July 5, 2011

Alcohol ‘Blackouts’ Predict Injury Risk

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The more drink-fueled memory blackouts students experience, the greater their risk of suffering a future injury while under the influence of alcohol, according to new research.

Memory blackouts are defined as the inability to recall events. These blackouts do not refer to the loss of consciousness as a result of drinking too much. Research shows that alcohol alters nerve cell communication in the hippocampal region of the brain, which affects memory formation.

About one in every three students say they have experienced a memory blackout in the past year, and about one in 20 say they have experienced such an event in the past week. Researchers say women are just as likely as men to experience these memory blackouts.

Investigators analyzed data from nearly 800 undergraduates and more than 150 postgraduate students at five universities. More than half of the students had one or more memory blackouts in the 12 months leading up to the start of the study. About 7 percent reported six or more during this period of time.

Results of the analysis showed the overall prevalence of injury associated with alcohol was a little more than 25 percent. The more blackouts the students experienced, the greater their risk of an unintentional injury. One to two memory blackouts increased the chances by 57-percent. Six or more memory blackouts caused a student to be almost three-times as likely to suffer an injury.

"Our results suggest that memory blackout screening at student health services could be a useful tool in college alcohol-related injury prevention," the authors conclude.

In 2001, about 600,000 U.S. college students were injured as a result of excess drinking. In 2005, nearly 2,000 died as a result of unintentional injuries fueled by alcohol.

SOURCE: Injury Prevention, June 29, 2011