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Why Do I Blackout When I Drink Alcohol?

If you are wondering, “Why do I blackout when I drink?” it is worthwhile to learn more about blackouts and why they occur. When you drink, do you find you cannot recall what happened or how you wound up someplace? This can occur in anyone who drinks excessively, whether binge drinking or having an alcohol use disorder. 

Buckhead Behavioral Health can help you if you’re struggling with alcohol addiction. Our alcohol rehab in Atlanta provides the vital, effective care you need to get you on the path toward recovery. Visit our admissions page or give us a call at (470) 460-6789 now.  

Why Do I Blackout When I Drink?

The most frequent cause of blackouts when you drink is binge drinking. Binge drinking is a common drinking practice among teenagers and young adults. The objective is to experience the effects of alcohol as soon as possible by consuming multiple drinks in under two hours. 

Typically, this means consuming four or more drinks in under two hours. As the amount of alcohol in the body quickly rises, the risks of a blackout also increase once the BAC (blood alcohol level) reaches 0.16 or higher. However, blackouts can also occur when you have an alcohol use disorder and drink large amounts of alcohol regularly. 

The quick increase in BAC in the body affects how the brain functions. Initially, you might feel euphoric feelings, calmness, lowered inhibitions, and dizziness. Yet, as you continue to drink, alcohol impairs the brain’s ability to transfer what is occurring into short-term memory. In more severe cases, some people’s brains will also experience impairment when transferring short-term memories into long-term memory. 

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What is the Difference Between Passing Out and Blacking Out?

It is essential to know what blacking out when drinking is and how it is different from passing out. Many people assume they are one and the same, as you may not fully recall what you were doing shortly before you passed out. 

When you pass out, you have consumed a large quantity of alcohol that causes you to feel sleepy and lose consciousness. You are no longer awake or functioning consciously. 

When you experience a blackout, you also have consumed a large amount of alcohol. However, the key distinction between passing out and blacking out is that you are still conscious. As a result, you can carry on conversations with others, move around, drink more alcohol, and engage in a wide range of risky behaviors.

Types of Blackouts

Now that you know why you have a blackout when you drink, you need to determine what type of blackouts you are experiencing. There are two different types of blackouts: fragmented blackouts and complete blackouts.

When you experience a fragmented blackout, you will remember specific things that occurred while drinking, but there will be gaps in your memory. Fragmented blackouts can also come and go unexpectedly. So, it is possible your recollection of events will move from one memory to the next but have several periods of gaps where you cannot recall what occurred, what you did, or where you went. 

A complete blackout is where you have no recollection of anything that occurred because your brain could not transfer any of the events to short-term memory. For example, the entire evening could be completely blank with the only thing you remember is going out to drink with your friends. Then, the next thing you can recall is waking up the following day. 

Is Blacking Out When Drinking Dangerous?

Blacking out can be dangerous since you are still functioning consciously. Even though you cannot recall what occurred, you could continue to drink, spend money, drive a car, or have unprotected sex with one or more partners. 

Furthermore, you could use other illicit substances. It is equally difficult for those around you to realize you are experiencing a blackout since you will not know you had one until later. You could even engage in other risky behaviors that could cause bodily injury or even death. 

Additional Side Effects of Blackouts When Drinking

Other side effects you could experience during blackouts could include:

  • Alcohol Poisoning
  • Alcohol Overdose
  • Coma
  • Heart Failure
  • Respiratory Failure
  • Violence

Do Blackouts Mean I Am an Alcoholic?

Experiencing blackouts does not necessarily mean you have an alcohol use disorder or an alcohol addiction. However, if you binge drink and are concerned about why you have a blackout when you drink, you seriously need to re-evaluate the effects alcohol is having on you. Additionally, it is recommended to seek help when you cannot give up drinking and continue to experience blackouts. 

Dangers of Long-Term Drinking and Blackouts

If you continue to binge drink or struggle with alcohol addiction and are experiencing blackouts, they can become more severe and last for more extended periods. You could potentially go for days without any memory of what occurred. Not to mention, the longer a blackout lasts, the higher the risks of injury and harm you could experience or cause to others.  

Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Atlanta, GA

When you are experiencing blackouts from drinking and find you cannot stop binge drinking or are struggling with alcohol use disorder, help is available at Buckhead Behavioral Health in Atlanta, GA. We offer personalized treatment programs to help you regain control over alcohol and stop your blackouts.

For further information about our alcohol blackout treatments and options, please feel free to call or visit our admissions page today.

author review

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Rahul Gupta, MD

Written by: Erika Dalton, LMSW
Updated on January 9, 2023
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