Can Alcohol (or Withdrawal) Trigger a Seizure?

Alcohol is so commonly used in society that people tend to forget the many serious side effects it can have. Alcohol can affect essentially every part of your physical and mental health over time, yet the symptoms can be overlooked.

One relationship people frequently wonder about is the one between alcohol and seizures. Can alcohol (or withdrawal) trigger a seizure?

Below more information is provided on the various things to know about the relationship between alcohol and seizures. There are a couple of different concepts to consider when addressing the subject of alcohol and seizures. First, there’s the topic of whether or not alcohol can cause seizures when you’re drinking, or if it can make conditions like epilepsy worse. There’s also the idea of whether or not alcohol withdrawal can trigger seizures.

Article at a Glance:

  • Drinking alcohol in small amounts generally does not trigger seizures, but seizures can result from alcohol withdrawal.
  • People who drink in moderation are not likely to experience seizures.
  • Binge drinking can cause seizures in people, even for individuals who do not have epilepsy.
  • Alcohol withdrawal seizures can occur within a few hours or up to 72 hours after stopping drinking.
First, if you’re wondering can alcohol (or withdrawal) trigger a seizure, the answer with general drinking in small amounts is no, and with withdrawal is yes.

If you drink in moderation you’re not likely to experience seizures, and you’re also probably not going to have alcohol withdrawal symptoms if you stop drinking, so you wouldn’t have to worry about experiencing withdrawal-related seizures.

Researchers currently don’t believe there’s an increased risk of seizures or epilepsy in people who have two drinks or less a day. However, if you drink larger amounts or chronically abuse alcohol, the risk of seizures may go up.

Binge drinking, however, can cause seizures even in people not previously diagnosed with epilepsy. 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, alcohol toxicity and metabolic changes caused by alcohol. Even if you’re not a chronic drinker, in some cases if you binge drink you may also experience withdrawal seizures.

If you already have been diagnosed with epilepsy unrelated to alcohol, you might want to know the potential relationship between alcohol and seizures. If you have epilepsy and even if you’re on medicine for the condition and you occasionally drink moderate amounts, you will probably be okay. Research has shown that having the occasional drink isn’t going to increase seizure activity, and small amounts of alcohol also don’t change the amount of your seizure medicine that’s concentrated in your blood.

However, some seizure medicines may react strangely with alcohol, or they may lower your tolerance for alcohol, so speak to your doctor about the medicines that you’re taking.

Medicines for epilepsy and seizures are called anti-epileptic drugs or AEDs, and they can not only weaken your tolerance but if you drink too much, the alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of your medicine. Some medicines may respond more negatively to drinking, which is why you should always make sure you’re discussing this with your physician.

Something else to consider with alcohol and seizures, and more specifically seizure medicines, is the fact that if you do have epilepsy and you drink, you may miss a dose of your medication inadvertently which could trigger a seizure.

If you have seizures or epilepsy, you’re advised to avoid binge drinking and to make sure that you keep control of drinking if you do have alcohol. Drinking in moderation is typically defined as having no more than one drink a day for women, and no more than two for men, and this is in line with what is believed to be a safe amount for people with seizures or epilepsy to have without risking more seizure activity or interactions with medication.

Earlier, the question “can alcohol (or withdrawal) trigger a seizure?” was mentioned. And the answer is yes, alcohol withdrawal can absolutely trigger a seizure and in fact, chronic, long-term alcohol abuse significantly increases the risk for developing seizures and epilepsy than non-drinkers or moderate drinkers.

Related Topic: How to wean off alcohol

Withdrawal seizures can begin within just a few hours after stopping drinking, or it can take up to around 72 hours. Withdrawal is something that happens when your body has become dependent on the presence of drugs or alcohol. When you suddenly stop using that substance, your body goes into a type of shock, and this is why alcohol and seizures have a relationship with one another. If you are dependent on alcohol, it’s important to participate in a medically-supervised alcohol detox program, which can help alleviate the risk of the situation.

So, can alcohol (or withdrawal) trigger a seizure?

There are a few things to know here, briefly to sum up the facts on this topic.

First, moderate drinking on its own isn’t likely to trigger a seizure, whether you have epilepsy or not. With that being said, if you do have epilepsy and you’re on medication to treat it, speak with your doctor about the use of alcohol, because alcohol and anti-seizure medicines may interact with one another.

Withdrawal from alcohol and seizures, however, are two things that have a relationship with one another. If you’re dependent on alcohol, you may have a seizure during withdrawal, or you could develop epilepsy.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. 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 provider.

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