Impacts of Underaged Drinking

girl blacked out behind wheel of car

Blackouts

Blackouts occur when people have no memory of what happened during a time of heavy drinking. The periods of memory loss may last from a few hours to several days. During a blackout, a person may appear to be fine to others, but the next day they cannot remember all or part of what happened during the blackout. Memories during the time of alcohol consumption are lost or possibly not recorded at all by the brain. Most alcohol-induced blackouts occur with binge drinking. In some people, however, alcohol can produce memory impairments after just a few drinks. People who binge drink, drink on empty stomachs, or drink alcohol too quickly are more at risk to blackout.

Blackouts are much more common among social drinkers than people used to think. In one study, 27% of students reported at least one incident of forgetting who they were with or where they were while drinking.

In 2002, researcher Aaron White and his colleagues surveyed 772 college undergraduates, asking them if they ever had a blackout. Of the students who had drunk alcohol, 51% reported blacking out at some point in their lives and 40% reported experiencing a blackout in the year before the survey. The students said they later learned a number of incidents had occurred during the time they did not remember including stealing, unprotected sex, and driving.

Next: Hangovers