Trajectories of alcohol‐induced blackouts in adolescence: early risk factors and alcohol use disorder outcomes in early adulthood
Adolescent females are three times more likely than males to experience increasing numbers of alcohol-related blackouts according to a first of its kind report.
Researchers at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), UNSW Sydney, analysed eight years’ worth of data collected from 1,821 young people and found significant differences in escalation of alcohol-related blackouts between sexes.
Lead author, Wing See Yuen said, “Although young people tend to understand the behavioural risk factors for alcohol-related blackouts, such as rapid consumption of alcohol, they have limited understanding of biological risk factors such as sex.”
“Research has found that this increase in risk for females experiencing blackouts is likely due to differences in metabolism and body composition.”
Data was collected from the Australian Parental Supply of Alcohol Longitudinal Study (APSALS), with young people being asked how many times they have been unable to remember what had happened while they had been drinking in the past 12 months.
“A blackout is a general term for memory loss, and can be an indicator for later negative health consequences,” said Ms Yuen.
The findings indicate that escalation of blackouts in adolescence is associated with 2.5 times the odds of meeting criteria for alcohol use disorder.
“Whilst we know quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption in adolescence are indicators of clinically relevant alcohol problems, we must also consider escalating blackouts as part of a risk factor assessment by clinicians,” said Ms Yuen.
The paper calls for new measures so young people are educated about the risks of alcohol-related blackouts.
“Prevention and intervention strategies targeting alcohol-induced blackouts may reduce the risk of future alcohol problems and may also reduce injury and associated healthcare costs,” said Ms Yuen.
“Schools should consider educating students and caregivers about the biological risk factors for blackouts, in addition to blackouts themselves being a risk factor for future harm.”
You can read the full report online here.