A blackout drunk surprisingly isn’t one who passes out while they’re drunk. You may fall, slur their speech, make poor choices, and damage the relationship with those you love. Embarrassing and painful, it certainly is. But you may not appear blackout drunk to others around you. So what is it? For those who have been there, this blog will help you avoid repeating the experience and shaming yourself another night.
Table of Contents
Understanding Alcohol-Induced Blackout
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) identified alcohol-induced blackouts as “gaps” in a person’s memory that occur while intoxicated.
People frequently confuse “blacking out drunk” with “passing out,” also known as syncope, a brief loss of consciousness in which a person loses control of their actions.
On the other hand, an alcohol-related blackout occurs when you lose your memory while still awake and alert; you can move around, engage with others, and appear normal to those around you.
Blackouts can be usually caused by consuming large amounts of alcohol, impairing your brain’s ability to transmit short- to long-term memories.
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What Is It Like to Be Blackout Drunk: What Does It Mean
When people consume enough alcohol, they may experience one of two forms of blackouts. If you have a fragmentary blackout, also known as a “gray-out” or “brownout,” you may have gaps in your memory as well as some recollection of events.
In contrast, a total blackout involves no recollection of events because memories never form. If they do, you are unable to access them.
Passing out or losing consciousness after drinking indicates an alcohol overdose, a medical emergency that requires witnesses to call 911 for assistance.
This sort of blackout, often known as an “en bloc” blackout, causes amnesia to endure for several hours.
It may appear as if you were not present during the occurrences. From blacking out to passing out, a person’s condition might deteriorate.
Because people who black out are fully capable of engaging in complicated behaviors, identifying the signs or symptoms of blackouts can be difficult.
According to the NIAAA, people who blackout may engage in conversations, drive automobiles, and engage in other actions that they can’t recollect later, such as spending money, chatting with others, or having unprotected sex.
People don’t remember these behaviors since their memories aren’t stored in the long–term memory of their minds. Symptoms that may appear are comparable to intoxication symptoms and include:
- Spasms of the muscles
- The way you see things shifts.
- Speaking in a difficult manner
As previously said, the person may be unaware that they are blacked out.
Causes Of Blackout: Is It Just Alcohol That Causes It?
Many people have blackouts because of binge drinking. Still, they can also happen when certain drugs, like benzodiazepines, are combined with alcohol.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that binge drinking occurs when a man consumes five or more drinks in a span of fewer than two hours.
On the other hand, binge drinking on women means drinking four or more drinks in less than two hours; it can also refer to a drinking pattern that results in a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08g/dl or higher.
If your blood alcohol content or the BAC reaches 0.16 percent or higher, you will likely experience blackouts.
Why You Cannot Remember What You Did While You Were Drunk
What Causes Alcohol Blackout
When people consume alcohol too quickly, their bodies cannot adequately remove it out of their systems, resulting in blackouts.
The accumulation of alcohol in your circulation causes a rapid rise in your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which can lead to blackouts.
What Happens To Your Body When You blackout?
Anterograde amnesia is the precise word for the type of memory loss that most people suffer during a blackout.
This means you won’t be able to create or store new memories. While scientists aren’t sure what causes blackouts, they do know that a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is essential for memory, stops working correctly when someone has one.
Alcohol is thought to alter the behavior of critical brain receptors.
This causes steroid production to be impaired, weakening the link between brain cells and affecting learning and memory. Furthermore, certain medications, such as benzodiazepines like diazepam, “z-drugs” used for insomnia like zolpidem (Ambien), and marijuana, can increase the risk of transient memory lapses and blackouts, especially in younger people, and especially when mixed with alcohol.
Is Blacking Out A Symptom of Alcoholism?
People who black out after drinking aren’t always suffering from alcohol use disorder (AUD), the medical term for addiction. On the other hand, the NIAAA states that “even one occurrence is a sign of concern” should urge someone to “reconsider their relationship with alcohol” and seek medical advice.
How Can Blackouts Be Avoided?
To avoid blackouts, practicing moderation and pacing yourself, in addition to abstaining from alcohol is necessary. To prevent blackouts, take the following precautions:
- Before and during alcohol intake, eat a meal or hefty appetizers.
- Slowly sip your beverage. Instead of gulping, sipping alcohol can help you keep track of how it affects your body.
- To minimize how much and how quickly you consume alcohol, drink a glass of water or a soft drink between alcoholic drinks.
Save Yourself After The Alcohol-Induced Blackout
So, after downing a bunch of liquor, you made a spectacle of yourself and were a drunk embassasment. However, some of your friends snoozed on the couch or puked and then went home, so you did something embarrassing. Something dreadful. Don’t be alarmed; it’s happened to us all.
You’ve awoken with a headache, a rumbling stomach, and a strong sense of humiliation — and you have no idea why.
How to Get Over Embarrassing Drunk Moments
It’s tempting to hide your head under a pillow and refuse to leave your bed for the rest of the day, but it won’t help when you finally have to emerge from under your blanket. Here’s how you’re going to go about it:
Look At Your Phone.
You may not want to be confronted with the very awful texts you sent that guy who ghosted you at 2:07 a.m., but it’s far better to know who you’ve phoned and texted so you can be ready for any answer.
Your phone can also help you keep track of your activities from the night before, from a kebab card payment to a surge-priced Uber ride home.
Take your phone out of your pocket. Evaluate your messages. Check your phone for messages. Take a peek at the photos in your camera roll. It will not be easy, but you must persevere.
Take Control of The Narrative.
You should be the first to acknowledge what you did rather than having everyone in the group chat laughing at your misdeeds and regaling you with all the horrible ideas you uttered and the party tricks you demonstrated.
If you’re having problems remembering what happened, send a message to your buddies and ask them to tell you everything that happened — no holds barred.
Don’t Act as If It Didn’t Happen.
If your said something cruel or offensive to a group of people you care about, threw up on someone’s sofa, or did anything else you’d be ashamed of if you’d done it sober, don’t just sweep it under the carpet and hope that no one will remember what you did if you don’t bring it up.
You may have a hazy remembering of what happened, while other people’s recollections of events may be crystal clear.
Saying nothing about what you did gives the impression that you don’t care if you were impolite, disrespectful, or damaging. You’ll have to face a humiliating night head-on and be honest about it.
“I got drunk and embarrassed myself”, just say it to yourself and own it.
Please Apologize to Everyone You May Have Offended.
How to Apologize for Being Too Drunk
Don’t linger in sorrow and self-pity if your partner tell you that you said anything harsh to them after taking a shot. You are not the one who has been wronged in this situation, and you must accept responsibility and apologize.
Get in touch with the individuals you hurt and don’t rely on the ‘I was just so drunk!’ excuse. ‘Excuse me.’ You shouldn’t try to justify your actions or seem as if they weren’t a significant concern, as this will make your apology appear less genuine.
It makes no difference how intoxicated you were if you hurt someone. They are likely to believe that you genuinely believe what you said or that you stand by what you did.
You should make it evident that you didn’t mean it and apologize profusely for any inconvenience or embarrassment you’ve caused.
Thank Those That Helped You
When you’re being honest about what happened and dealing with the fallout from your intoxicated messiness, remember to thank those that helped you.
Please thank someone who booked you a cab home, held you up while you fumbled with your keys, gave you water after you told them to back off, or carried you home when your legs were too shaky to walk.
They didn’t have to do anything; they went above and above to assist you, and you owe them thanks.
Don’t Get Caught Up in A Cycle Of Humiliation.
Okay, so you behaved out of character after a few too many drinks. You don’t have to feel bad about getting a bit more hammered than you intended as long as you’ve apologized, repaired any physical damage, and thanked those who assisted you. It’s been done before.
Stop stressing about what you can’t remember or rehearsing a particularly embarrassing encounter repeatedly.
Your humiliating night is over, and it’s time to move on. Get out of bed, shower, and eat a proper breakfast.
That will keep you from spending the entire day wallowing in filthy bedsheets and your own humiliation.
You haven’t messed up your life in any way. You haven’t done anything genuinely heinous (at least, that’s what we hope).
People who care about you will notice the difference between your typical self and you after a few too many drinks.
Recover, nurse your hangover, and welcome a new day with open arms. After that, seek the advice of a competent coach who can assist you in avoiding another alcohol-induced blackout.
Here at The Alcohol Coach, Michaela offers a fresh approach to understanding and solving alcohol problems. If you are unsure where to go or what to do, then sign up for the FREE Masterclass in the link below. In the class you will learn that millions of strong, capable women have issues with wine o’clock ‘ alcohol, and you will learn that if you are one of them, you are not to blame. Michaela also talks about why willpower doesn’t work, and what to do instead. This is a class not to be missed! Click the link below.
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Blacking out when drinking
Blacking out whilst drinking has to be one of the more frightening and upsetting aspects of being unable to control alcohol.
It may be hard to read those words together and to reflect on them, Because recognising an inability to control alcohol needs an ability to look at ourselves honestly and courageously.
What does it mean, not to be able to control alcohol?
As a scientist, TED speaker, author and coacher of women, I get asked a lot about this issue.
If you find yourself waking up in the morning feeling emotionally bad because of alcohol, or having a headache, or having upset someone, or blacking out, then that does mean that alcohol is in the driving seat. It doesn’t need to be.
What is the difference between blacking out drunk and passing out drunk
Blacking out is not the same as passing out because during a blackout people around you are unlikely to know that the blood alcohol levels in your body are so high that your brain is unable to lay down memories.
This is what a drunk blackout is. It is the inability for the brain to store memory. This is why you may find yourself waking up the next day with periods of complete blank in the night before.
So, blackout drinking is not to be confused with passing out whilst drinking, and passing out is literally becoming unconscious due to alcohol poisoning, and this is obvious to anybody who is around you.
Blackout Drunk Anxiety
Blacking out whilst drinking leaves the drinker waking up in the morning full of uncertainty and anxiety. It is human nature to want to and to try to control our environment because in that apparent control is security and safety.
Waking up in the morning with gaps in our memory is the antithesis of safety and security because not only is it highly likely that behaviour was out of control during the blackout, but there is no recollection of what happened during it. This opens us up to high levels of vulnerability not only during the drinking episode but after it and particularly if we live with others.
If the blackout occurred in a setting with a partner we are completely at the mercy of their recollection of what happened the night before. Often your partner would have been drinking as well, and often drinking to the point of blacking out and memory loss can involve changes of behaviour which leads to arguments. In that situation you are open to manipulation even if it is subtle and loaded with kindness. The only way to know what happened the night before is to be there, and a black out drunk episode gives you the worst of both worlds, because you are there physically, and responding, but you have zero memory of the events.
Blackouts during a relationship
Drinking to the point where blood alcohol levels incur blackouts is dangerous physically and psychologically both to you and to those around you. My client group of capable professional women are a mix of those who live alone and those you have partners, teenage children at home, and grown-up children who have left home. The impact of blackout drinking episodes on the people in the drinker’s life is enormous.
You may have no recollection of the events yourself, and after the event you can possibly excuse yourself by saying that you have no memory, and effectively that you weren’t there. But, for the people that you live with, you were there. The same you was there who they recognise the next morning. You look the same. You sound the same. But you are not the same, and your relationship is no longer the same either.
Alcohol Blackout Behavior
A blackout drunk drinker is a scary person to be around because they may look like themselves, but they often don’t act like themselves. They are often volatile emotionally, unreasonable, irrational, unpredictable and at times frightening. It is very hard to be with someone you love who is displaying these emotions and behaviours, and who then wakes up the next day acting as though everything is okay.
As the drinker, you will know that everything is far from okay, but because your memory has blacked out and guilt is present, you may well find yourself trying to make everything OK, and smooth over the stormy waters. Your loved ones may see your efforts to reassure them and may forgive you, but they are wary, and the trust is damaged. That is inevitable and if anybody says otherwise, there being kind but not honest.
Not all alcohol blackouts or an indication have an alcohol drinking problem, but more than one episode over let’s say a 12 month Is an indication of a problem.
In a study by Professor Nutt covering alcohol was found to be the most dangerous drug on the planet it scored 55 out of 100 compared to heroin and cocaine scoring 35 and 32 out of 100 respectively. One of the reasons that alcohol scores so highly is because of the things that people do when they’re drunk and the effect those behaviours have on others. People can drive cars and not remember, people can have arguments and fights and not remember, people can cause fires and not remember.
Blackout Drunk Anxiety
Waking up with unexplained bruises is an indication that there was a memory loss the night before and there was add blackout of some variety. Not all blackouts completely obliterate memory, and sometimes there are patches of memories with gaps between: these are called brownouts, or brown outs. They are equally disconcerting, upset and worrying for the drinker.
Blackouts are a huge source of anxiety for a drinker, and the gnawing anxiety can last for days as fragments of an event are pieced together.
Blackout Drunk Alone
If you live alone, and at times, drink until you have blackouts, then you are putting yourself in psychological harm, and also physical harm, because there is nobody there to notice or to help you if you have an accident.
I often talk to professional high-powered women who have ended up in hospital having fallen down the stairs and hit their head when drunk with no recollection of having done so. If you live alone, you are also more likely to text friends or relatives when you’ve been drinking, and those texts can leave you with feelings of guilt and shame when you wake up the next day and those messages are read. As the conscious brain starts to shut down due to the consumption of alcohol, drinkers say and do things that they would never do if they weren’t drinking. Alcohol is a psychoactive drug which reduces emotional regulation, and this changes behaviour. Texting an ex and not remembering doing so, is just another symptom of black out drunk episodes.
if you are having regular blackouts, or fractured memory loss after drinking maybe it’s just time to take an honest look at the situation.
The perhaps not so obvious thing to understand is that you are not alone here, and blackout is an effect of alcohol on the human biological system.
When I drank, I had many episodes of both blackout embarrassing episodes, and brown outs as well. Maybe you resonate with me when I talk about trying to pull together the threads of what happened last night and going around the house looking for evidence.
On one episode, I found an iron burn in the carpet, and absolutely no recollection of how it got there. If I didn’t know that, then what else might have happened? It was dangerous, and potentially harmful to myself, my children and the house itself.
A brown-out episode may leave you with fragments of a conversation, or an argument as you then find yourself the next day in a conversation about what was said. You may then find yourself trying to figure out what happened filtered through the emotional response of your partner or children. You will never know how close this is to the truth, and this can leave you feeling uncertain and under confident in yourself. I know this to be true, because I was in this position of faltering confidence many times myself. All that you can be left with is apologising for something you don’t remember, never being able to defend what may have happened, because there is no memory of it. This gives power to others around you, which can be abused, and even if it isn’t, it may leave you feeling uncertain about yourself, and you may start to question your judgement.
On the other hand, you may have loved ones who quickly forgive you giving you a feeling of childlike safety. But this isn’t authentic either, and it puts your family and friends in the position of a black out saviour, rather than standing side by side as equals. A relationship of love born out of guilt and forgiveness is based on abuse of that relationship, both for you and the other people involved. It is a constant drama of guilt and forgiveness, broken trust, and fear, and an inevitable breakdown of the relationship over time.
I have clients who woke up in hospital with stitches, and then two weeks later went back to their high-powered HR director job, doctors who text their ex-husband in a drunken stupor, only to find out with horror the next day when they switched their phone on, and a lawyer who ran over the family pet in a drunken brown out. Piecing together the evidence of what happened and what didn’t is not only frightening, and survival driven, it is stressful, mortifying, and exhausting.
If this is you, then you don’t need to be in that place anymore. You can step into authenticity, your power, and a place where you can find the peace that you seek in the midst of life.
Blacking out when drunk is caused by the levels of alcohol in the blood, or Blood Alcohol Levels. When the level of alcohol reaches a point that is different for different people, the brain is unable to make memories. The person is likely seen to be functioning, albeit with changed, alcohol-induced behaviour. But the frightening part of being blackout drunk is that there are no memories. Having no memory of events is frightening, and disorienting. It is being truly out of control, and also being unable to control what happens in the aftermath, because, basically, you don’t have a leg to stand on with any feedback that comes your way. You may, as I did, pretend that you know what happened, but you don’t.
Alcohol blackout behavior is no different to alcohol-induced behaviour that you may remember. The difference is amnesia.
What happened in a drunk blackout?
Anterograde amnesia is the technical term for blackout drunk memory loss that people experience. This means that you cannot form or store new memories. The hippocampus is the specific part of the brain responsible for memory, and although it is not totally understood scientifically, the hippocampus does not function properly when blood alcohol levels rise, and memories are not stored.
Alcohol is a psychoactive drug, which means that is affects how the brain works, and it changes mood, thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Alcohol changes the functions of the central nervous system, which controls the whole functioning of the human mind and body.
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Hi, I'm Michela
I’m a leader in the science of transformational freedom for women, and someone previously addicted to alcohol. I have walked the path. I understand your concerns and fears. Here you will find some of my thoughts and insights. Happy browsing!
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