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Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2004;30(1):205-24.

Experiential aspects of alcohol-induced blackouts among college students.

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Department of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Neurobiology Research, Durham VA Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA.


Our current understanding of alcohol-induced memory blackouts is derived largely from research with middle-aged, hospitalized, male alcoholics. In the present study, 50 undergraduate students (34 female and 16 male) with a history of at least one blackout were interviewed to gain insight into their experiences. Fragmentary blackouts, in which memory for events is fragmented, were far more common than blackouts of the en bloc type, in which a period of time is simply missing from memory. Most students recalled bits and pieces of events without cueing from others, yet still relied on friends, most also intoxicated themselves during the blackout period, to tell them what transpired. Thinking about the fragments triggered further recall in the majority of cases. Half of all subjects, more females than males, reported having been frightened by their last blackout experience. Being frightened typically led to more careful drinking for several weeks or longer. Characteristics of blackouts among college students in the present study are compared to the standard model of blackouts based on reports from alcoholics.

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