If you think it takes an excessive amount of alcohol to black out from drinking or that it could never happen to you, you may be surprised to learn just how common it is to have amnesia while intoxicated.
In fact, one study found more than half of college students who drank reported blacking out at least once. Still, you don’t have to be in college to feel the effects of alcohol on your memory or actions. On a reality TV show, “Bachelor in Paradise,” filming production was recently halted after allegations were made of sexual misconduct on set due to alcohol. After an internal investigation, both the contestants and show were cleared of any wrongdoing, but ABC did institute new rules concerning alcohol consumption for the show moving forward.
To understand how Americans are affected by blackouts and hangovers, we surveyed over 1,000 people about their experiences with alcohol – from who was more likely to black out after drinking to how they felt when it happened. Continue reading to see what we learned about the state of intoxication across the nation.
There are different guidelines on what may constitute moderate drinking. While the CDC says no more than one drink per day for women and up to two drinks for men is considered moderate, the NIAAA recognizes no more than three drinks daily for women and four drinks for men as “low--risk”. Still, what causes the mind to black out from alcohol consumption isn’t necessarily exclusively a question of how much a person has had to drink, but rather about a spike in his or her blood alcohol content (BAC). A person’s BAC can be elevated by a combination of the number of drinks consumed, the rate at which they’re consumed, how much water someone has had to drink before consuming alcohol, and even genetics.
Based on our survey, more than a third of participants felt not remembering a night out was a sign of a very bad night, while over 30 percent called it a bad night. Nearly 1 in 4 felt impartial about the experience, and less than 1 in 10 said blacking out was a sign of a good time.
While most Americans felt negative toward blacking out after a night of drinking, a small percentage thought it represented a good time. Our study found participants who considered blacking out a positive or fun experience were twice as likely to be either active military members or veterans when compared to non-service members.
Members of the armed forces who have experienced multiple tours, seen combat, or have had injuries are at high risk for developing substance misuse issues and are more likely to engage in excessive, high-risk consumption. One study found nearly 40 percent of veterans who were deployed to either Afghanistan or Iraq tested positively for probable alcohol misuse.
Almost 13 percent of people surveyed who believed a lack of recollection was a sign of a good night didn’t attend college. Of those who had, over 16 percent were a part of a sorority or fraternity while enrolled. Research from the NIAAA has found excessive alcohol consumption is highest among students living in Greek organization homes than any other demographic.
Nearly 1 in 5 respondents who believed a lack of recollection was an indicator of a good time also had friends who suggested they might have a drinking problem.
What happens after blacking out from drinking can be different for everyone. While the memories our minds process are no longer stored as long-term memories (meaning you may not remember or even process things that are happening at the moment), not everyone experiences the same physical symptoms (like vomiting or passing out) of excessive alcohol consumption.
Our survey found respondents living in the South were the most likely to see a lack of recollection as a sign of a good night. Nearly 13 percent of participants from states like Texas and Louisiana said blacking out meant they had a good time, while more than 11 percent of people from states like Florida, Georgia, and Alabama said the same. Those from the Mountain region – including Colorado and Nevada – had the least positive impression of memory lapses from excessive drinking.
Next, we asked respondents to rank their hangovers after an average night of drinking on a scale of zero (no hangover) to 100 (an extreme hangover). Physical symptoms of a hangover can include tiredness, headaches, sensitivity to lights and sounds, dehydration, muscle aches, increased blood pressure, a rapid heart rate, tremors, and sweating.
On average, men ranked their hangovers as slightly worse than what women experienced – even though research has found women may be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol. People in the military (active or retired) also ranked their hangovers as more severe than civilians, but participants in Greek organizations ranked their hangovers as roughly seven points more uncomfortable than those who weren’t in a fraternity or sorority.
People who had friends who suggested they might have a drinking problem had the worst hangovers of them all – ranking them a 52 on our scale of 100.
People from certain parts of the country had worse hangovers than others. Respondents from the South Atlantic, including Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia, ranked their hangovers as the most severe – nearly a 40 on our scale of a 100 (an extreme hangover). One study found as many as 1 in 4 students at one Alabama high school admitted to binge drinking, and more than 1 in 10 drove a car while intoxicated. These parts of the county were also the most likely to suggest that blacking out after drinking too much was a sign of a good night.
However, those in the Mountain region (including Arizona, Utah, and Idaho) ranked the severity of their hangovers the lowest.
Alcohol can have detrimental effects on romantic relationships. From the way it can decrease sex drive (or even impair sexual performance) to the mood swings it can set off, there are many ways alcohol consumption can impact the relationships around us.
People who ranked their hangovers the worst were also in relationships. Specifically, participants in relationships ranked their hangovers nearly a 40 out of a 100 (an extreme hangover), while people who were single or separated ranked their hangovers just over a 37. Participants who were widowed said their hangovers were the least difficult to endure, ranking them less than a 20, on average.
We also found younger people were more susceptible to the negative effects of a hangover after drinking too much. Hangovers do get worse as people age; however, more and more young Americans are being classified as heavy drinkers today than in previous years, which may account for our results.
Most people surveyed recognized that blacking out after drinking was a bad sign. Still, some people took a lack of recollection after a night of drinking as a good experience. As we discovered, people who expressed this opinion were more likely to be active or retired military members or participate in fraternities or sororities while in college.
If you or someone you love is experiencing alcohol misuse, Detox.net can help. We connect you with the best detox facilities around the country, so you can start living your healthiest and happiest life today. Whether you’re looking for a detox facility or medically assisted support, we’ll find the best treatment options in your area. Visit us online at Detox.net to learn more.
We surveyed over 1,000 Americans about how they felt after a night of drinking and the severity of their hangovers.