Alcoholic blackouts: legal implications

J Subst Abuse Treat. 1990;7(3):155-9. doi: 10.1016/0740-5472(90)90016-j.


Alcoholic blackouts are defined as the temporary, complete inability to form long-term memory as the result of a high blood alcohol level. This means that a neuron-to-neuron system has been blocked. Since that is the case, such central nervous dysfunction should have legal implications, both from the blackout itself and also from the fact that this degree of neural interference in one system is at least suggestive that other dysfunction may be present. The subject of blackouts is updated with recent developments in neuroscience. The legal significance of the blackout is examined in enough depth to allow for further discussion and exploration.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / complications*
  • Amnesia / etiology*
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Jurisprudence
  • Memory / drug effects
  • United States


  • Ethanol