Newswise — Alcohol-induced blackouts, defined as memory loss of all or a portion of events that occurred during a drinking episode, are reported by approximately 50 percent of drinkers, and are associated with a wide range of negative consequences, including injury and death. Identifying the factors that contribute to and result from alcohol-induced blackouts is critical for developing effective prevention programs. This manuscript is an updated review of clinical research that has focused on alcohol-induced blackouts. It outlines practical and clinical implications of these findings and provides recommendations for future research.

The authors conducted a comprehensive, systematic literature review of all articles published from January 2010 through August 2015 that examined vulnerabilities, consequences, and possible mechanisms for alcohol-induced blackouts.

The review yielded 26 studies on alcohol-induced blackouts: 15 studies examined prevalence and/or predictors of alcohol-induced blackouts, six publications described the consequences of alcohol-induced blackouts, and five studies explored potential cognitive and neurobiological mechanisms underlying alcohol-induced blackouts. The research suggests that individual differences, not just alcohol consumption, increase the likelihood of experiencing an alcohol-induced blackout, and the consequences of the blackouts extend beyond those related to the drinking episode to include psychiatric symptoms and neurobiological abnormalities. The authors suggest that prospective studies and a standardized assessment of alcohol-induced blackouts are needed to fully characterize factors associated with them and to improve prevention strategies.