Newswise — Drinking too much too quickly can cause alcohol-induced blackout – where the individual stays conscious but cannot later remember what happened. Blackout drinking can lead to accidents and risky behaviors, and may have long-term effects on brain function. Despite the risks, drinking to blackout is common, particularly among young adults ─with evidence that some young people drink with the specific intention of blacking out. However, the motives underlying this drinking behavior are unknown. A new report in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Researchexamines how blackouts are discussed on Twitter, with a focus on people’s intentions and motives for blacking out.
Twitter provides a rich source for alcohol research, with 2% of Tweets containing alcohol-related content; the site is also very popular among young adults, who report the highest levels of hazardous drinking. In the study, researchers from the University of Sydney (Australia), Brown University School of Public Health (Rhode Island), and Miami University (Ohio) analyzed Tweets identified from a search on blackout terms that were posted over four days in April 2018. After weeding out non-alcohol-related Tweets (those about blackout curtains, for example), almost 5000 original Tweets remained. Of these, over 1000 were identified as being written before a drinking event, and over half of these expressed an explicit intention to blackout (example: “So pumped to blackout”).
Nearly a third of the pre-drinking Tweets included specific motives for blacking out. Most common were celebratory motives, for example blacking out to celebrate a birthday (“Let’s blackout on my birthday”), school or work accomplishment (“Can’t wait to blackout after my last final”), sports win, or holiday (“Four days until I’m blacked out in Cancun”). Another common motivation for blacking out was to cope with negative emotions or loss, for example, blacking out to deal with stress or a bad day (“I’m so stressed I need to get blackout drunk tonight”), sometimes specifically noting a desire to forget (“I want to get blackout drunk to forget all about this horrible year”).
The researchers caution that such public expressions of blackout intentions may normalize and encourage risky drinking behavior in others. However, from a research perspective, the use of Tweets enabled the study of motivations that were expressed beforethe drinking event, in contrast to less reliable retrospective assessments that underpin most previous research into motives for drinking behavior. The findings increase understanding of blackout-related attitudes and behaviors, and will inform future research to assess the link between blackout intention and actual blackout drinking behavior and its consequences. The two main identified motivations for blackout, celebratory and coping, also highlight possible opportunities for intervention ─for example, by including education around blackout as part of the prevention strategies already used by schools, universities and community groups to address celebratory drinking.
“Can’t wait to blackout tonight”: An analysis of the motives to drink to blackout expressed on Twitter
Alcoholism: Clincial and Experimental Research