Epilepsy and Alcohol: Triggers and Safe Drinking

alcohol and epilepsy

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  • Long-term alcohol misuse can increase the risk of developing epilepsy.
  • About 5 percent of people detoxing from alcohol abuse will have alcohol withdrawal seizures as part of the process of quitting drinking.
  • If you are especially sensitive to either your AED or alcohol, it may be best to avoid drinking while taking that particular medication.
  • Alcohol acts on the brain through several mechanisms that influence seizure threshold.
  • People with epilepsy who drink alcohol may also be less likely to adhere to their medication schedule.

The more you drink, especially in a short period of time, the greater your risk of alcohol poisoning. In smaller amounts, the average sufferer does not need to worry about their epilepsy and alcohol. If however there is a known family history of this type of disorder or that person is already taking prescribed medication then there may https://sober-house.org/ be much more of a risk than normal. For the safe amount of ethanol in cases such as this be sure to consult a doctor. If you have any doubts about epilepsy and alcohol, speak to your medical team for more advice. It is also worthwhile to speak with your pharmacist to find out whether you can drink alcohol with your anti-epilepsy drugs.

Seizure triggers

This can sometimes be one of the symptoms seen in patients who drink heavily. As mentioned above, the general and moderate consumption of spirits has not been shown to result in alcohol-related seizures. Most cases where patients are seen to suffer an alcohol-induced seizure are due to massive over-use such as binge drinking. Convulsions can be brought on by either drinking heavily or withdrawal from heavy drinking. Heavy alcohol use can lead to seizures, especially when you stop drinking and start to enter a period of withdrawal. However, if you have a seizure disorder or epilepsy, you also face risks when drinking alcohol—both from the increased risk of seizure activity and potential interactions with seizure medications.

The most direct way alcoholism can cause seizures is during withdrawal, which is when an alcoholic stops drinking. To simplify, alcohol relaxes your brain, which makes seizures less likely. But when people who drink a lot suddenly stop, their brain suddenly becomes much more active. That can trigger a seizure – usually within 6-48 hours after stopping drinking. Some people seem to be more prone to having seizures during alcohol withdrawal. It doesn’t necessarily mean they will go on to develop epilepsy, which is where you have two or more unprovoked seizures.

The term “alcoholic epilepsy” has been used with varying definitions in different investigations. It is suggested that a uniform definition be adopted so as to minimize confusion when comparing data from different laboratories. However, epileptic patients should be warned about the possible adverse effects of alcohol, especially those who have refractory forms of epilepsy. Except for a few anomalous cases, evidence for the direct seizure-provoking effect of alcohol is not strong. Because seizures are a symptom and not a disease, it is often difficult to distinguish epileptic seizures from alcohol-withdrawal seizures. Patients with only the latter kind of seizures should not need chronic antiepileptic medication.

alcohol and epilepsy

These individuals or groups may be helpful as you and your family learn about the risks of drinking alcohol. Alcohol can affect how the brain works, and for people with epilepsy, it can increase the eco sober house complaints chances of a seizure. On MyEpilepsyTeam, the social network and online support group for people with epilepsy and their loved ones, members have discussed alcohol, epilepsy, and seizure triggers.

Epilepsy Medication

Amongst these lifelong implications is an increased risk of alcohol-induced seizures. When a patient drinks heavily and suffers this drop in blood sugar, it can lead to feelings of faintness as well as spasms. Alcohol may also cause the dehydration and avitaminosis, which are likely to result in more severe disorders like Wernicke-Korsakoff disease.

Alcohol can make epilepsy medication less effective or make the side effects of medication worse. The patient information leaflet that comes with your AEDs may say whether you can drink alcohol with that AED. Sometimes alcohol withdrawal seizures can develop into status epilepticus.

Alcohol poisoning is an emergency

Alcohol can affect the rate at which certain medications are absorbed by the body. Even when the person is unconscious or stops drinking, the stomach and intestines continue to release alcohol into the bloodstream, and the level of alcohol in the body continues to rise. It’s not necessary to have all the above symptoms before seeking medical help. A person with alcohol poisoning who has passed out or can’t wake up could die.

  • Sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is twice as common in people with epilepsy who are also alcohol dependent.
  • Those who are exposed to it during pregnancy can go on to suffer from a wide range of difficulties from physical to mental and emotional.
  • The sleep-wake cycle has links to changes in hormonal and electrical activity in the brain, and sleep deprivation may trigger seizures.
  • It also disrupts sleep patterns which can be a common trigger for seizures.
  • Other times it’s easy to recognize and may be a change in feeling, sensation, thought, or behavior that is similar each time a seizure occurs.
  • They can help you get to a safe place where you don’t risk falling and hitting your head or injuring yourself.

Furthermore, seizures seemed particularly likely if the participants did not regularly drink that much alcohol. It’s the period of time from the first symptoms (including an aura) to the end of the seizure activity, This correlates with the electrical seizure activity in the brain. Sometimes the visible symptoms last longer than the seizure activity on an EEG. This is because some of the visible symptoms may be aftereffects of a seizure or not related to seizure activity at all. Treatment for partial seizures with no known cause or those due to brain structure abnormalities may include antiseizure medications. Avoiding common or personal triggers for partial seizures may help reduce their occurrence.

Can a person die from an alcohol-related seizure?

Epilepsy Society and any third party cannot be held responsible for any actions taken as a result of using this service. Any references made to other organisations does not imply any endorsement by Epilepsy Society. Triggers are situations that can bring on a seizure in some people with epilepsy.

However, people with epilepsy may be more likely to have seizures while going through alcohol withdrawal. For those that may already be suffering from the emotional effects of alcohol, it will be important to know more about the alcoholic seizures. Seizures are what happens when there is a problem in the brain resulting in excess of electrical activity.

For example, some craft beers may have four times the amount of alcohol that’s in a regular beer. Be aware of the alcohol content of what you’re drinking and adjust how much you drink based on this knowledge. Unlike food, which can take hours to digest, the body absorbs alcohol quickly — long before most other nutrients.

Certain medications

By making sensible choices about epilepsy and alcohol, you could possibly enjoy a drink without worrying about the consequences. Over half of those with alcohol withdrawal seizures may have repeat seizures, and up to 5% of cases may lead to status epilepticus. The authors report that over 90% of alcohol withdrawal seizures occur within 48 hours after the last drink. According to older research, alcohol consumption may have a causal relationship with seizures, and people who drink 200 g or more of alcohol daily may have up to a 20-fold increase in seizure risk. In some cases, excessive alcohol consumption may lead people to miss meals or medication, which can also make seizures more likely in people with epilepsy.

Over 50% of alcohol withdrawal seizures may relate to additional risk factors, such as preexisting epilepsy, structural brain lesions, or drug use. When seizures do happen as a result of alcohol, they occur within six to 72 hours after drinking. They do not generally happen while a person is drinking, or even within a few hours of stopping. For this reason, if you do choose to drink, it’s important that you pay attention to your seizure activity for up to three days afterward.

If you are going somewhere where you think people will be drinking heavily, you might want to bring your own non-alcoholic drinks so you can still take apart without risking having a seizure. While it is important to be aware of the risks, research shows that most people with epilepsy can drink a small amount of alcohol without any serious danger. You will of course want to check with your doctor and read the leaflet inside your anti-epilepsy medication, but an occasional beer, glass or wine or spirit is normally fine.

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