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Alcohol Blackouts vs. Passing Out

June 13, 2014 by Kandiyohi County Drug Free Communities Coalition No Comments »

Shining a Light on Alcohol Blackouts

Blackout – Amnesia for places a person went or things they did while intoxicated; can involve spotty memory (fragmentary blackout, brownout, or grayout) or large missing chunks of time (en bloc blackout).

Blacking out vs. Passing out – Blacking out from alcohol implies that a person is awake and functioning but unable to create memories for events and actions. Passing out from alcohol implies a person is asleep or unconscious from drinking too much. The two states are quite different.

What does it mean when someone says they were “blackout drunk?” How does a blackout differ from “passing out” after drinking, and what are the possible dangerous effects of drinking enough to blackout?

Blackouts are periods of amnesia during which a person actively engages in behaviors like walking and talking but does not create memories for these events as they transpire. This results in missing periods of time in the person’s autobiographical record. Blacking out is quite different from passing out, which means either falling asleep from excessive drinking or literally drinking oneself unconscious.

All blackouts are not the same and are distinguished by the severity of the amnesia. The most common form of blackout involves spotty memories for events, with islands of memories separated by missing memories in between. This form often is referred to as a fragmentary blackout, a grayout, or a brownout. With this type of blackout, focusing on the islands of memories often helps cue recall for some, but not all, of the missing pieces. Full and complete amnesia often spanning hours  or more is known as an en bloc blackout. With this severe form of blackout, trying to fill in the missing pieces typically is fruitless. The memories were never formed and so no amount of digging will uncover them. They simply don’t exist.

It seems that alcohol produces blackouts by shutting down circuits that involve the hippocampus, a brain area which plays a central role in consolidating memories for what happens in our day-to-day lives. Information coming into the brain from the world around us is processed in various brain areas and then funneled to the hippocampus, which somehow weaves the information together into a running record of facts and events in our lives, a process called consolidation. By interfering with how these memory circuits work, alcohol creates a void in the record-keeping system.

During a blackout, the ability to remember things that happened before the blackout typically is spared. Because of this, even in the midst of a blackout, a person can carry on conversations and even tell stories about events that happened years ago or earlier in the evening while they were intoxicated but not yet in the blackout. Outside observers typically are unaware that an individual is in a blackout. Depending on how much alcohol the person drank and how impaired other brain functions are, a person in the midst of a blackout could appear incredibly drunk—or not overly intoxicated at all.

Anything a person can do while they are drunk and not blacked out they can do while they are blacked out—they just won’t remember it the next day. Depending on how impaired the brain regions involved in decisionmaking and impulse control are, the missing events could range from mundane behaviors, like brushing  teeth, to dangerous and traumatic events like driving a car, getting into a fight, or committing—or being the victim of— a sexual assault or other crime.

Blackouts are surprisingly common, particularly among younger drinkers. Across four waves of the Harvard College Alcohol Study, which spanned the 1990s, roughly 1 in 4 male and female students each year experienced a blackout—defined as not being able to remember places that they went or things they did while drinking. Smaller studies by researchers at Duke University report that roughly 1 in 10 male and female college students and recent high-school graduates experienced at least 1 blackout in the 2 weeks before being surveyed.

Research suggests that there are several factors that can increase one’s risk of  blacking out, in particular drinking in  ways that cause one’s blood alcohol  concentration (BAC) to rise quickly  and reach a high level. The BAC rises  quickly when lots of alcohol gets into  the bloodstream at once. This could  mean drinking on an empty stomach,  doing shots, chugging alcoholic  beverages, or all three. Being a female  is also a risk factor for several reasons.  Females are more likely to drink on an empty stomach than males, and they tend to drink beverages with higher  concentrations of alcohol than beer,  such as mixed drinks, shots, and wine. From a biological standpoint, they reach higher BACs than males after each drink as a result of differences in the amount of water in the body. In all cases, the best predictor that a drinker will black out is that they have blacked out before. Some people seem to be very susceptible to blackouts, whereas others are relatively resistant to the serious effects of alcohol on memory. Research with twins suggests that if one twin experiences blackouts the other is likely to experience them too, so it seems there is a genetic component to sensitivity to blackouts.

Blackouts aren’t necessarily a sign of a problem with alcohol, but they are always a reason for concern and should prompt a person to consider their relationship with alcohol.

For more information, see NIAAA’s fact sheet, “Alcohol Overdose: The Dangers of Drinking Too Much.” Available at:


Y’s Healthy Kids Day – April 22, 2014

April 13, 2014 by Kandiyohi County Drug Free Communities Coalition No Comments »

Get a Jump on Summer at Healthy Kids Day! Tuesday April 22 from 5-7:30pm. This FREE event is open to all children Pre-K through 6th grade. You do not have to be a member of the Y to attend.  Summer is a time of active play and exploration for kids, but for some kids exposure to activities that stimulate the body and mind ends with the school year.  As part of the Y’s commitment to strengthening our community, Healthy Kids Day encourages kids and parents to commit to keeping the body and mind active this summer. Healthy Kids Day is the Y’s national initiative to improve the health and well-being of families across the country.  Come enjoy the obstacle course, plant some flowers, learn about bike and water safety, read a book, watch a short video, enjoy a magician’s show, play games with the Willmar Stingers, learn about hand washing,teeth brushing, and more!

Come see us at our Booth – we will be giving away magnets, mood pencils, nail files  and two winners will receive a medication lock bag! Your child can put on ” Smoking Bugs Me” temporary tattoo and you can learn about our Prescription lock box in our community.  There are also two surveys that parents can fill out.  Here is a picture of the Medication lock bag that we are giving away ($19.99 value)!




February 21st Marks Great American Spit Out!

February 21, 2014 by Kandiyohi County Drug Free Communities Coalition No Comments »
February 21st Marks Great American Spit Out!
Smokeless tobacco is still tobacco: it’s addictive and causes cancer.

Nearly 8.9 million Americans aged 12 and older are current users of smokeless tobacco and 8.9 percent of American high school students report current use of smokeless tobacco. Using smokeless tobacco products can cause mouth cancer, gum disease, and tooth loss. It is also addictive. Smokeless tobacco products now contain warning labels on packaging.

Official 50th Anniversary of the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health Press Conference Set for Friday, January 17th

January 17, 2014 by Kandiyohi County Drug Free Communities Coalition No Comments »

Official 50th Anniversary of the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health Press Conference Set for Friday, January 17th 


CADCA is honored to join so many professionals, advocates, researchers and other tobacco control partners to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health that laid the foundation for tobacco control efforts in the U.S. A new report, “The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General,” will be released on Friday, January 17, 2014, at a press conference in Washington, D.C. at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time. Click here to view the live stream of the press conference.


New resources can be found on the Surgeon General’s website, including a podcast, “Clearing the Air”, with Cynthia Hallett, Executive Director of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, that stresses the urgency to clear the air of secondhand smoke so everyone is equally protected from the negative health effects caused by smoking in the workplace.


To help you promote the January 17 press event and the Hallett podcast, the CDC has prepared Twitter and Facebook posts you can use.  Feel free to modify these

to meet your specific needs.  The twitter hashtag for the event is #SGR50.


Twitter: Jan 16 – SGR50 Report Released

Learn more about progress in tobacco control over last 50 yrs with release of the #SGR50 report on January 16.


Twitter: Hallett Podcast

What can we do to protect everyone against the dangers of secondhand smoke? #SGR50 podcast “Clearing the Air.”


Facebook:  Jan 16 – SGR50 Report Released

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. On January 16, 2014, a new Surgeon General’s Report will be released that will present new information on the health consequences of smoking, and discuss what can be done to help end the tobacco epidemic in the United States.  Learn more:


Facebook Hallett Podcast

Check out our “Clearing the Air” podcast with Cynthia Hallett, Executive Director of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, as she talks about the urgency to clear the air of secondhand smoke so everyone is equally protected from the negative health effects caused by smoking in the workplace.


Details from January 8th Press Conference



It’s Been 50 Years Since the Surgeon General First Reported that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer

January 11, 2014 by Kandiyohi County Drug Free Communities Coalition No Comments »
It’s Been 50 Years Since the Surgeon General First Reported that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer


Fifty years ago today, on January 11, 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General reported for the very first time that smoking causes lung cancer in men and was a likely cause of lung cancer in women. In addition, the Surgeon General also reported that smoking likely caused chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which is known today as COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
In the 50 years since the Surgeon General first released this report, nearly 18 million people have died because of tobacco use and millions more have suffered from a disease caused by tobacco.

50 Years of Progress We also know that our collective efforts to fight tobacco are paying off. A new study from the Journal of the American Medical Associationfound that 8 million early deaths related to smoking from 1964–2012 have been prevented. That’s 8 million more mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sisters, sons and daughters who gained more years of life thanks to tobacco control efforts such as smokefree laws and campaign promotions designed to prevent kids from starting to smoke.


What’s Next? The fight against tobacco doesn’t end today. And it won’t end this year. There is still a lot of progress to be made, which is why we’re part of a coalition committed to reducing the smoking rate in America to less than 10% by 2024. This ambitious goal will only be attained with your help. Together, let’s make tobacco history.


Frequently-Asked Questions About E-Cigarettes

January 2, 2014 by Kandiyohi County Drug Free Communities Coalition No Comments »

Recently, many people have come to me with questions  about an emerging product on the market called e-cigarettes.  There has been a lot of confusion about  e-cigarettes, and most people have limited information gathered from  advertisements or word of mouth from friends. I have put together the most  frequently asked questions about e-cigarettes, along with the answers, to  inform communities with currently updated information.

What  is an e-cigarette?           An e-cigarette is a battery-powered nicotine delivery device  that contains a cartridge filled with what the manufacturers often call  “liquid”.  This “liquid” often includes  candy flavoring, nicotine, and chemicals to create a “vapor”.  Most e-cigarette companies offer cartridges  of differing nicotine levels, although no testing has been conducted to verify  those claims.

Are  e-cigarettes considered tobacco? The FDA has jurisdiction over tobacco products under the Family  Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, and has stated the intent  to regulate e-cigarettes as a tobacco product.

Are  e-cigarettes like using the nicotine patch or nicotine gum?  Can I stop smoking by using e-cigarettes? Using e-cigarettes to quit “smoking” isn’t the same thing  as quitting nicotine addiction.  Nicotine  replacement products like the patch or nicotine gum are designed for short-term  use with a tapering off period to help break nicotine addiction.  On the other hand, e-cigarettes are not  marketed for short-term use, or tapering to break nicotine addiction.
In 2010, the FDA sent a warning letter to some  e-cigarette manufacturers which marketed their e-cigarettes as smoking cessation  drugs.  The FDA stated that these  companies committed “violations of good manufacturing practices, making  unsubstantiated drug claims, and using the devices as delivery mechanisms for  active pharmaceutical ingredients1.”   The FDA further states that there is no way to know what level of  nicotine is in e-cigarette cartridges, or if they are even safe since they have  not been thoroughly tested.

What  is in e-cigarettes that makes “smoke” or “vapor”? The FDA has done some limited testing on e-cigarette  cartridges and reports that they contain various levels of nicotine (even in  products labeled as containing “no nicotine”) and chemicals that are heated by  an atomizer and turned into a vapor(2).  Although e-cigarette manufacturers claim that  the smoke is actually water vapor, this does not appear to be the case.

What  are your concerns about e-cigarettes? 1) E-cigarettes  are being marketed as a hip, young product with a variety of flavors and flashy  colors which clearly appeal to youth.

2) One  e-cigarette manufacturer, Blu, is using a cartoon character named “Mr. Cool” to  advertise their product.  They are also  sponsoring smoking sections at theme parks across the country, as well as  sponsoring music festivals where minors are likely to be in attendance.

Mr Cool

3) Some  e-cigarette companies attempt to market their products using a message of  “freedom”; however their products contain the addictive drug, nicotine, which  is hardly a representation of freedom.


4) The  marketing of e-cigarettes mirrors the way Big Tobacco marketed their cigarettes  in the past using candy flavoring and cartoon characters.






Happy New Year!

January 1, 2014 by Kandiyohi County Drug Free Communities Coalition No Comments »


The Kandiyohi County DFC Coalition wants to wish you and yours a fabulous 2014!




October 18, 2013 by Kandiyohi County Drug Free Communities Coalition No Comments »

 Kandiyohi County Parent Survey 2012-2013 Results 

The Kandiyohi County Parent Survey was administered to 747 Kandiyohi county parents from July 2012 to  July 2013 by the Kandiyohi County Drug Free Communities (DFC) Coalition. The survey was available in three languages (English, Spanish and Somali) as well as online and on paper anonymously.  Three percent of survey’s (22) were thrown out due to the respondent not living in Kandiyohi County. 

Questions #1-4 Geographic Location & Demographics

  • 63% of respondents lived in Willmar, 13% in Spicer and 11% in New London.
  • Parents with children in grades 9-12 were the most represented in this survey (82% had at least one child in these grades).

Question #5:  How much do you think youth (grades 7-12) risk harming themselves (physically or in other ways) if they    a. use tobacco   b. drink alcohol   c. use marijuana   d. misuse or overuse prescription drugs?

  •  Parents perceived drinking alcohol as having the highest risk, followed by using marijuana, misuse or overuse of prescription drugs and then the use of tobacco. Greatest Risk and Moderate risks responses were combined together.

Question #6: How many times have you provided ALCOHOL to any of your K-12 children?  Parents were not supposed to include sips for religious purposes in the count.    Four % of parents admitted to providing alcohol to their K-12 children. This is legal, but research says alcohol for anyone under the age of 25 is unhealthy for a child’s developing brain. For more info, visit:

Question #7: How many times have you provided ALCOHOL to an underage youth (not including your own)?     3% admitted to providing alcohol for underage children that are not their own (1.5% admitted to doing that 5+ times).  These parents can be cited under the Social Host Ordinance (SHO) and the coalition would like to see this number be a zero.  This ordinance makes it illegal to knowingly provide a space/place where you know underage drinking is taking place. Fines could be up to $1,000 and/or 30 days in jail.

Question #8: How many times have you allowed underage youth to drink ALCOHOL on your property (home, garage, etc.)?     5% admit to allowing underage youth to drink alcohol on their property. Again, these parents can be cited under the Social Host Ordinance and the coalition would like to see this number be a zero.

Question #9: Do you “lock-up” your ALCOHOL at home?

  • 75% of parents say they do NOT lock up their alcohol at home. This percent is not accurate because we did not include a response of “n/a – no alcohol in the home” if parents didn’t have alcohol in their home.  Parents who did not have any alcohol in their home commented so in the comment section and responded no to the question.

Question #10: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

  • 4.3 % of parents agreed that “Underage youth should be able to drink as long as they don’t drive afterwards”.
  • 4.1% of parents agreed that “It is ok for underage youth to drink at parties” and
  • 3.4% of parents agreed that “It is ok for parents to offer underage youth (other than their own) alcohol in their home”.

These questions are indicating that the majority of parents (about 96%) disagree with these statements, which is excellent.  This also indicates to us that we still need to inform parents of the dangers regarding these actions.

Question #11: Is there a Social Host Ordinance (SHO) in Kandiyohi County? 55% of respondents did not know the answer and 43% indicated that there was.  Kandiyohi County was the first county in the State of Minnesota to pass a county-wide SHO in August of 2007.

Question #12: Is there a Social Host Ordinance (SHO) in your city? 64% of respondents did not know the answer and 31% indicated that they had one in their city.  The cities of Willmar, New London, Spicer and Raymond have social host ordinances in place.

Question #13: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

  • Parents thought alcohol use by underage youth was the behavior “most acceptable” at 10.5% in their community.  Misuse or overuse of prescription drugs by underage youth was perceived as being the “least acceptable” at 4% in their community.

Question #14: Have you ever seen this logo?   

87% of parents recognized this as the logo for the SWAT (Students working against Alcohol, Tobacco and other drugs) Teams in the Willmar, NL-S, CMCS school districts. They work to educate their peers about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and a variety of other drugs.

Question #15: Would you like to have __________________ ?

  • 83% of parents would like the Kandiyohi County 4-day Fair 100% tobacco free
  • 79% would like to have Kandiyohi County Parks 100% tobacco free
  • 83% would like to have all city parks tobacco free
  • 83% would like to have all Kandiyohi County Beaches 100% tobacco free

Question #16: Would you like to have all Kandiyohi County Multi-Unit Housing (MUH) 100% SMOKE free?     85% of parents would like to have 100% smoke free multi-unit housing.  Many landlords are now moving to have smoke free MUH.  The Kandiyohi County DFC Coalition will be assisting those landlords who chose to go smoke free and assist them with the promotion and implementation of the policies.

Question #17 & 18: How harmful is marijuana and synthetic marijuana (K2/SPICE) use?

92.8 % of parents thought marijuana use was harmful and 88.9% thought that synthetic marijuana use was harmful. Very Harmful and harmful responses were combined. According to the Minnesota Student Survey (2010), the use of pot and Spice are rising among Kandiyohi County teens.

Question #19: Have you heard of the campaign: “Above the Influence”?    53% of parents said Yes and 47% no. This campaign empowers youth to be ‘above the influence’ of any drug.

Question #20: From your experience, do you think your doctor/dentist prescribes more pills than you need?

  • 82% of parents did NOT think their doctor/dentist prescribes more pills than they need.

Question #21: Have you seen this logo?   

This is the “Above the Influence” logo.  See Question 19

The Kandiyohi County Drug Free Communities (DFC) Coalition would like to say, “Thank you” to all the parents who took this survey and all of those who helped administer this survey.  Should you have any questions, please contact us at: or call us at (320) 231-7860 x2533.


October is Let’s Talk Month

October 10, 2013 by Kandiyohi County Drug Free Communities Coalition No Comments »

When parents are aware of the questions young people ask or want to ask the question, “Am I normal?” the teens are seeking reassurance as well as information.  Understanding this may ease parental discomfort when talking to their teens about sensitive issues like substance abuse.  Knowing how experts recommend talking with young people about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs can further alleviate parents’ uneasiness.  The experts say, be prepared to:

  • Listen more than talk.
  • Focus on behaviors, not persons
  • Negotiate and compromise, or at least consider other views.
  • Encourage an open exchange of ideas.
  • Foster the young person’s decision –making ability.
  • Encourage and receive questions.
  • Admit when you don’t know an answer, and then go find the answer.
  • Share your values and beliefs.
  • Explore each other’s feelings.
  • Show respect and agreement and support teens often.
  • Keep a sense of humor.
  • Be clear about your expectations and repeat them often.
  • Listen, Listen, Listen!

October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month

October 1, 2013 by Kandiyohi County Drug Free Communities Coalition No Comments »

Substance use, which includes underage drinking, significantly affects the health and quality of life for many communities. The Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center (UDETC) provides a variety of science-based, practical and effective training, and technical assistance services to support, enhance, and sustain States, Territories, and communities in their efforts to enforce underage drinking laws and prevent youth access to alcohol. The UDETC also offers a variety of tools, resources, and services for community leaders and concerned citizens to utilize that will enhance underage drinking prevention and enforcement efforts. As we support these efforts, we thank those who work diligently to prevent underage drinking.


To learn more about the UDETC and available resources, visit