Passing out from drinking alcohol vs. blacking out:
Q: Are passing out from drinking alcohol and blacking out
the same thing?
Both of these terms are often associated with alcohol use. Elsewhere in this book (Why Don’t They Just Quit? What families and friends need to know about addiction and recovery), we speak of alcohol as being a sedative/hypnotic drug.
Passing out from drinking too much alcohol is definitely a sign of being sedated and/or drunk. Passing out is what is referred to when a person becomes unconscious, similar to going to sleep.
Blacking out is completely different from passing out. In fact, the word hypnotic (as in sedative/hypnotic) is one way to think about blackouts from alcohol. For instance, someone who has been hypnotized can appear to function normally; they can follow commands, and so on. When the hypnotic state is over, they often can’t remember what they have done.
A blackout is like a temporary form of amnesia. Alcohol can and does affect our memory. Short-term memory loss is what happens after a person has experienced a blackout. The user may not have to be very drunk for this to happen. They will appear to be functioning normally—carrying on a conversation, driving a car, playing a game, watching a movie, or even having sex—yet not remember the events the following day.
This condition will also worsen over time; blackouts will start happening more often and the person will remember less. Blackouts from alcohol happen to many, but not all drinkers. Others may reach a point where it happens every time they drink—even after the first drink of the evening. Some drugs can create this experience as well.
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This “Q & A with Joe Herzanek” is excerpted from Part 5 of “Why Don’t They Just Quit? What families and friends need to know about addiction and recovery.”
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