Associations between blackout drinking and self-reported everyday cognition among young adults


Blackout drinking, or alcohol-induced memory loss during at least some part of a drinking occasion, is common among young adults and associated with negative alcohol-related consequences. One potential unique effect of blackout drinking episodes could be prolonged, general difficulties forming new memories through impairments in encoding, storage, or retrieval. The current study examined preliminary associations between blackout drinking and self-reported everyday cognitive functioning (i.e., memory lapses, non-memory cognitive difficulties, cognitive concerns) among a sample of young adults. We also examined the moderating role of key factors linked to blackout drinking: gender and frequent simultaneous alcohol and cannabis use.


Participants (N = 479; 53% women) were aged 18-30 who reported past-year blackout drinking. Participants completed an online survey through Qualtrics Panels.


More frequent blackout experiences were found to be significantly related to more memory lapses, more non-memory cognitive difficulties, and more cognitive concerns even after controlling for typical alcohol use behavior. Men and individuals reporting frequent simultaneous use indicated stronger relationships between blackout drinking frequency and cognitive outcomes.

Discussion and conclusions:

Findings add to the growing body of literature supporting the uniquely hazardous effects of blackout drinking and identify individuals at heightened risk of harms. Given that associations between blackout drinking frequency and everyday cognitive functioning were identified even among a young adult sample suggests that blackout drinking may be a risky behavior that links to poorer cognitive functioning.


Blackout drinking; Cognition; Gender differences; Simultaneous alcohol and cannabis; Young adults.

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