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How to avoid blackouts while drinking

by Gloria Schou- Hazen Health Center
Tue, Sep 19th 2017 07:00 pm
Photo taken from wikihow.com
In order to keep yourself from getting too drunk, drink at a pace that allows your body to metabolize alcohol as you drink it. Only drink one drink per hour. One drink is 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or a one and one half ounce shot of liquor.
Photo taken from wikihow.com In order to keep yourself from getting too drunk, drink at a pace that allows your body to metabolize alcohol as you drink it. Only drink one drink per hour. One drink is 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or a one and one half ounce shot of liquor.

“Hey, where did you stay last night?” 

“No idea, I don’t know what happened!” 

It’s all fun and games until someone experiences a blackout. At that point, it gets serious. 

A “blackout,” in our own terms, is when someone becomes too intoxicated, too quickly for their body to keep up; so much so that their brains cannot function properly to form any new memories. Often we hear, “I don’t know what happened after, I must have blacked out.” 

But the question remains – why is this actually dangerous for us? I understand some may think “How dangerous is not remembering? My friends can fill me in the next morning.” 

When in the “blackout” state of being drunk, we can appear perfectly fine and functional to others. According to an article by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, people can engage in vandalism, unprotected sex with acquaintances or strangers, driving a car and spending mass amounts of money while blackout drunk. And the really scary part is they have no idea any of it happened. 

Depending on the circumstances, you could be separated from people you trust – at that point, who is going to remember what happened over the course of the night if you don’t? 

Could you imagine you or someone you care about waking up in an unfamiliar place with no recollection of last night’s events? Unsettling, right? When we think of what people could do while blackout drunk, we are presented with potentially harmful and risky situations. Examples can include someone behind the wheel, possibly engaging in unprotected sexual activity or intercourse, being sexually assaulted, raped or even falling or drowning. 

Ask yourself: have you ever blacked out or has someone you know ever blacked out? Was what happened potentially harmful or risky? If not, could it have been? My answer to these questions is yes. 

According to a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 59 percent of females and 25 percent of males were “frightened by their last blackout and changed their drinking habits as a result.” We are trying to change drinking habits before someone has a frightening experience. 

So what are the key contributors to blacking out? Why does this even happen? 

According to the NIAAA, a key contributor in blackouts is “the rate at which subjects consume their drinks.” Specifically, the pregame is where the problem is. Essentially too much, too fast increases the likelihood of blacking out. I know we are all racing to feel that pre-game buzz before the party or the bars. Shots, chugging, drinking games – it is all setting our bodies up for an early blackout. Ever hear the phrase slow and steady wins the race? It definitely applies here. 

So what can we do to prevent blackouts? We can take a step back and focus on our pacing. The general guideline is one drink per hour, which is the average rate at which our bodies can process alcohol. One drink is a measured five ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor or 12 ounces of beer. If we stick to this rule, we have a good chance of being set up for success in avoiding a blackout. 

I know all too well the struggle of pacing and sticking to one type of alcohol, but think about how much better you will feel knowing what happened, getting yourself some water before bed, knowing where you are staying and feeling great, or at least not hung-over in the morning. 

The goal is to find and keep the balance between fun and safety when drinking as a college student. 

We are trying to have fun in the few years we are here for, but we can always work toward finding that blend of having a great time and remaining health conscious of the decisions we make. 

If you have any questions, you want to learn more about alcohol-related programming or ways to be safe partying smart, you can contact us at Prevention & Outreach Services. We are part of Hazen Center for Integrated Care, located around the corner from the Counseling Center and B124 of the Seymour College Union. 

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