It’s our favorite weekend tradition. Waking up in the morning, head pounding, mouth dry from dehydration, and nauseous. You have no idea how you made it back to your bed or why you’re wearing nothing but your shoes. All you know is that at some point you texted your ex, snapped some videos of you singing “Sex on Fire” at the bar, and now you’re extremely hungover. Seems like a fun night, but why can’t you remember any of it?
*Flashbacks of you yelling “shots” peak into view*
Oh yeah, that’s why. But what about alcohol makes us forget?
Some scientists conducted studies to find the root cause for blackouts. They found that the alcohol we consume interferes with the receptors in the Hippocampus preventing neurons from communicating with each other properly. Basically this means that while we may be functioning fine (for the most part), we lose the ability to develop long term memories. That explains why you were able to tear up the dance floor the night before but can’t recall any of it.
Of course, not all blackouts are the same. In fact, science has categorized blackouts into 2 categories:
- En-bloc: This is a total blackout, meaning you can’t recall a single memory during that time of intoxication. If you go full en-bloc you either had the most fun or you just don’t want to be blamed for something stupid you did while intoxicated.
- Fragmentary: This is only partial memory loss, also known as a “brown out”. This means you can recall some parts of the night but not everything is clear. You probably remember the stupid thing the guy who went full en-bloc did you just don’t remember why he did it.
While blacking out seems to be a tradition for you, we all have that one asshole friend who NEVER blacks out no matter how much they drink. Either they’re secretly dumping out all their drinks or they’re secretly part of the X-Men with some odd super human powers. No need to throw out accusations just yet. Chances are they drank just as much as you did they just don’t black out as easy as you do.
These scientists also found that some people are more prone to blacking out than others. Determining factors are not always clear or consistent, but major determining factors include body weight, what you drink, and whether you drink on an empty stomach. Gender also comes into play as women, on average, tend to blackout easier than men.
The real question is how you can prevent blacking out every you time you drink? Well, the nerds will say to just drink less. The more realistic option is to just pace yourself. Drinking at a slower pace gives your brain enough time to adjust to the alcohol intake and build a tolerance. Also, try switching to beer instead of wine or liquor. The lower alcohol content in beer makes it much harder to raise your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to the point of blacking out. It may not prevent it but it may slow it down.
I’m sure when you wake up after a blackout science is the last thing on your mind. You’re more concerned with how you get that mystery stranger out of your bed, but at least now you know how you got into that mess.
Here’s to the more you know. Cheers.