Blood alcohol content and alcohol-related amnesia (blackout)
Anyone with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of more than .08 is at risk for blacking out. Blackouts-also known as alcohol-related amnesia-are triggered by the effects of alcohol intake on the body, which result in the impairment of long term memory creation or the inability to remember past events. Blacking out is not the loss of consciousness; rather, the effects of blackouts are similar to antograde amnesia, which is the inability to create memories even after an episode of amnesia.
E.M. Jellinek-an alcoholism researcher and author of the medically-claimed The Disease Concept of Alcoholism-began researching on alcohol blackouts in the 1940s. Along with data gathered from surveys by Alcoholics Anonymous, Jellinek proposed that blackouts were a good predictor of alcoholism, or the dependence on alcohol or alcohol abuse. While there are conflicting views regarding the root causes of alcoholism, Jellinek’s research, there is no doubt that alcoholism is a serious addictive disorder that predisposes individuals to potentially dangerous situations, such as drunk-driving.
Types of Blackouts
There exist two types of blackouts. The first, known as the “en bloc blackout” is the “inability to later recall any memories from the period of intoxication, even when prompted” (Goodwin, Crane & Guze, 1969). The second is known as “fragmentary blackout,” which is the “ability to recall certain events from an intoxicated period, yet unaware that other memories are still missing until reminded of the existence of these ‘gaps’ in memory” (Goodwin, Crane & Guze, 1969). Both cases are common in individuals who have BAC levels which exceed the legal limit.
Causes of Blackouts
People who experience blackouts are usually those who have consumed large amounts of alcohol; however, surveys of alcohol drinkers who had blackouts do not detail whether these blackouts were directly related to how much alcohol was consumed. For alcohol drinkers, this means that a BAC level of .08 or greater puts them at risk for blackouts. Further researches on blackouts indicate that not all drinkers experience memory loss after huge amounts of alcohol; however, many of these researches reveal that blackouts are induced by a rapid spike in a person’s blood alcohol concentration levels.
Preventing Blackouts and Checking BAC Level
Alcohol-impaired amnesia, or a blackout, can be prevented by consuming alcohol moderately. Drinking moderately will still give you the same pleasure and relaxation, but you will be at less risk for blackouts. Still, you must be mindful that your blood alcohol content stays below the legal limit permitted in your state or jurisdiction. Any car accident attorney will tell you, the more alcohol you consume, the more your BAC increases, which puts you at risk for blackouts.
When a person’s BAC increases, the effects of the alcohol became more dangerous. A person’s blood alcohol content is based on several factors:
- The number of drinks consumed;
- The rate at which drinks are consumed (Raised BAC levels are attributed to quick alcohol consumption, as opposed to moderately-paced drinking wherein the alcohol has more time to be absorbed by the body)
- Gender (Women are more likely to retain alcohol because they have more fat content than men; alcohol is not easily absorbed by fat.)
- Body mass (Those who weight more have more water content in their bodies, which helps dilute alcohol, thus lowering BAC levels)
- Food intake (If you are going to be drinking, it is best to eat protein since it takes the longest to digest, and therefore remains in your body longer so that it can absorb alcohol).
Whether you choose to drink or not, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is an indicator of how much alcohol is in your system, and how predisposed you are to certain actions and consequences. It would be wise to know how much your body can take before you even start consuming large amounts of alcohol. Remember: By keeping your blood alcohol content down, you not only safeguard your own welfare but those of others.
Curtis is a nurse educator who enjoy’s helping people understand more about alcohol safety and alcohol awareness.