Based on his statements before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Brett Kavanaugh appears to think that passing out from drinking and being blacked out is the same.
When asked by Rachel Mitchell, the Republicans’ hired-hand prosecutor, if he has ever passed out from drinking, the Supreme Court nominee said he had gone to sleep but never blacked out.
“Passed out would be…no. But I’ve gone to sleep. But…but I’ve never blacked out,” Kavanaugh replied. “That’s the…allegation, and that…that’s wrong,” he said.
This idea of alcohol-induced blackout, however, is not always correct according to experts.
In an interview with WBUR, Boston University School of Public Health’s Department of Community Health Sciences chair Richard Saitz said that while many people confuse the idea of blackout with someone who had so much drink they are unarousable and does not know what is going on, it is not always the case.
A blackout occurs when a person does not remember what happened. A person may appear completely awake, but it is not easy to tell if the person is in the midst of not forming a memory. Saitz said that drinking a substantial amount of alcohol quickly may result in a blackout.
When asked if blackout could explain the differences in Kavanaugh and his sexual assault accuser Christine Blasey Ford’s testimonies, Saitz said it is possible that Kavanaugh was heavily drunk at the time of the incident that he might have a blackout that left him with a memory gap.
“It’s plausible that if he were drinking heavily and rapidly that he might have a blackout. So it’s possible he might have no recollection of what happened,” Saitz said.
Ford claimed that Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge was with them in the room during the alleged assault. Saitz said that if Judge was also drinking heavily and also had a blackout, he too would not remember the incident.
Other experts also refute the idea that blackout drinking is the same as passing out from alcohol.
University of Pennsylvania psychologist Reagan Wetherill said that by definition, people who have had alcohol-induced blackouts have retained consciousness.
“A person in a blackout is conscious and interacting with their environment,” Wetherill told Philly.com.
Wetherill explained that alcohol can impact brain regions involved in creating new memories. Drinkers may be able to participate in events including emotionally charged ones that they would not be able to remember later. These people may have partial amnesia, wherein they can remember some details of an event but not the others, or a complete loss of memory.