially causing a severe condition called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

Is It Time to Get Treatment?

Regularly losing memories due to drinking signifies that your alcohol consumption has reached a self-destructive level. As your tolerance builds, it will push you to drink excessively to achieve the same desired effects, leading to more frequent blackouts. This cycle escalates the risk of addiction.

Memory loss should be a wake-up call that you need to seriously evaluate your relationship with alcohol. Alcohol use disorder is a progressive and potentially fatal disease, and addressing it early can prevent multiple physical, psychological and social problems.

Seek professional help if you often experience blackouts from drinking. At Hope by the Sea, we’ve designed numerous specialty treatment programs to help clients understand their alcohol use, address underlying issues contributing to their drinking and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Remember, there is no shame in admitting you have a problem you cannot solve on your own. Often, it’s the only way people can reclaim control over their life and health. Contact our family-owned California rehab center today – your call will remain fully confidential.