The association of alcohol-induced blackouts and grayouts to blood alcohol concentrations

J Forensic Sci. 2006 Jul;51(4):896-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2006.00161.x.


The primary aim of this study was to investigate the association between measured blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and the presence and degree of amnesia (no amnesia, grayout, or blackout) in actively drinking subjects. A secondary aim was to determine potential factors other than BAC that contribute to the alcohol-induced memory loss. An interview questionnaire was administered to subjects regarding a recent alcohol associated arrest with a documented BAC greater than 0.08 g/dL for either public intoxication, driving under the influence, or under age drinking was administered. Demographic variables collected included drinking history, family history of alcoholism, presence of previous alcohol-related memory loss during a drinking episode, and drinking behavior during the episode. Memory of the drinking episode was evaluated to determine if either an alcohol-induced grayout (partial anterograde amnesia) or blackout (complete anterograde amnesia) occurred. Differences in (1) mean total number of drinks ingested before arrest, (2) gulping of drinks, and (3) BAC at arrest were found for those having blackouts compared with no amnesia; while differences in drinking more than planned were found between the no amnesia and grayout groups. A strong linear relationship between BAC and predicted probability of memory loss, particularly for blackouts was obvious. This finding clinically concludes that subjects with BAC of 310 g/dL or greater have a 0.50 or greater probability of having an alcoholic blackout.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amnesia, Anterograde / blood*
  • Amnesia, Anterograde / chemically induced*
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / adverse effects
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / blood*
  • Drinking Behavior
  • Ethanol / adverse effects
  • Ethanol / blood*
  • Female
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol