The Science of Blackouts

The Science of Blackouts

You went out for a night of drinking with your friends, then suddenly found yourself in an unfamiliar bed, feeling nauseous, anxious, and scared; you blacked out the night before. What does this mean?

Treatment Alternatives New Jersey says blackouts are a period of alcohol induced amnesiac episodes. They are caused by heavy drinking, which creates a chemical disruption in your hippocampus (that is integral to memory function). When a person consumes alcohol, it begins interfering with glutamate receptors in the brain and activating others. The blockage of normal, healthy communication between the brain’s neurons temporarily blocks the brain’s ability to produce and store new memories. It is as if the entire event never took place, which can be a very scary feeling for anyone. It is possible to blackout and lose all memory from drug use as well.

A person experiencing a blackout may appear coherent, but as the saying goes, “the lights are on but no one is home”. They can still walk, talk, and make decisions, but their brain will not allow them to recall these events. High levels of alcohol intake lead to lowered inhibitions and dangerous behavior, including drunk driving, unprotected sex, or aggressive confrontations.

There are two different types of blackouts:

  1. Fragmentary blackouts are the most common type of blackout. They refer to small portions, or fragments or your memory being impaired. They are characterized by a failure to recall some events during a period of intoxication, but being able to remember once being reminded of the events.


  1. En Bloc blackouts are much more serious, and refer to complete memory loss for any event occurring within a particularly time of intoxication. The events that occur within a En Bloc blackout can never be recovered or remembered by the person.


Blackouts are not only an indicator of a potential to develop future alcohol problems, but they are also a warning sign of a current alcohol addiction. Anyone who binge drinks or uses drugs is at risk for experiencing a blackout. They are extremely dangerous and should be taken seriously, since drinking yourself into oblivion almost always ends with frightening results. Not to mention, it can produce feelings of depression, anxiety, and denial.

When you are tired of asking yourself “what happened?” after each night out, call the professionals at Treatment Alternatives New Jersey to start working on a sober, healthy lifestyle.

Call 1-877-957-5113
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