Adolescent women are three times more likely than young men to black out after binge drinking alcohol, with the rate increasing as they got older.
And young females were nearly twice as likely as males to black out from drinking the same amount of alcohol. The increased risk is likely due to differences in metabolism and body composition with women tending to be smaller, on average, than men.
A longitudinal study by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) found about 10 per cent of 14-year-olds who drank alcohol had experienced a blackout.
Experts say young women are three times more likely than males to experience a black out after binge drinking.Credit:Justin McManus
The rate of blackouts rose through high school. By aged 19, nearly half of all young people who drank had blacked out from drinking too much, according to the research which was published in January by the Society for the Study of Addiction.
Females were three times more likely to experience this escalation in blackouts than males.
These blackouts indicated young people were drinking at a level that affected their memory and behaviour, researchers Wing See Yuen and Dr Amy Peacock said.
Repeated binge drinking can cause brain damage. It also made young people more likely to engage in risky behaviour including unprotected sex or driving under the influence.
Someone who had blackouts in adolescence was 2 ½ times more likely to have problems with alcohol.
The researchers found young people tended to know that drinking alcohol on an empty stomach could cause blackouts.
But fewer than one in four of the young people surveyed knew females were more vulnerable to blacking out.
For instance, the study found young women were 1.8 times more likely to have a blackout when drinking the same amount as males.
The eight-year study tracked the drinking behaviour of 1821 young people in NSW, Western Australia and Tasmania, starting from when they were 13 in year seven.
They were asked when they started drinking alcohol, if they had alcohol-related blackouts, and if they had abused alcohol or become addicted.
Ms Wing, the lead author, said young people tended to understand the behavioural risk factors for blackouts, such as rapid consumption of alcohol. But they had a “limited understanding of biological risk factors such as sex.”
How to prevent black outs
If you’re going to drink alcohol, experts say these tips can help prevent blackouts:
Eat before and during a drinking session
Sip rather than gulping or chugging
Drink water between each alcoholic drink
Avoid having four or more drinks in two hours, which is binge drinking.
Alcohol affects everyone differently, so the number of drinks it takes to trigger a blackout varies from person to person.
Although everyone’s response to alcohol differs, an alcohol-related blackout happens when someone has a blood-alcohol concentration of about .15 or higher. That’s about three times the legal driving limit.
Blackouts are more likely to occur when someone drinks a lot quickly by “chugging” drinks or drinking on an empty stomach.
A blackout often happens when someone is conscious. ”Despite the name, someone who’s having an alcohol blackout is not unconscious (although people might become unconscious during or after a blackout),” said the researchers writing in The Conversation.
“They can continue to do things such as talking and walking, but afterwards they can’t remember what they did while they were drunk. In other words, alcohol can temporarily stop your brain from forming long-term memories.”
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