Blacking Out: Symptoms, Dangers & Tips for Avoiding Blackouts

Yet, anyone drinking large amounts of alcohol is at risk for blackouts. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol delays signals in the brain that control the gag reflex and other autonomic responses. A person who has blacked out or overdosed on alcohol could throw up while sleeping due to the loss of reflex control. During a blackout, an intoxicated person can still function as normal.

People experiencing alcohol poisoning have additional dangerous symptoms, such as vomiting and severe sedation. If you keep drinking during a blackout, you could experience an overdose. People who pass out due to excessive drinking lose consciousness.

How to Prevent and Treat Alcohol-Related Aggression

The findings were explained by emphasizing that concern for the future involves greater prefrontal cortex resources that help inhibit the excessive impact of alcohol. Specifically, it found that problematic drinkers may be more likely to attend to aggressogenic stimuli while intoxicated, and that is, they were more likely to experience certain cues as aggressive. Another study explored the relationship between Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), alcohol use, and violence (Blakey et al., 2018). This was a massive study of 33,215 individuals with no history of active military combat. An increase in anger after trauma and the use of alcohol to cope with PTSD symptoms were stronger predictors of physically aggressive or violent acts than a lifetime diagnosis of PTSD without anger. Blacking out can occur anytime someone binge drinks, be it their first-time binge drinking or their hundredth time.

The difference between a brownout and a blackout is that brownouts involve partial memory loss. With a brownout, you may be able to remember certain details from the period of time you were affected, but other portions of time can’t be recalled. In addition to abstaining from alcohol, moderation and pace are important to preventing blackouts. Avoid binge drinking, which is defined as consuming five or more drinks in about two hours for men, or four or more drinks for women. Consuming alcohol to a degree where you’re at risk of blacking out is problematic ― and you may notice someone who is getting to an unsafe point (or maybe it’s been you in the past).

Blacking Out From Alcohol

A blackout ends when your body has absorbed the alcohol you consumed and your brain is able to make memories again. Excessive alcohol use isn’t the only thing that can cause blackouts or brownouts. Substance misuse on its own or with alcohol can increase your likelihood of experiencing a blackout. Hypnotics or sedatives and benzodiazepines like flunitrazepam (also known as Rohypnol or roofies) can also lead to blackouts or brownouts. It’s important to note that there isn’t a set number of drinks that can trigger a blackout. It all comes down to the amount of alcohol in each drink you’ve consumed and the way the alcohol affects you.

alcoholic rage blackouts

Friedman notes that people with naturally lower levels of serotonin tend to be more violent. As stated earlier, the prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that handles decision-making and judgment. David Friedman, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, has been conducting drug-abuse research for nearly 40 years. Your doctor can help you understand what treatment type is right for you and your recovery.

What causes blackouts?

Drinking also “releases other inhibitors, such as dopamine and serotonin,” Kaplan said, which are chemicals that prompt those happy emotions. When you live with or care for someone who alcoholic rage syndrome becomes abusive when they’re intoxicated, the consequences may well be more than just hurt feelings. • It isn’t always apparent to others if someone is in the midst of a blackout.

Other possible causes of blackouts include syncope, epilepsy, and stress. If you think you’ve been injured, sexually or physically assaulted, it’s important that you get medical attention immediately and talk to the police about everything you can remember. Understanding these definitions and the difference between blackouts and passing out is incredibly important, as it may be difficult for other people to recognize someone is having a blackout because of their seemingly aware state. When you pass out or faint, you experience a temporary loss of consciousness. Although many people recover from blackouts, one episode can be fatal.

Health Topics: Alcohol-Induced Blackouts

They may become verbally or physically abusive when under the influence of alcohol, or they might drink to the point of rage blackouts. It is easier to detect an alcohol use disorder when the effects are so obvious. In social settings in which binge drinking has been normalized, people often fail to recognize the seriousness of blackouts. On college campuses all throughout the nation, many students routinely blackout during weekend parties and other social events. Blackouts, however, are not merely a side effect of heavy drinking. They are a sign that the body is becoming increasingly less able to tolerate the effects of excess alcohol consumption.

  • The existence of an angry “crazy drunk person” is often featured in TV shows and movies because of the rising drama and action they bring to an entertaining storyline.
  • Depending on how much alcohol is drunk and in what period of time, the person may even be at risk of alcohol poisoning.
  • If you experience a partial blackout, visual or verbal cues may help you remember forgotten events.
  • This scenario involves losing your sense of perception under the influence.
  • A 2006 study found that temporary memory loss caused by a fall in blood pressure (syncope) is a more likely cause of nonalcoholic-induced blackouts.

During a blackout, a person is able to actively engage and respond to their environment; however, the brain is not creating memories for the events. Alcohol-induced blackouts are often confused with passing out from alcohol, but blacking out and passing out are very different states of consciousness. A person experiencing a blackout is conscious and interacting with his or her environment; whereas, a person who has passed out from alcohol has lost consciousness and capacity to engage in voluntary behavior. Memory deficits during a blackout are primarily anterograde, meaning memory loss for events that occurred after alcohol consumption (White, 2003). There is no objective evidence that a person is in an alcohol-induced blackout (Pressman and Caudill, 2013), thus it can be difficult or impossible to know whether or not a drinker is experiencing a blackout (Goodwin, 1995).