Getting drunk can give us a sense of exhilaration, freedom, and euphoria. However, everyone is aware that reasoning and coordination deteriorate as a person’s blood alcohol concentration rises. Moreover, alcohol influences an individual’s ability to remember but is different from the other aspects of cognition. Have you tried drinking steadily throughout the day or evening? You most likely had a hangover and a headache from dehydration due to the night before. With some care and a few prompts, you’re likely to recall everything that happened.
The chances of recalling anything the following morning are significantly reduced if you begin the evening by chugging, knocking shots, or playing drinking games.
What Exactly Are Alcoholic Blackouts?
Rapid spikes in blood alcohol levels significantly impact the brain’s capacity to form long-term memories. According to multiple studies, you will more likely experience memory loss, forgetfulness, amnesia, and alcohol blackouts when binge drinking than steady, excessive drinking.
There is a difference between passing out and blacking out. Although people experiencing blackout drunkenness lose the ability to form memories, they are still aware and conscious. While intoxicated, they can still walk and communicate.
This also occurs regularly. The majority of individuals, despite the advice of professionals and alcohol advertising, often don’t drink in moderation. There are more than half of individuals who have had a blackout at some point in life. As per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly a quarter of all Americans binge drink at least once a month.
Memory Impairment and Alcohol
Consuming alcohol can cause memory loss in a variety of ways, according to physicians. These include, but are not limited to:
Some individuals can suffer from a blackout when they excessively consume alcohol in a short amount of time and lose their ability to recall crucial information.
These experiences might be minor, like forgetting where you left your keys, or major, like not remembering what occurred last night. It is common for people to lose all memory of a drinking session after more than five drinks, as per Duke University.
The hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with short-term recollection, is slowed down by the effects of alcohol by causing traffic on how nerves communicate.
When it comes to remembering, the hippocampus is a crucial part of the brain. Short-term memory loss can develop when standard nerve transmission decelerates.
Long-Term Memory Loss
The hippocampus isn’t just slowed down by heavy drinking; it can also be damaged. Excessive alcohol consumption can damage nerve cells. This has both a short-term and long-term impact on a person’s memory.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol can lead to a lack of thiamine or vitamin B-1. This vitamin is essential for supplying the brain and nervous system with energy, and alcohol consumption often affects the body’s ability to utilize thiamine. In addition, thiamine can be affected by the following:
- People who regularly drink heavily often have unhealthy diets, missing out on crucial nutrients.
- Excessive alcohol consumption can cause stomach lining irritation, affecting the stomach’s ability to absorb nutrients.
- Heavy alcohol usage can produce puking, which prevents the gastrointestinal tract from collecting nutrients.
Moreover, a person’s deficit in thiamine increases the possibility of dementia, a gradual and irreversible loss of memory. Dementia caused by excessive drinking is called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS). This disorder causes memory lapses in the affected individual. If a person wishes to avoid the progression of this illness, they must abstain from alcohol and improve their diet.
The Massachusetts General Hospital’s most common cause of long-term memory loss is consuming at least 21 drinks per week for at least four years.
Mechanism of Action
As a result of drinking alcohol, the brain is less able to move knowledge to the long term from the short term memory storage area. Try to imagine it as a delivery van that got off course and never made it to its final destination. The package was never delivered; thus, people lose track of the smallest of details. When an individual is drunk, these effects are more pronounced.
The hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with memory, can be harmed by regular heavy drinking. Heavily binge drinking can reduce the size of the hippocampus, which is essential for learning and memory. Even modest quantities of alcohol can have a significant impact on the glutamate system in the brain. As well as affecting memory, glutamate may have a role in causing some adults to “blackout” after a night of excessive drinking, in which they forget most of the things that happened.
Researchers are trying to help people suffering from memory loss in various ways. Memory techniques such as constructing linked and indexed lists are used in future event simulations (FES). FES also better remembered event-based activities than time-based ones, according to research published in Psychopharmacology in 2016. However, the most organic way to regain memory is to abstain from alcohol consumption.