Health & Wellness

7 things to know about blacking out from drinking too much

Earlier this week, ABC canceled production of the reality show "Bachelor in Paradise" due to what they’ve termed “allegations of misconduct” surrounding an incident with two of the show’s participants. While details are still forthcoming, it's rumored the situation was fueled by alcohol — made worse by a possible blackout from drinking.

Host Chris Harrison recently spoke out about the incident, in part to address the numerous rumors that have been flying about what exactly occurred during production in Mexico.

ABC
The fan favorite show thrives on drama, but this season's production was suspended due to "allegations of misconduct."

“There are a lot of competing details in the various press accounts of the incident,” his statement read. “And there’s a lot of misinformation out there too. We urge everyone to be patient until the investigation is complete.”

Warner Bros., which produces the ABC reality series, is leading the investigation Harrison refers to, which may put an end to "Bachelor in Paradise" for good. The spinoff reality show, which features former “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” contestants competing for love at a resort in Mexico, has always included plenty of alcohol. The show's resident bartender, Jorge, has even been included in the opening credits.

But one danger of drinking too much? People may blackout, or experience a situation where they don’t remember a large portion of the time when they were drinking, and may suffer other negative health effects.

TODAY spoke with several medical professionals to find out what really happens when you blackout.

1. Your body stops storing memories.

“Short-term memories are not stored as long-term memories,” Dr. Barron Lerner, professor of medicine at NYU Langone School of Medicine, said. “So, later on, you don’t remember the things that are happening to you in the moment.”

2. Alcohol affects everyone differently.

Most of us learn this in middle school health class, but it's important to note that when you blackout depends on your tolerance, speed of drinking and weight.

Drinking lots of alcohol quickly, such as binge drinking, is more likely to lead to a blackout, Lerner noted. Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks in an hour for women and five drinks or more in an hour for men, he explained. A standard drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of an 80-proof liquor, Dr. Brad Uren, an emergency medicine physician in Ann Arbor, Michigan, stated.

However, your tolerance may differ depending on how often you drink and on your body weight, according to Dr. Marc I. Leavey, a primary care specialist practicing in Lutherville, Maryland. Small females, for example, are likely to get drunk more quickly (and blackout sooner) than large males.

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Family: Penn State Student Forced to Consume 'Lethal' Amount of Alcohol

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Family: Penn State Student Forced to Consume 'Lethal' Amount of Alcohol

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3. Some people are just more likely to experience a blackout.

Regardless of weight, gender or tolerance, some people may just be more wired to experience blackouts than other people, Uren explained. That’s because those people have a memory center that happens to be more vulnerable to this particular effect.

4. You can’t avoid a blackout by chugging water or coffee.

In fact, at a certain point, doing so may be dangerous. If you notice someone is dangerously drunk —stumbling around, hallucinating, incoherent — making them drink coffee or water won’t help. In fact, at that point, it could be harmful: He or she may aspirate the liquid instead, Leavey said.

And, Uren added, caffeine is a bad idea for another reason: It can overcome the natural depressant effect of alcohol, at least initially, so that instead of growing sleepy, people may instead drink more and become intoxicated very quickly.

5. Don’t try popping a Tylenol.

Something else that you definitely shouldn’t try or recommend? Popping a Tylenol when consuming alcohol — even small amounts. If you take a Tylenol while drinking, you’re not helping to prevent a hangover. Instead, you’re putting yourself at risk for major — and possibly deadly — liver damage, Leavey said. Doing this could cause liver failure in as little as a few hours or a few days.

6. Blacking out isn’t ALWAYS associated with vomiting or passing out.

According to Leavey, if you’re at risk of blacking out, you’ll likely notice that you’re dizzy, woozy, having trouble remembering things and more. And even though it’s likely that, if you blackout, you may also vomit or pass out after too many drinks, that isn’t always the case — a small person that gets drunk very fast may skip those states and instead have an accelerated trip into oblivion.

“The memory effects that people can see with alcohol can be independent of getting to the point where they’re vomiting and passing out,” Uren added.

7. You should call 9-1-1 immediately when you notice these signs.

"If someone is still talking to you, coherent, coordinated, but maybe just a little tipsy, they’re likely OK," Leavey said. However, if someone fails to connect with you, showing they’re unaware of their surroundings, or are acting strangely, it’s time to seek medical help, he advised.

And don’t be afraid to take that next step if you’re concerned.

“We care about making you better,” Uren said. “Please don’t hesitate to give us that opportunity if you’re worried about a friend.”

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