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Intentions and Motives to Experience Alcohol-Induced Blackout Among Young Adults in College

“Alcohol-induced blackout” is caused by drinking too much alcohol too quickly and can cause some or full memory loss for a short period of time. A better understanding of these blackouts may help to create interventions and to find who an intervention might be most effective for. The current study looks at students’ intentions and motives to experience an alcohol-induced blackout along with identifying those who may benefit from interventions.

The final sample included 350 participants between the age of 18-29 years of age. Surveys were completed to check for eligibility and find out more about demographics of participants. Alcohol-induced blackout was measured by asking about past 30 day experiences of memory impairment. Researchers also asked about blackout intentions, drinking quantity, alcohol-related consequences, symptoms of depression, normative perceptions, and outcome expectancies. Out of all participants, 135 self-reported drinking alcohol with intentions to lose memory for the night with 14% doing so two to three times in the past 30 days. Men were found to be more likely to have reported intentions to blackout (41% vs. 22%).

The researchers found that the most common motives for wanting to experience a blackout were drinking to cope (depression or response to stressful event) and to have fun or “get drunk.” Results also showed that groups more likely to report future blackout intentions included those experiencing more problematic/heavy drinking, those with symptoms of depression, those with higher perceived peer approval, and those with stronger expectancies that good would happen. Overall, it was found that intentions of blacking out were correlated to subsequent behavior and differences in motives from traditional drinking are still unclear. Due to this finding, interventions may benefit from targeting those young adults with intentions of future blackout drinking.

Take Away: The current study looks at students’ intentions and motives to experience an alcohol-induced blackout. 350 participants between the ages of 18-29 were asked about past 30 day experiences of memory impairment, blackout intentions, drinking quantity, alcohol-related consequences, symptoms of depression, normative perceptions, and outcome expectancies. Result showed participants more likely to report future blackout intentions included those experiencing problematic/heavy drinking, symptoms of depression, higher perceived peer approval, and stronger expectancies that good would happen. Overall, it was found that intentions of blacking out were correlated to subsequent behavior showing interventions may benefit from targeting those specific young adults.

Miller, M. B., Davis, C. N., Merrill, J. E., Dibello, A. M., & Carey, K. B. (2020). Intentions and motives to experience alcohol-induced blackout among young adults in college. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. doi: 10.1037/adb0000572

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