Author: Charles Frank

Alcohol and Seizures Can Alcohol or Withdrawal Trigger a Seizure?

alcohol seizures

Seizures can also disrupt the oxygen supply to the brain, potentially leading to permanent brain damage. The relationship between alcohol use/abuse and degeneration of the brain is a contentious issue. If you have epilepsy, consult your physician for more information on the approach to alcohol that is right for you. Additionally, if a seizure cannot be stopped or multiple seizures occur in rapid succession, it could result in permanent injury or prove fatal.

alcohol seizures

Seizures are different for everyone; however, seizures can often be predicted right before they occur by a phenomenon called an aura. An aura is different for everyone and can include a visual disturbance, a smell, a taste or even a strong emotional feeling. Auras occur right before a seizure and can help someone with a history of seizures know that a seizure is about to happen. Another 4.5 per cent of this population will be diagnosed with epilepsy by the age of 80. Alcohol seizures may share symptoms with seizures that are not linked to alcohol. This section answers some frequently asked questions about alcohol and seizures.

Status Epilepticus

Many medications can help prevent seizures; however, these are only used in those with epilepsy or who are likely to have seizures. Seizure medicine requires a prescription, and doctors do not typically prescribe them to people who think they may have seizures from drinking. People who use alcohol often wonder if alcohol can cause seizures and what the risks are. Alcohol can cause seizures; however, seizures from alcohol use are most likely to occur during alcohol withdrawal. A 2017 review found that a history of alcohol misuse increased the risk of post-traumatic epilepsy in people with traumatic brain injury. Unprovoked seizures that occur more than 48 hours after a person’s last drink may be due to another cause, such as head injury or withdrawal from other drugs.

  1. Seizures may occur in around 5% of people with alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
  2. While a seizure may not damage the brain, it can make someone suddenly fall and be unable to catch themselves.
  3. If you are conscious during an alcohol withdrawal seizure, you may experience repetitive, uncontrolled movements of part or all of your body.
  4. The young person can come to a youth station alone or together with the parents.
  5. The timeframe will be different for everyone, but seizures will normally start within the first 72 hours.

The person’s muscles may become stiff, and they may arch their back or extend their limbs. Some people experiencing an alcohol seizure may exhibit uncontrolled movements of the arms, legs, or other body parts. Not everyone who consumes alcohol will experience seizures upon withdrawal. While cirrhosis scars from excessive drinking are irreversible, quitting alcohol and leading a healthier lifestyle can help your liver heal from alcohol-related liver disease.

What to do if someone has a seizure from alcohol withdrawal?

Those with an underlying health risk for seizures, a history of diabetes or who have experienced alcohol withdrawal seizures are most at risk. Most people who drink lightly or even moderately are at low risk of alcohol withdrawal seizures. Treating alcohol seizures often involves addressing underlying alcohol-related problems, such as alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder (AUD). This may involve various interventions, including counseling, psychotherapy, support groups, and substance abuse treatment programs tailored to the individual’s needs.

The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers. Developing a tolerance for alcohol has a direct impact on the central nervous system. For abusers, the cessation of drinking can significantly increase the seizure threshold. There is no definitive cutoff for what amount of alcohol you have to drink to experience withdrawal symptoms that increase the risk of seizures. As a general rule, the longer you have been drinking over time and the more you drink, the higher your risk for developing withdrawal symptoms, which may include seizures.

Prompt treatment of alcohol withdrawal seizures is recommended to prevent status epilepticus. During the detoxification process, primary and secondary preventative measures can be taken. A meta-analysis of randomised, placebo-controlled trials for the secondary prevention of seizures after alcohol withdrawal showed lorazepam to be effective, whereas phenytoin was ineffective. Because withdrawal seizures do not recur if the patient remains abstinent, long-term administration of antiepileptic drugs is unnecessary in abstinent patients. The treatment of alcohol dependence is more important and should be prioritised before the prevention of further seizures. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals.

An alcohol withdrawal seizure may feel like a loss of consciousness which you are slow to wake up from. If you are conscious during an alcohol withdrawal seizure, you may experience repetitive, uncontrolled movements of part or all of your body. Prior to the seizure, you may also experience an “aura,” consisting of an unusual visual change, smell, taste, or sound caused by abnormal brain activity. Long-term alcohol use can increase your risk of developing epilepsy, a condition where you are prone to having seizures.

alcohol seizures

Binge drinking refers to a scenario where you drink a lot in a short period of time, and the seizures related to binge drinking can stem from withdrawal. Even if you’re not a chronic drinker, in some cases, you may also experience withdrawal seizures after binge drinking. Binge drinking can cause alcohol withdrawal seizures in people, even for individuals who do not have epilepsy. In people with epilepsy, drinking three or more drinks may increase the risk of seizures. Alcohol can cause seizures, mainly in individuals susceptible to alcohol withdrawal seizures or alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Alcohol withdrawal seizures may ensue when you abruptly stop or significantly reduce your alcohol intake after drinking for a long time.

The risk and extent of brain damage related to alcohol seizures can vary among individuals. Factors such as the frequency, severity, and duration of seizures, individual susceptibility, overall health, and other co-existing conditions can influence the potential for brain damage. These alcohol seizures usually occur within 2 days after you stop consuming alcohol. They can manifest as generalized tonic-clonic seizures or grand mal seizures. They involve loss of consciousness, muscle rigidity, and convulsions and can be potentially deadly. Binge drinking and alcohol withdrawal together can cause seizures, even in people not previously diagnosed with epilepsy.

Alcohol Seizures and Brain Damage

Status epilepticus requires immediate medical intervention to prevent severe complications, including brain damage and death. Some studies have shown that alcoholism, or chronic abuse of alcohol, is linked with the development of epilepsy in some people. This research suggests that repeated alcohol withdrawal seizures may make the brain more excitable.

Kindling Seizures

We aim to raise public awareness and improve education through publications, conferences, outreach initiatives and our website. Alcohol works as a depressant on the central nervous system and alters the function of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. Inhibitory neurotransmitters prevent certain chemical messages from passing on. Prozac withdrawal can be an unfortunate side effect after using this popular SSRI. Cyanosis, or bluish skin discoloration, may occur during the seizure due to inadequate oxygenation.

Find an Epilepsy Specialist

Drinking impacts GABA receptors, which have a relaxing influence on the brain. Most of the time, because drinking enhances GABA’s effects, the brain is even more relaxed than normal. When the nervous system is overly depressed, it can lead to conditions that increase the likelihood of seizures when large amounts of alcohol are used. Studies(1) show that persons who regularly consume large amounts of alcohol can increase their risk of seizures by abruptly reducing or discontinuing consumption (withdrawal seizures). This drastic change in habit also increases the risk of developing epilepsy three-fold. Over 50% of alcohol withdrawal seizures may relate to additional risk factors, such as preexisting epilepsy, structural brain lesions, or drug use.