The Dangers Of Blacking Out

It’s never a good morning when someone wakes up after blacking out. The individual is rarely in his or her bed (think face-down in a gutter somewhere on campus) and still in last night’s clothes. His or her phone is loaded with “Where are you?” and “Are you alive?” messages and all he or she can do is respond: “What the f*ck happened last night?” Fair question. While sitting in the dining hall with a headache that is pounding your skull into a fine dust, that person’s friends are trying to piece together his or her night. He or she buries his or her head into his or her hands as the embarrassment crashes over them—his or her face growing that much redder. Yet, his or her friends say that they’re going to “try and get black out drunk” tonight, as if it’s a hobby. How have we college students become so nonchalant and uncaring of overloading our livers with liquids that can kill us? Why does it happen and why do we want to erase hours of our evening from our brains?

“Passing Out” V. Blacking Out:

Not surprisingly, these two terms mean two very different things. Dr. Linda Smith, a psychiatrist, explains that “passing out” is a “loss of consciousness due to excessive alcohol consumption” whereas a “black out” is when “an individual is conscious and awake, and engaging in activities, but later has only partial or no recall for those activities.” The danger of blacking out is that the individual can make it seem that he or she is totally fine. There are no warning signs. For example, someone will know that a person needs help if he or she is puking all over himself or herself or his or her environment, or is passed out, face-down in the bathroom. If you’re black out drunk, however, a person still retains his or her capabilities to speak, act, make decisions, etc. Dr. Smith says that it is difficult to discern whether someone is blacking out until the next day when he or she has little memory of the night prior. I raise the question again: why do we want to erase hours of our evening from our brains?

How Blackouts Happen:

The cause of black outs is, according to Dr. Smith, related to the “rapid consumption” of alcohol rather than the night’s total amount. The rapid consumption of alcohol leads to a rapid rise in the body’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) which can “[disrupt] the activities of several neurotransmitters in select areas of the brain.” The neurotransmitters that are disrupted are the areas that encode and store memories, hence why after a black out, an individual has difficulty remembering what happened last night. There is no exact number of drinks that will lead to a black out. The Student Health Services at the University of California, San Diego states that blackouts tend to happen at a BAC of “0.14 and 0.17.” The risk of blacking out increases as the individual’s BAC grows higher.

The Risks:

Not being in control of your actions or words is a recipe for danger and embarrassment. Yes, we’ve all had negative thoughts about other people, but how would you feel if you woke up to crowds of angry people with no recollection of the fact that you spewed fire and brimstone only hours before? Blacking out puts individuals at risk for unprotected sex and the contraction of STDs. For ladies, this also includes the danger of an unwanted pregnancy. Think about it: is blacking out really worth running the risk of potentially being the victim of violence, robbery or even kidnapping? It cannot be stressed enough that the individual does not have control of his or her actions. With this in mind, it becomes a very real possibility that these horrible things could occur to a friend of yours. Because an individual’s BAC is higher when he or she is blacked out, he or she is at risk for alcohol poisoning. Do you want to end your evening in the hospital? I didn’t think so. Dr. Smith states that there are long-term health concerns tied with blacking out. She says that black outs can lead to the “…development of alcohol abuse and/or dependence” and “…early brain damage.” Don’t stress your friends and family out by getting blackout drunk. Is that simple enough? I’m not saying don’t drink, but don’t “die” on the weekends. [Story via]

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