Blackouts and Alcohol Poisoning

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An alcohol-induced blackout may increase the risk of alcohol poisoning. Blackouts and alcohol poisoning both happen from drinking too much alcohol, too quickly.

How Are Blackouts And Alcohol Poisoning Related?

Many people stop drinking once they’ve reached a certain level of intoxication, but that isn’t always the case for someone who binge drinks. Binge drinking is defined as alcohol consumption that brings a person’s BAC to .08 or higher.

A man who consumes five standard drinks in a short period of time (about two hours) is considered a binge drinker. A woman who drinks four standard drinks in a short period of time is also considered a binge drinker. A standard alcoholic drink may look different from person to person, depending on the type of alcohol being consumed.

Each of the following equals one standard drink:

  • 12 fl oz beer (4.5% ABV)
  • 8-9 fl oz malt liquor (7% ABV)
  • 5 fl oz wine (12% ABV)
  • 1.5 fl oz 80-proof liquor (40% ABV)

ABV = Alcohol By Volume Blackouts And Alcohol Poisoning Alcohol By Volume

Some people may blackout after two drinks, while others may never blackout. The exact number of drinks that will make a person blackout, or overdose, isn’t always clear. Alcohol affects people differently based on their age, weight, height, and gender.

Binge drinking may result in the following consequences:

The severity of blackouts and alcohol poisoning may vary based on whether an individual consumes alcohol on an empty stomach and how much water they drink.

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Understanding Alcohol-Induced Blackouts

An alcohol-induced blackout is a lapse in memory without loss of consciousness. Blackouts can last for part of or an entire drinking episode. A person may lose control over their judgement and behavior during an alcohol-induced blackout.

The two types of alcohol-induced blackout include fragmentary blackout and en bloc blackout.

During a fragmentary (partial) blackout, an individual may experience problems with short-term memory, and forget topics of discussion or the name of a friend. While experiencing a partial blackout, an individual may forget what they were talking about just minutes after the conversation took place.

During an en bloc (complete) blackout, an individual may forget entire blocks of time, entire days, or entire drinking episodes. A complete blackout can be more dangerous than a partial blackout. After a complete blackout, many people are left wondering whether they drove home, or what else might have happened while they were drinking alcohol.

When an individual “blacks out,” the alcohol prevents neurotransmitters in their brain from imprinting memories from short-term to long-term memory. Drinking a large amount of alcohol may shut down parts of the hippocampus in brain. The hippocampus is primarily involved with long-term memory.

Signs Of Alcohol Poisoning Blackouts And Alcohol Poisoning Six Lives Every DayWhen a person drinks more alcohol than their body can metabolize, they may experience alcohol poisoning (alcohol overdose). Alcohol poisoning usually occurs when an individual drinks too much alcohol too quickly, much like the alcohol-induced blackout.

Alcohol poisoning claims about six lives every day in the United States. Knowing the signs of alcohol poisoning is important for seeking timely and adequate treatment. If alcohol poisoning is left untreated, a person suffering with it can die.

The critical signs of alcohol poisoning are:

  • mental confusion
  • stupor
  • coma
  • vomiting
  • seizures
  • bluish skin color
  • paleness
  • slow breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute)
  • irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
  • hypothermia (low body temperature)

The best thing to do for someone with alcohol poisoning is to call 911.

How To Prevent Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is preventable. When a person drinks enough water, makes sure to eat, and refrains from binge drinking, there is less chance for alcohol poisoning. Slowing down, or moderating the amount of alcohol a person drinks, helps the person put an end to blackouts.

A person who’s unable to moderate or slow their drinking may be suffering from an alcohol use disorder (AUD). A person with an AUD may find that the only way to avoid alcohol poisoning is to stop drinking altogether.

Quitting drinking isn’t always easy for someone with an alcohol addiction. An alcohol treatment center may be able to help an individual stop using alcohol for good.

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Chart

During a binge drinking session, a person may chug beer or wine or shoot liquor. Quickly drinking alcohol increases the risk of blacking out and alcohol poisoning. Drinking a large of amount of alcohol raises a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC), or the amount of alcohol in their blood.

The more alcohol a person drinks, the higher their BAC. As a person’s BAC increases, the more intoxicated they become. How each person breaks down alcohol may depend on their age, weight, height, and gender.

The following chart shows the approximate blood alcohol content from alcohol consumed in an hour: Blackouts And Alcohol Poisoning Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

For More Information Related to “Blackouts and Alcohol Poisoning” Be Sure To Check Out These Additional Resources From



National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism—What Happened? Alcohol, Memory Blackouts, and the Brain
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism—Alcohol Overdose

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