Denial and Blackouts: A Vicious Cycle

26 October 2016

Blackouts are drug-related amnesia. Binge drinking can lead to memory loss and make it difficult to form new memories. Someone in a blackout might turn into an incoherent version of Dory from Finding Nemo who won’t stop repeating the same phrase, but a lot of the time it is difficult to tell if someone is blacked out. They may appear coherent and less intoxicated than they actually are, but they will forget all about their promise to hike the Appalachian Trail with you next summer. The ability to store new short- and long-term memories is inhibited during a blackout.

Metaphorically, what happens in a citywide blackout is the opposite of a drug-related blackout. In an electrical outage, the lights are out and people are home. In a drunken amnesia, the lights are on but no one is home. Like that scene in Home Alone where Kevin McCallister uses props to make it look like his family was at home partying, everything a blacked out person is doing seems normal but they aren’t saving those memories. This kind of memory failure is called a complete or en-bloc blackout. Then there are “brownouts” where the drinker remembers only fragments of their drunken antics.

A blackout is not the same as passing out. When someone passes out, they lose consciousness or fall asleep. Someone in a blackout is conscious and can do all the same things they could do if they were not blacked out. The difference between a non-blackout drunk and a blackout drunk is that the latter won’t remember anything the next day.

This is an exerpt, continue reading on The Fix

Kristance Harlow

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