Did your mom ever talk to you about blackouts?

Blackouts are caused by drinking too much, too fast, or on an empty stomach. And while many people think only hardcore alcoholics have them, a recent study found half of all students reported having had one or more during the college years.

Blacking out is different than passing out, and despite what many people assume you may not appear drunk to yourself or others. You could in fact be walking around, carrying on perfectly charming conversations, and acting much like your usual self.

Ironically it’s when people drink more slowly for a longer period that they appear “sloppy drunk” not necessarily when they are blacked out.

And it depends more on what you are drinking, when you ate last, and how quickly you down drinks back to back that determines a blackout  than the total number of drinks you have. It can happen after as few as three drinks quickly downed on an empty stomach.

There is much attention placed on consent laws as a way to reduce the numbers of sexual assault allegations. But I’m writing this to the ladies in the room: women can’t just assume others will know they have had too much to drink, especially in a blackout situation where you may appear completely coherent and even give full consent at the time. Even those closest to you may not realize your lights are on but nobody’s home.

The best way to protect yourself, and others, is to avoid drinking patterns that could lead to a blackout. Make sure you always eat before drinking alcohol (eating later won’t help), pace your drinks rather than drinking several quickly back to back, avoid drinking games at parties, and opt for weaker drinks over stiff ones.

Your mom may not have told you this, or maybe your mom won’t talk about about drinking at all, so I will. It’s a lot easier and more common than is openly discussed to blackout when drinking, especially if  one is young and not familiar with how they react to alcohol. If you do drink, drink responsibly and safely. Not remembering the party the next day is never a fun experience.

Let those who have ears hear.