Seizures And Alcoholism

About 1% of Arizona residents have epilepsy, and 15.8% of adults in Arizona participate in excessive drinking. When it comes to seizures and alcoholism, how do these two relate? For those who are managing seizure disorders, does alcohol consumption impact them? If you regularly drink alcohol, can you develop a seizure-related condition? 

At Pinnacle Peak Recovery, we strive to offer educational information to everyone in our community, clients, and beyond. The importance of having access to accurate and informative pieces relating to substance use can help people make informed decisions regarding their health. 

How Should I Manage Alcohol if I Have Seizures or Epilepsy?

The average adult drinks 2.25 gallons of alcohol a year. Any sort of substance consumption can potentially interact with other substances in your system, including prescription medications. Many times your medication will have instructions regarding alcohol consumption while taking the medication. In the case of those taking seizure medications, it’s important to know how alcohol can potentially interact with your prescriptions and in return, how it can impact you. 

In most cases, small amounts of alcohol will not impact your prescription. This can vary depending on your specific medication, so if you’re unsure, it’s important to contact your doctor. Regardless, if you realize you drank some alcohol while on a prescription, you shouldn’t stop taking the medication – especially in the case of seizure management. 

While alcohol consumption on its own does not directly correlate to seizures in an individual, those with epilepsy or other seizure-related conditions should drink lightly overall. Some people say that while they’re on their medication they can feel the effects of alcohol faster, so drinking in moderation is important. Additionally, there have been cases of people being at higher risk for seizures after 3 drinks if they already have a predisposition for seizures. 

Alcohol Use Disorder as a Trigger for Seizures

Seizures and alcohol can be related, but this primarily comes from the withdrawal and detox process from long-term alcohol consumption, or even after heavy binge drinking. With any substance that’s regularly in your system, your body will adapt and adjust to its impact on your system. While this doesn’t lessen the damage it can cause, it does mean that your body can become accustomed to the presence of this substance as a part of its daily working structure. When you then remove that substance from your body, it can start to go into withdrawal as a reaction to the lack of that substance. 

In the case of alcohol consumption, especially in the case of alcohol use disorders, withdrawals can be very uncomfortable and even life-threatening, with symptoms such as seizures and hallucinations having the chance to occur. For those with seizure disorders, a higher risk of these symptoms is present during alcohol withdrawals

Binge Drinking and Alcohol Seizures

Almost 10% of people in the world will experience one seizure in their lifetime. While having a seizure doesn’t mean you will develop epilepsy, studies show that those who experience seizures and don’t already have epilepsy could be at higher risk for developing it in the future.

A seizure occurs when the messages being passed through the brain are suddenly interrupted due to an electrical disturbance. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it primarily impacts and slows down the central nervous system. The central nervous system is in charge of messages being carried throughout the body. As your system adjusts to alcohol regularly being in it, this can alter how the messages in your body travel around. Suddenly stopping alcohol use could disrupt this system and trigger one or multiple seizures. Normally alcohol withdrawal-related seizures only appear within the first 72 hours of detox, which starts as soon as 6 hours after the last drink is consumed. 

In addition, binge drinking can trigger seizures during withdrawal or detox, even for those who don’t have a history of long-term alcohol use. Binge drinking can still lead to withdrawal, as withdrawal can stem from the body adjusting to a reduction in alcohol after a period of heavy use. 

The Risk Associated With Alcohol-Related Seizures

Seizures can cause a variety of symptoms and can range in intensity from mild to severe. Seizures can also cause uncontrollable twitching, loss of awareness, and more. Are alcohol seizures any different? What risks do you need to be aware of with alcohol-related seizures?

The longer your time of alcohol consumption, or the more times you’ve experienced withdrawal or seizures, the higher risk you are when it comes to future seizures. Brain damage and  other potential complications can occur. Here are some of the other long-term effects of alcohol use in addition to seizures and epilepsy:

  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiomyopathy (the stretching and drooping of heart muscles)
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Pneumonia
  • Hypertension
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Fibrosis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Higher risk of cancer

Alcohol Seizures and Brain Damage

Long-term alcohol consumption can increase your risk of developing dementia and other learning or memory-related developments. In addition, regular or excessive alcohol consumption can lead to mental health concerns such as depression or anxiety. 

One condition that can occur during withdrawal or detox is status epilepticus. That is when a seizure lasts for more than five minutes, or when multiple seizures are had without time for recovery in between. This is something that should be medically addressed or it could lead to brain damage or even death.

How to Help Someone Having a Seizure

If you notice someone having a seizure, there are ways you can help them. Seizures usually do not require immediate, emergency medical assistance. There are exceptions to this, however. In the case of alcohol withdrawal or detox, calling for medical assistance can be imperative to help the person safely get through their withdrawal as other symptoms can pop up during this time or afterward.

If any of these additional things occur, you should call 911:

  • The person has difficulty breathing or walking after the seizure
  • The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes
  • The person has another seizure shortly after the first one
  • The person has other health concerns like heart disease or is pregnant

Stay with the person until the seizure ends. It’s important to NOT try to hold them down or put anything in their mouth. You can help them by easing them to the floor or turning them gently onto their side. Try to make sure the area around them is clear so they’re less likely to hurt themselves. Putting something soft or flat under their head and removing eyeglasses can help reduce potential injury as well. Make sure to time the seizure. Anything that lasts longer than 5 minutes is considered status epilepticus and can require emergency medical assistance. 

Getting Professional Help for Alcohol Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one is looking to start the journey of recovery from alcohol use disorder, Pinnacle Peak Recovery is here and ready to help. We offer every step of the process, from alcohol detox to inpatient and outpatient, in order to make sure you receive the best care possible during recovery. We offer a safe, family-feel in our facility, surrounded by medical, licensed professionals who care about you. We even offer dual-diagnosis treatments for those who are managing both a substance use disorder and a mental illness. 

If you want to learn more about alcohol use disorder or our treatment options, don’t hesitate to give us a call today at 866-377-4761. We’re here and ready to help.

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FAQs About Seizures and Alcoholism

Can you die from an alcohol-induced seizure?

During withdrawal from alcohol, a person can experience seizures. Sometimes these seizures can last longer than 5 minutes, or occur one after the other. These types of seizures are known as status epilepticus and can lead to brain injury or death.

What is an alcohol withdrawal seizure?

Alcohol impacts the central nervous system. When someone goes through withdrawal after their body has adjusted to regular alcohol consumption, this can shock the system, which can cause seizures. 

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

It’s important to time the seizure. Seizures that last longer than 5 minutes require medical assistance, or seizures that occur one after the other. Do NOT hold someone down while they’re having a seizure. Make sure the area around them is clear and put something flat under their head to help prevent injury. 

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