Nobody really goes out with the intention of getting blackout drunk, it usually just happens accidentally. One moment you're politely enjoying your second glass of rosé, and the next you're stumbling into your bathroom trying not to puke everywhere. How you can go so easily from tipsy to wasted often seems like a mystery, but there are some physiological reasons why this happens.
When a person is blackout drunk, it means that they've consumed so much alcohol that their brain can't release neurotransmitters that are responsible for making and filing memories, Reagen Wetherill, PhD, who has studied "blackouts" tells Refinery29. As a result, memories from the previous night are often a blur, if not totally absent from your memory.
In all seriousness, blackouts are potentially very dangerous and really aren't something to aim for. We know that repeatedly blacking out can literally change your brain over time, and binge-drinking increases your risk of liver disease. On top of that, experts say that experiencing frequent blackouts is considered a "powerful indicator" of alcoholism.
If you've blacked out more times than you'd like, or simply want advice for how to drink less, here are some tips to consider the next time you're boozing:
Sip water between beverages.
This is the number one rule for preventing over-drinking, and yet it's often the most difficult to implement. Make a point to drink at least one glass of water per drink of alcohol that you have, Alexis Halpern, MD, emergency medicine physician at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, tells Refinery29. Although it might make you "break the seal" a little bit earlier, having H2O in your body will keep you hydrated, dilute the alcohol you're consuming, and force you to drink slower.
Skip the sugary drinks.
As any margarita connoisseur is aware, sugary drinks that mask the taste of liquor can be a recipe for blacking out. This is simply because when you can't taste liquor, it's harder to keep track of how much you're consuming. The same goes for taking shots, pre-gaming, and playing drinking games. All of these make it easier for you to drink more, faster, and that can be bad news.
Eat before you go out.
It's true that having some food in your stomach can slow the effects of alcohol in your system, Dr. Halpern tells Refinery29. Basically, food acts as a buffer. And if you want to prevent miserable hangover symptoms the next day, opt for something nutrient-rich, to "give your body back the things that it needs and the things that it loses when you drink," she says.
Don't drink at all.
Duh, but sometimes it's worth reminding yourself that you don't have to drink at a social function. Taking a break from alcohol can be great for your health in the long run. And, a 2018 UK study found that people who completed "Dry January," a monthlong no drinking experiment, drank less when it ended. So, that could be exactly what you need to put blacking out a distant memory.
If you are struggling with substance abuse, please call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for free and confidential information.