Friday, February 01, 2008

Blackouts aren’t something to laugh about

Drunken “blackouts” occur without loss of consciousness, actually the individual functions quite well for being drunk out of their mind. The next day the individual doesn’t remember anything that occurred during their blackout and that is where it gets its name.

Alcohol is a poison, keep that in mind.

Alcohol has been found to suppress certain receptors in the brain (the hippocampus, for those keeping score). When those receptors are not working as they should, memory acquisition is affected and I don’t mean improved. The suppression is dose related, i.e. the more alcohol ingested the greater the effect. This effect is likely the cause of the blackouts.

Adolescents appear to be particularly susceptible to this effect of alcohol, blacking-out at lower doses and, especially with binge drinkers, a fairly common pattern of adolescent drinking, blacking-out on a frequent/repeated basis. This is of concern for many reasons, not the least of which is that this repeated receptor poisoning may have cumulative effects over time with permanent impairment of memory as a result.

So the old description of someone who has consumed too much alcohol as “stupid drunk” is closer to the truth than we used to realize.

Blackouts aren’t something to laugh about, they are brain damage.

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