Over 50 percent of college students today say they have blacked out after drinking large quantities of alcohol. Some people are more susceptible than others to these periods of amnesia, but they can happen to anyone.

Handsome depressed man drinking whiskey

The blackout occurs because the hippocampus, the part of the brain that oversees memory formation, doesn’t function properly as a result of the alcohol consumption. People who black out when drinking find they are at higher risk of becoming dependent on this substance.

Genetics and Alcohol Blackouts

People who experience alcohol-induced blackouts often find family members do the same.  One study found that identical twins are more likely to suffer from alcohol-induced blackouts than their fraternal peers, which demonstrates the genetic component of this phenomenon. A person doesn’t need to be an alcoholic to have a blackout, but many people in a San Juan Capistrano rehab will say they have experienced blackouts in the past. However, not all alcoholics will have this experience. The amount of alcohol consumed and the period in which it is consumed also play a role. Genetics has a major influence on how many drinks a person must consume before they reach this stage.

How Does a Blackout Differ From Passing Out Due to Alcohol Consumption?

A blackout is not the same as passing out. Many people pass out after consuming alcohol and sleep off the effects of the drug. They become comatose and are difficult to wake up. When a person has a blackout, the people around them may not be aware they are doing so. They remain conscious and continue engaging in normal behavior. They just won’t have any memory of it when the alcohol wears off.

The blackout is a form of amnesia or memory loss. The person might remember portions of the event but not all. People who retain certain things from the period when they are blacked out have fragmentary memory loss. Those men and women who cannot remember anything about what happened during their alcohol-induced blackout have continuous or en-bloc memory loss.

Why This Happens

The brain does not function properly when a person’s blood alcohol concentration suddenly spikes. Short-term memories can no longer make their way into the long-term memory bank. Short-term memories only last approximately three minutes and then they are gone if they don’t move to the long-term memory bank. This short-term memory is what allows the person to appear normal to others, and this blackout can begin and end suddenly.

How Can Someone Tell if a Person is Suffering From an Alcohol-Induced Blackout?

This knowledge of short-term memory will help someone determine if another person is going through an alcohol-induced blackout. All they need to do is give the person experiencing the potential blackout three words to remember. If this person cannot remember the three words after five minutes pass, they are having a blackout. This is similar to the memory loss seen with Korsakoff’s Syndrome, a condition brought on by a thiamine deficiency.

While blackouts may seem amusing when they happen, they are doing damage to the person’s mind and body. Men and women who experience blackouts are more likely to drink heavily as they age. Men, however, are more prone to this than women. Those who have a genetic vulnerability are also more at risk of long-term problems. Every person should be aware of alcohol-induced blackouts and what these blackouts mean for their future. They can then take proactive steps to reduce the risk of alcohol dependency and the accompanying issues.