Blackouts After Boozing All Too Common in Teens

Alcohol related blackouts in teens became more common as they aged

Families and schools can take steps to stop the risky business of teen drinking. Teens are one of the groups most prone to binge drinking — a practice that can lead to alcohol-related blackouts.

A new study found that alcohol-related blackouts in some teens increased as they aged from 15 to 19.

One way to prevent alcohol-related blackouts in teens is to keep them from drinking. Schools and families can prevent underage drinking by helping teens develop skills to resist the pressure, desire and opportunity to drink, according to the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Parents can do this by strengthening family bonds, increasing family and school activities and monitoring teens' activities, the NIAAA says.

“Someone who has had a blackout cannot remember part of their drinking episode … blackouts are likely to occur when the drinker is vulnerable to a range of additional dangerous consequences,” said lead study author Marc A. Schuckit, of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California in San Diego, in a press statement.

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is measured in grams per deciliter (g/dl). About 60 percent of people with a BAC greater than 0.3 g/dl experience a blackout, but shorter blackouts where bits of time and memory are lost can happen to people with a BAC of less than or equal to 0.06 g/dl. It is illegal for drivers over 21 in the US to drive with a BAC of 0.08 g/dl or greater.

Dr. Schuckit and team looked at patterns of alcohol-related blackouts in 1,402 British adolescents who reported drinking alcohol and studied them annually between the ages of 15 and 19.

These researchers identified four different groups among the study participants: those who never had a blackout (5.1 percent), those whose blackouts increased slowly with age (29.5 percent), those whose blackouts increased rapidly with age (44.9 percent) and those who consistently reported blackouts (20.5 percent).

Thirty percent of the teens who drank reported an alcohol-related blackout at age 15, and 74 percent reported them at age 19.

“Almost half of our sample not only had blackouts during the four total years of our study, but also had blackouts every time we follow up with them, approximately every one and a half years,” Dr. Schuckit said.

He continued, “Kids have to recognize the problem of blackouts themselves and take steps to change behaviors … because blackouts are dangerous, prevalent, and persistent."

This research was published online Dec. 16 in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism funded this research. The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.