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Binge Drinking and Blacking Out in College

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Binge Drinking and Blacking Out in College

If you have ever experienced a blackout from alcohol, this may be because you participated in binge drinking. It might be easy to forget about it and move on, but it should not be. It is an extremely dangerous behavior that can lead to bad situations and long-term health issues.

About 88,000 people die every year from alcohol-related causes. Whether that means car crashes as a result of drinking and driving, or liver cancer, all of these issues result from alcohol. Additionally, excessive drinking is the cause of 10% of deaths among adults between 20 and 64 years old.

In the United States, binge drinking is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use.

Understanding Moderate Drinking

If you can understand how binge drinking can have negative consequences in your life, you may be able to stop problematic patterns of alcohol use. There are definitions for what constitutes high-risk, moderate, or low-risk drinking. Many healthcare professionals state that there is no safe amount of alcohol consumption, but there are guidelines.

The guidelines for 2015-2020 consider up to 1 standard drink per day for women and up to 2 per day for men, moderate drinking. Your liver can process about one standard drink of pure alcohol an hour.

A standard drink of alcohol is defined as:

  • 12 ounces of beer, or one bottle at 5% alcohol
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor at 7% alcohol
  • 5 ounces of wine at 12% alcohol
  • 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, or one-shot, at 40% alcohol

Effects of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is more prevalent than we might think. The average adult in America practices binge drinking about four times a month, and with 17 billion total binge drinks annually. More than 90% of those adults reported binge drinking in the past 30 days but did not consider themselves alcoholics.
Binge drinking is associated with many health problems, such as:

  • stroke
  • heart disease
  • liver disease
  • cancers
  • high blood pressure
  • violence
  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • unintended pregnancy/poor pregnancy outcomes such as miscarriage, stillbirth, sudden infant death syndrome, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Alcohol Poisoning

Although alcohol poisoning is always a possibility when drinking more than moderately, binge drinking increases alcohol poisoning risk. Alcohol poisoning can cause death, so this is something to be aware of because you will need to call 911 immediately if you notice the following signs:

  • mental confusion
  • extremely slow or irregular breathing
  • blue look to the skin
  • low body temperature/cold skin
  • vomiting
  • seizures

What is Blacking Out?

Blacking out is a term for losing your memory. When participating in binge drinking, blackouts are due to a rapid increase in blood alcohol content levels. Often this is referred to as alcohol-induced amnesia. When a blackout occurs, you will no longer be able to form long-term memories at the same time as speaking or doing other skills.

Although the loss of memory due to alcohol is different for everyone, it is a common binge drinking symptom. Despite this, many people never experience blackouts and instead experience something known as a “brown out” or “gray out”, which is a moderate memory loss.

To induce a blackout, your blood alcohol content typically needs to reach at least 0.16%, which is twice the legal driving limit. Regardless, alcohol can cause memory loss after only a few drinks, but the more you drink, the more impaired you become.

Blacking Out vs. Passing Out

There is a difference between blacking out and passing out. When you pass out, you lose consciousness, similar to sleeping; however, you most likely will not respond if someone tries to wake you up. When you blackout, you may be able to continue speaking and hold conversations. More dangerously, you may even be able to continue drinking. You will appear to be fully conscious, yet you will remember nothing that happened. Because of this, you may even try to drive or perform other risky behaviors that might lead to death.

Who is at Risk for a Blackout?

On average, women are smaller, have a different body composition, and different hormones; they are at a greater risk for blacking out than men. Young adults are also at a greater risk as compared to older adults. If you regularly take sleeping or anti-anxiety medication, you are at a higher risk of blacking out.

One survey found that 50% of college students who have drunk alcohol in the last year have blacked out at some point, while 40% reported blacking out at least one time a year prior. This makes it extremely dangerous for young adults and puts them in a high-risk group for legal, financial, academic, and personal consequences. Illness, mood disorders, sexual assault, physical violence, and hospitalization are common among alcohol users.

Is Binge Drinking a Sign of Addiction?

Although binge drinking is not technically the same as alcohol use disorder, drinking too much too often does increase the risk of developing alcohol dependence, which eventually leads to addiction. For many years alcohol-induced blackouts were an early warning sign of problematic drinking and one of the top three indicators of alcoholism. Much has changed in how our society views drinking and understand that blacking out is not a direct sign of addiction, but it can indicate the early stages.

Payment Information

Do you want treatment but are worried about how you can pay for it? We have a team of financial professionals who provide free insurance verification. We will work with you to determine how to move forward with the treatment in a way that works for you and your financial situation.

How to Get Help

Do you know a college student suffering from addiction? At Resurgence Behavioral Health, we understand how difficult it can be to give up an addiction. Our dedicated team will help you customize a treatment plan to help you heal from your addiction.

Our goal is for you to leave Resurgence Behavioral Health with mental fortitude and coping skills to maintain lifelong sobriety. Call Resurgence Behavioral Health at 888-700-5053 to schedule an appointment. We challenge you to make a fresh start with us today.

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