When your first thoughts upon waking up range from “How in the world did I get here?” to “What happened to me last night?,” don’t laugh it off with your friends and joke about the drunk texts that may have been sent the previous night. Blacking out has become a serious issue on college campuses across the nation, and it’s now being viewed as a ‘normal’ part of the college experience. More than half of college students that drink alcohol report having blacked out at least once in the previous year, according to a Northwestern University study in 2011. But an even scarier thought is the fact that as more students experience blackouts, we are desensitizing ourselves to the dangerous and serious nature of the situation.
Blacking out mainly occurs from one of the three following reasons: drinking too much too fast, not eating a large enough meal before drinking or being under a large amount of physical or mental stress. All of these are common here on campus, where students are constantly running around without adequate meals and proper nutrition while they’re also overwhelmed from the stress and workload that tough University classes create. In addition, the social scene at frats, bars and Saturday pre-parties does nothing to help curb the binge drinking that so many college students find themselves a part of. It is the common association with social drinking that has made blacking out a new norm here on campus.
In reality though, it’s anything but normal. Not to be confused with passing out from too much alcohol, blacking out is actually a type of amnesia. An individual who enters a blackout state suffers from memory loss that can last anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours depending on that individual’s situation and past alcohol history. In this state, alcohol interferes with neural synapses and leads to disruption in the formation of long-term memories. This makes it impossible to have any recollection of the previous night’s festivities the next morning, and it’s extremely scary for the individual involved.
Blacking out is definitely not something to laugh off and joke about in the morning when you can’t remember how you got home (if you did), what you were doing for those three and a half hours and where you managed to lose your credit card, ID and cell phone. Blacking out has become a dangerous trend in our community that can lead to injury, sexual assault, unprotected sex and, often times, regret. Poor decisions are made under the influence of large quantities of alcohol and can’t be remembered in the morning when the time has come to deal with the consequences and fix the damage that was done. This vicious cycle leads to immense stress, anxiety and even depression if the blacking out occurs often enough. It is a growing trend among college students today that has taught us it’s okay to blackout when drinking, and it’s even a fun goal to aim for. The next time you hear someone yell, “I’m getting blackout tonight,” take a second to ask if they truly understand what they’re saying.
Binge drinking on college campuses is ancient news, but the increase in students who are blacking out needs to stop. It’s not worth the stress, regret and embarrassment in the morning when the previous night is one giant blur. We were all intelligent enough to get into the University, so it’s time to start acting like it and drop the mindset that blacking out is a socially acceptable behavior. As a community, we need to educate each other on the negative consequences associated with blackouts and how dangerous they can actually be to one’s health. We need to change our mindsets and realize that blacking out isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and is in fact quite the opposite.
So the next time you’re out with friends — whether you’re casually sipping a beer, celebrating a 21st birthday or raging hard — just remember to drink responsibly, watch out for one another and eat a decent meal beforehand. Let’s try to start acting like the responsible, intelligent students that were accepted to the University in the first place. Don’t we want to remember as much of our undergraduate experience as possible?
Sarah Skaluba is an LSA sophomore.