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What Happened Alcohol Memory Blackouts And The Brain Pdf

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Aaron M.

Binge drinking has significant effects on memory, particularly with regards to the transfer of information to long-term storage. Partial or complete blocking of memory formation is known as blackout.

A new outpatient center treating anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues is now open in Dublin, Ohio. Learn More. The more a person abuses alcohol, the more likely he or she is to experience memory loss and other cognitive issues. Alcoholism is a serious disease in the United States. Of this group, less than half received treatment for their addiction.

Effects of alcohol on memory

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Free to read. Alcohol-related blackouts are periods of amnesia that reflect the failure of the brain to record memories of what transpires while drinking. This paper examined the incidence, predictors, and behavioral correlates of blackouts among emerging adults and examined whether questions about blackouts could serve as better markers of risk for other alcohol related harms than questions about levels of consumption.

They were asked whether, in the past six months because of drinking, they forgot where they were or what they did. The survey also explored demographics, substance use behaviors, and other alcohol-related problems in the past six months. Chi square and logistic regression analyses explored bivariate and multivariate predictors of blackouts and other alcohol-related problems. Twenty percent of respondents who ever drank alcohol reported a blackout in the past six months.

Blackouts were more prevalent among females and those who, in the past 30 days, used multiple drugs, more frequently binged, were drunk, smoked, had lower body weight, and lived in college dorms.

After controlling for drinking levels, having a blackout was the strongest independent predictor of most other alcohol problems examined, including in the past six months because of drinking, missing class or work, getting behind in work or school, doing something respondents later regretted, arguing with friends, experiencing an overdose, and total number of alcohol problems reported.

It was also an independent predictor of hangovers, damaging property, getting hurt, and trouble with police. Because blackouts indicate drinking at levels that result in significant cognitive and behavioral impairment, questions about blackouts could serve as important, simple screeners for the risk of experiencing other alcohol related harms. Additional work on this subject is warranted. Alcohol-induced memory blackouts represent periods of amnesia during which a person actively engages in behaviors e.

Partial, or fragmentary , blackouts are characterized by spotty memories for events, while complete, or en bloc , blackouts involve an inability to recall large portions of an evening. Adolescents and emerging young adults often engage in a pattern of high intensity, or binge, drinking in which high peak BACs are reached quickly. According to the Monitoring the Future national surveys of high school seniors, between and , The risk of a blackout is further increased by chugging drinks, such as during pre-gaming or when playing drinking games, and drinking on an empty stomach, both of which lead to steeper increases in BAC Giles et al.

Blackouts appear to be a common consequence of alcohol use among younger drinkers. For instance, while vomiting is a commonly endorsed consequence of excessive consumption among college freshmen, blackouts occur more frequently Barnett et al. While blackouts are more likely to occur at higher BACs, research suggests there are several important factors, beyond level of alcohol consumption alone, that predict blackouts.

Blackouts are more likely to occur when subjects drink in ways that cause the BAC to rise quickly, such as during pregaming or prepartying Labrie et al, ; Raye et al. Several studies suggest that females are at greater risk than males for blackouts. Despite the fact that young females drink less heavily and less often than males, similar percentages of male and female drinkers report experiencing blackouts e.

There also appears to be a genetic component to vulnerability to blackouts. Among monozygotic twins, if one experiences blackouts the other is more likely to experience them, as well Nelson et al.

Marino and Fromme observed that, overall, women were more likely to report blackouts than men but that men with a maternal family history of alcoholism were more than twice as likely to report blackouts as women with a maternal family history of alcoholism. Exposure to alcohol in the womb also appears to increase the risk of blackouts. Baer and colleagues examined the drinking habits of pregnant women in and , and then studied alcohol use and related problems in their offspring over a year period.

Prenatal alcohol exposure was associated with increased rates of experiencing alcohol-related consequences, including blackouts, even after controlling for drinking habits of the offspring. As detailed above, the occurrence of a blackout is only partially explained by drinking levels per se. Regardless of the number of drinks required to produce a blackout for a particular individual, the presence of a blackout indicates the drinker reached a level of intoxication consistent with significant impairments in a variety of brain regions beyond the temporal lobe memory areas, including frontal lobe regions involved in attention, impulse control and decision making Weatherill et al.

Mundt and colleagues reported that a history of blackouts at baseline predicted alcohol-related injuries over the next two years even after controlling for baseline levels of drinking. In a direct comparison, the effect size for predicting alcohol-related injuries over the two-year period was larger for baseline frequency of blackouts than for measures of heavy drinking.

Such findings suggest that a single question about blackouts could serve as an important screener for level of risk for other alcohol related harms. Most studies of blackouts in the last few decades have focused on college students.

Alcohol use tends to increase after graduation from high school and peaks during emerging young adulthood White et al. While young adults attending college drink more heavily and more often than their non-college peers, such gaps have narrowed considerably over the years. It is important to understand how the transition into college versus other career paths influences both drinking levels and the occurrence of blackouts.

The first year past high school is a period of particular vulnerability to alcohol and its consequences, as many young people leave home and enter college or the workplace and often identify with new peers and new perceived pressures to drink Simons-Morton et al.

The present study utilized data from a longitudinal study of emerging young adults, currently one year past high school, to assess the association between blackouts and a variety of alcohol-related harms after controlling for measures of consumption. Further, the study design allows for an examination of the trajectories of alcohol use, alcohol-related blackouts and other negative outcomes as students transition into college or non-college career paths.

The findings will yield useful insight into the predictors of blackouts and potential utility of questions about blackouts as screeners for risk of other alcohol related harms. This study used wave 4 data from the NEXT Generation Health Study, an ongoing 7-year longitudinal study using a 3-stage stratified design to select a sample representative of 10th graders enrolled in public, private, and parochial US high schools in school year.

School districts and groups of districts stratified across 9 US Census divisions were randomly sampled. Within each district, individual schools were randomly sampled, and within each school, one 10th-grade class was randomly sampled. To provide adequate population estimates, African American students were oversampled.

Among those provided with information about the study, only students with signed parental consent and student 18 years or older assent forms were enrolled. Participation was voluntary, and responses were confidential. Researcher-administered, in-school surveys were completed by The survey included measures of alcohol consumption, blackouts, other alcohol-related consequences, drinking patterns, drug use, smoking, and drinking and driving behavior.

The survey administered in wave 4, but not in previous waves, asked drinkers about the frequency in the past six months of experiencing blackouts. Respondents were also asked about the ages they first drank alcohol, binged, were drunk, and whether in the past 30 days they used marijuana and each of ten other drugs, using the same drug categories asked by the Monitoring the Future Surveys Johnston et al.

Not surprisingly, drinkers were significantly more likely than non-drinkers to live away from home and to smoke or use marijuana and other drugs. Statistical analyses were performed using SUDDAN Research Triangle Institute to take into account complex survey design to ensure accurate estimation and allow testing for significance of demographic and behavioral associations with measures of blackouts.

Chi square analyses assessed what demographic and substance use measures were significantly associated with having experienced a blackout in the past six months.

The same variables were then entered into logistic regressions that examined whether experiencing blackouts in the past six months were independently associated with having experienced each of the other alcohol-related problems and the total number of other alcohol problems experienced by each respondent.

In this analysis, we examined whether or not they had experienced a blackout in the last six months as a dichotomous variable. Table 1 provides the percentages of respondents who experienced other problems in the past six months because of their drinking. In unadjusted analyses of drinkers shown in Table 2 , four-year college students, Caucasians, persons living in college dormitories, and people who smoked, binged, were drunk, and used marijuana and other drugs in the past 30 days were all significantly more likely to have experienced a blackout in the past 6 months.

Earlier ages of first drinking, binging, being drunk, and lower body weight were also associated with experiencing blackouts in the past six months.

Table 3 reports alcohol problems respondents experienced in the past 6-months according to the frequency with which they experienced a blackout during that time period. Logistic regression analyses, adjusted for the other variables in the table, revealed that having used multiple drugs, having been drunk 6 or more times in the past month, frequent smoking, low body weight, and being female were the strongest independent predictors of blackouts in the past 6 months followed by binging 6 or more times in the past month and residing in a college dormitory See Table 4.

Of note, entering body weight into the regression as a predictor of blackouts partially but not completely accounted for the increased risk of blackouts among women relative to men.

Blackouts in the past six months was the strongest independent predictor of the following outcomes in Table 5 because of drinking in the past six months: missing class or work, getting behind in work or school, doing something they later regretted, arguing with friends, seeing a doctor because of an overdose.

Note: See Table 6 for other adjusted odds for other significant predictors of the total number of alcohol-related problems reported. Logistic regression analyses also indicated that having a blackout in the past six months was a significant independent predictor of experiencing every other alcohol problem in the past six months asked about in the survey, including having a hangover, missing work or class, falling behind in work or school, doing something after drinking that the respondent later regretted, arguing with friend after drinking, damaging property, getting in trouble with the police, getting hurt after drinking and seeing a doctor because of an overdose after drinking.

Other independent predictors of alcohol-related problems were frequency of binge drinking, frequency of being drunk, use of multiple drugs, and being a college student. Specifically, other significant independent predictors of missing class or work were frequency of binging in the past 30 days wave 4 6 or more times [4.

Other predictors of doing something respondents later regretted were wave 3 frequency of binging, age first drunk being [2. Other significant independent predictors of arguing with friends after drinking in the last 6 months were frequency of being drunk in the past 30 days being 6 or more times wave 4 [6.

The only other predictor of alcohol overdose in the past six months was number of other drugs used [2 or more drugs: For the alcohol-related problems where experiencing a blackout was not the strongest independent predictor, blackouts were still a strong independent predictor.

The strongest predictors of hangover were binging 6 or more times in the past month [ The strongest predictor of damaging property was using three or more [ The strongest predictor of getting into trouble with police was use of three or more drugs [ Using three or more drugs was also the strongest predictor of getting hurt or injured [ Table 6 provides independent predictors of the total number of various alcohol-related problems respondents experienced in the last six months.

Blackouts because of drinking was the strongest independent predictor of the total number of alcohol-related problems in the past six months. In logistic regression analyses, frequency of binge drinking and drunkenness, being female, smoking, and use of multiple drugs predicted blackouts. Persons with lower body weights, females and those living in a college dorm were significantly more likely to experience blackouts.

Prevalence of blackouts and other alcohol-related problems were higher among those attending 4-year colleges and residing in dormitories relative to non-students and those in two-year colleges. Earlier age of first drinking, binging, and drunkenness predicted experiencing blackouts in bivariate but not logistic regression analyses, probably because those variables are associated with frequency of binge drinking and drunkenness, which in turn were independently related to experiencing blackouts.

Blackouts were an independent predictor of every other alcohol-related problem explored in this survey and was the strongest predictor of the largest number of other problems.

The present study advances our understanding of the nature of blackouts by suggesting that blackouts are an independent predictor of a wide range of alcohol-related consequences, including hangovers, missing work or class, falling behind in work or school, doing something after drinking that the respondent later regretted, arguing with friend after drinking, damaging property, getting in trouble with the police, getting hurt after drinking and requiring medical treatment because of an overdose after drinking.

Such findings are in line with those of previous reports. Mundt and colleagues examined past-year blackouts in a sample of more than college students and found that, after controlling for drinking levels, blackouts predicted alcohol-related injuries over a subsequent 2-year period. Compared with students who had no history of blackouts, those who reported one to two blackouts at baseline were 1.

In a follow-up report based on the same sample, Mundt and Zakletskaia estimated that among study participants, one in eight emergency-department ED visits for alcohol-related injuries involved a blackout. Mundt et al, based on their finding that blackouts independently predict future alcohol related harms, assert that blackout screening questions could be useful for identifying young adults who drink at risky levels and are therefore at risk for other consequences.

Findings from the present study support this assertion. Subjects who reported blackouts were more likely than those who did not to report all other alcohol related problems. While the risk of alcohol-related harms clearly increases with increasing levels of consumption, the threshold for consequences, such as blackouts, varies from person to person. In contract, the occurrence of a blackout indicates that a given individual has, for certain, consumed sufficient alcohol to produce a level of neurocognitive dysfunction that could contribute to a wide range of negative outcomes.

At present, questions about blackouts are not included in most national surveys of alcohol and other drug use. However, responses to the question are weighted the same as responses to other questions about consequences of drinking. It is possible that a positive response to a question about blackouts is sufficient to predict other alcohol related harms. Additional research on the utility of blackout questions as screeners for alcohol use disorders and other alcohol related harms is certainly warranted.

Alcoholism And Memory Loss

A blackout is a temporary condition that affects your memory. Alcohol impairs your ability to form new memories while intoxicated. As you drink more alcohol and your blood alcohol level rises, the rate and length of memory loss will increase. The amount of memory loss varies from person to person. If you experience a partial blackout, visual or verbal cues may help you remember forgotten events.


Alcohol primarily disrupts the ability to form new long–term memories; it causes less disruption of recall of previously established long–term memories or of the ability to keep new information active in short–term memory for a few seconds or more.


Alcohol Use After Traumatic Brain Injury

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Ethanol is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. It is a volatile , flammable , colorless liquid that acts as a central nervous system depressant. Alcohol acts as a general central nervous system depressant, but it also affects some specific areas of the brain to a greater extent than others. This hyperpolarization decreases the chance of an action potential occurring and thus, it has an inhibitory effect on neurotransmission in the central nervous system.

English PDF. Alcohol and traumatic brain injury TBI are closely related. People who were over age 60 when they had their TBI were less likely to drink too much before their injury, but those who did had worse outcomes.

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