Live Better

Why you blackout when you drink too much

Ever wondered why you can’t remember your big night out?

Have you ever woken up the day after drinking unable to recall chunks of the night before? Does this happen every time you drink? We know that alcohol can cause memory loss, but what actually happens when you blackout?

What are memory blackouts, and why do you have them?

Alcohol is a depressant, and can impair brain function, including memory. Alcohol-induced blackouts are common side-effects of heavy or binge drinking, and happen when alcohol prevents neurotransmitters from imprinting memories from short-term memory to long-term memory. There are two different types of alcohol-induced memory loss, or blackouts:

  • Partial blackouts: With a partial blackout, you may forget information or events from when you were alcohol-affected, for example conversations you had with friends or meeting someone new. But if people prompt you with clues, you’ll likely be able to recollect the lost information fairly quickly.
  • Complete blackouts: Complete blackouts happen when you can’t recall information and events from long stretches of time, even when others try to fill in the blanks for you.

Who has blackouts?

It’s a common misconception that only alcoholics have memory blackouts. Blackouts can happen to anyone consuming alcohol, and they tend to get worse when you drink more.

It is widely held that binge drinkers are particularly susceptible to blackouts. A 2002 survey of college students found that 40% of those who had consumed alcohol recently had experienced a blackout within the preceding year.

Drink responsibly

If you drink alcohol, drinking in moderation is important for your health and will help to prevent alcohol-related blackouts. The following tips will help you drink safely and responsibly:

  • Set yourself limits and stick to them
  • Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks
  • Drink slowly
  • Try drinks with a lower alcohol content
  • Have something to eat while or before you have an alcoholic drink
  • Dilute your alcoholic drink by adding water or ice

If you think you, or someone you know might have a problem with alcohol, talk to your doctor, visit DrinkWise, or call your state/territory alcohol and drug helpline.

Want to know more about how alcohol and drugs really affect you? Read about the main health issues impacting young Aussies at

Latest Articles

Healthy Living

How a lack of sleep affects your mental health

Getting enough sleep is crucial for your mental wellbeing.

Read more
Healthy Living

How to conquer your fear of the dentist

Dr Merrilyn Hooley's tips for a less stressful appointment.

Read more
Healthy Living

Are you a cyberchondriac?

Dr Google could be making you anxious.

Read more
Healthy Living

Can you reduce the effects of PMS?

Up to 30% of women experience severe premenstrual syndrome.

Read more
youtubeui-checkbox-tickui-checkbox-emptyui-checkbox-crosstwitterui-checkbox-tickWellbeing and mindfulness 1Physical Health 1Positive psychology 101 1Wellbeing and mindfulness 4All about gut health 1Understanding Genetics 4Planning for Pregnancy 2During Pregnancy 3The mind-gut connection 4The mind-gut connection 1New Parents 3Page 1Group 10During Pregnancy 2Page 1Physical Health 2Planning for Pregnancy 1Positive psychology 101 1Positive psychology 101 4Planning for Pregnancy 4Understanding Genetics 1Physical Health 4Planning for Pregnancy 3Nutrition 4New Parents 1New Parents 3 CopyMovement for your mind 4Wellbeing and mindfulness 2Nutrition 2sob-icon__mind-bodysob-icon__man-with-laptopAll about gut health 2Positive psychology 101 3Positive psychology 101 2Physical Health 3Wellbeing and mindfulness 3All about gut health 3genetics-changing-what-your-givenUnderstanding Genetics 2During Pregnancy 1Movement for your mind 2Movement for your mind 1Movement for your mind 3During Pregnancy 4sob-icon__managing-anxiety