In slow, painful blinks, your eyes finally open. You move your stiff neck to the side and pat around trying to find your phone as the gears in your brain start to turn. Your hair is clumped in a variety of knots and you don’t even want to know what your breath smells like. The last thing you remember was your seventh shot-or was it the eighth shot. And WHAT? WHAT AM I DOING IN THAT PICTURE?
Memory loss is usually associated with the heartbreaking disease of amnesia, whose victims tend to be of an older age. The loss of identity, failure to recognize loved ones and a sense of loss, are part of the tragic disease that has claimed too many lives.
This disease has a distant relative: Alcohol Related Blackout (ARB). This self-induced malady lurks in the corners and the crevices of our young adult lives. Drinking, parties and blacking out in college have become norms. On the weekends, you cannot walk along the streets surrounding campus without hearing shouts, a throbbing base or the clinking of bottles. Partying is a way many of us cope with the stress of school and homework. It gives us a chance to unwind and have a little fun with friends. Nonetheless, the boundary between “just a little bit of fun” and dangerous is a fine line.
Jennifer Summers, the Director of Substance Abuse Prevention and Student Success, states that an ARB prevents the body from creating memories. Depending on the frequency and how much alcohol is consumed, an ARB can affect you later in life. Blacking out is not the same as passing out, which involves losing consciousness due to excessive alcohol consumption.
“Blackouts are periods of amnesia, caused by excessive consumption of alcohol,” said Summers. “People can remain awake and participate in activities such as talking, driving, eating food, having unprotected sex or getting into a fight.”
A report completed by Marc Schuckit, professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego, in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, analyzed the frequency of ARBs for 1,402 English teenagers at ages 15, 16, 18 and 19. The results concluded that at age 15, 30 percent experienced a blackout, and at age 19, 74 percent had blacked out.
This study proves that age and blackouts are related. Teenagers and young adults are more apt to suffer from a blackout. What is more concerning is that blackout frequency increases as the individual’s age. In America, most college freshmen are 18 or 19. Not only are they at the highest-risk age, but they are also entering a new environment where drinking and parties happen every weekend.
According to a Medical Daily article, working memory tells you how to walk or eat and continues to function during alcoholic binges. Eventually, your brain decides whether to keep certain information in your long-term memory. When your body is over-exposed to alcohol, the brain shuts down the storage process.
If you make the decision to take shot after shot or shotgun six beers in a row, your brain will probably not cooperate. More than that, you will not create new memories. College is an amazing period of time in our lives. We have the chance to live on our own, learn new things, and actively participate in a social environment. Someday, you’ll be the ones telling your grandchildren the time you wrote an essay in one night or enjoyed a beer at Taylor’s. Undoubtedly, the crazier stories may have happened on the nights you “let loose.”
I’m not suggesting that anyone stop enjoying the weekend social life or drinking. Alcohol is in this college culture, whether we like it or not. Like a flashing neon sign, liquor tempts even the strongest of will. If you aim to blackout at a party, you’re not only at risk of hurting yourself or others, but you are also choosing to sacrifice memory.
Be conscious, be aware and be mindful of the consequences of alcohol consumption.
If memories of your childhood matter to you, chances are remembering your college experiences will be important to you 20 years from now. Enjoy the college world, but don’t actively try to forget it.