Updated 05 August 2019

Why do some people drink until they black out? Researchers have looked to Twitter for some clues

Celebrations and coping with stress are the top reasons for blackout drinking, according to a recent study.

Blackout drinking is never a wise idea, but new research pinpoints why people sometimes imbibe to the point where they pass out.

Are you drinking too much?

Celebrations and coping with stress are the top reasons for blackout drinking, the study found.

Drinking too much too fast can cause a blackout, where a person remains conscious but later can't remember what happened. Blackout drinking can put people at risk for accidents and risky behaviours, and may do long-term damage to the brain.

Despite the risks, it is common in the United States - particularly among young adults - and some people drink with the goal of blacking out.

In order to learn more, researchers examined hundreds of Twitter tweets posted over four days in April 2018 about people's plans to drink until they black out.

Nearly a third of the tweets included specific motives. The most common were celebrations such as birthdays, school or work accomplishments, sports wins or holidays.

Another common reason was to cope with stress, negative emotions or loss. Examples included: "I'm so stressed I need to get blackout drunk tonight," and "I want to get blackout drunk to forget all about this horrible year."

Such public expressions may normalise and encourage risky behaviour in others, according to researchers Benjamin Riordan from the University of Sydney in Australia; Jennifer Merrill from Brown University in Rhode Island, and Rose Marie Ward from Miami University in Ohio.

The study was recently published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The authors said their findings improve understanding of attitudes and behaviors associated with blackout drinking, and will guide a future investigation of links between drinkers' intentions and their actual behaviour.

In a journal news release, they said the two main reasons for blackout drinking - celebration and coping - identified in the study, suggest possible interventions.

For example, education about blackout drinking could be included in prevention campaigns by schools, universities and community groups to reduce celebratory drinking.

Image credit: iStock


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