Event-Level Correlates of Drinking Events Characterized by Alcohol-Induced Blackouts

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2019 Dec;43(12):2599-2606. doi: 10.1111/acer.14204. Epub 2019 Oct 17.


Background: Prior research identifies a range of potential predictors of blackouts and suggests that blackouts increase risk for additional negative consequences. However, these studies are based on epidemiological work that allows us to draw conclusions about groups of people but not within-person processes. The present study examined within-person, event-level correlates of blackouts.

Methods: Ninety-six heavy drinking college students (52% female) completed 28 days of daily reports of alcohol use and consequences, including blackouts. Thirty-three participants reported 56 blackouts. Hierarchical linear modeling compared morning reports of drinking events on which participants did versus did not report a blackout, controlling for total drinks at the event.

Results: Blackout likelihood increased as a function of total drinks consumed and of crossing thresholds for heavy episodic drinking (4+/5+ drinks for women/men) and high-intensity drinking (8+/10+). Participants reported a higher total number of additional negative consequences on blackout events. Specific consequences that were more likely included embarrassing oneself and hangover. Blackouts were associated with morning ratings of less positive mood and a less favorable drinking event. Motives for drinking and simultaneous use of marijuana were not associated with blackouts.

Conclusions: Event-level findings of this study document that events leading to alcohol-induced memory loss are associated with other adverse experiences relative to drinking events that do not result in blackout, and offer potentially motivational levers for preventive interventions.

Keywords: Alcohol-Induced Memory Loss; Blackouts; College Students; Event Level; Young Adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking in College / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / chemically induced
  • Memory Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Rhode Island / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult