Epilepsy and Alcohol: Can Alcohol Cause Epilepsy?

Written by Abby Doty

& Medically Reviewed by Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN

Medically Reviewed

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Last Updated - 4/25/2023

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Updated 04/25/2023

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes seizures. A seizure occurs when the nerve cells in the brain stop firing in certain patterns and begin firing together. This activity can cause several different symptoms, but the most commonly recognized one is convulsions of part, or all, of the body. A variety of conditions can cause seizures, including low blood sugar, head injuries and alcohol withdrawals. 

In epilepsy, the wiring of the brain causes seizures to occur randomly and without any other discernible reason. People who have epilepsy often wonder whether it is safe to drink alcohol. Several different factors can increase your risk of having seizures when you have epilepsy. Because alcohol affects the brain, there may be an increased risk of an epileptic seizure while drinking.

Can Alcohol Cause Epilepsy?

Research shows that people who use alcohol heavily may be at an increased risk of developing epilepsy. Typically, this risk is higher for those who drink large amounts of alcohol over a prolonged period. People who are moderate drinkers are not known to be more likely to develop epilepsy than others. Even those who drink heavily for a short period are not conclusively shown to be at a higher risk for epilepsy.

Alcohol-Related Seizures

While it takes a lot of alcohol over a prolonged period of time to increase the risk of epilepsy, alcohol use can still lead to an increased risk of seizures that are not caused by epilepsy. Seizures from drinking are most likely to occur as the effects of alcohol wear off. Alcohol withdrawal seizures are more common in those who have been binge drinking or are trying to stop using alcohol after prolonged use. Those who overdose on alcohol may also experience alcohol poisoning seizures as the toxins from alcohol build up in their bloodstream.

Can People with Epilepsy Drink Alcohol?

There are two important considerations when someone with epilepsy is considering using alcohol. First, those with epilepsy may be more likely to have a seizure while withdrawing from alcohol or using alcohol. The second consideration is the interactions between mixing alcohol and epilepsy medicine. These interactions can change the risk of an epileptic seizure and increase the risk of toxic amounts of epilepsy medication building up in their system. 

While those with epilepsy are at a higher risk of seizures while using alcohol, the degree of risk varies based on the amount of alcohol used. Someone who has epilepsy and wishes to use alcohol may be able to, but they should always speak with their doctor first to learn about the risks in their unique situation and how alcohol could affect their epilepsy.

Dangers of Mixing Epilepsy Medications with Alcohol

Mixing alcohol and epilepsy medication can be dangerous. Alcohol can interfere with epilepsy medication, making these medicines less effective and raising the risk of a seizure occurring. 

When alcohol and medications are mixed, it can also take the body longer to process both at the same time, leading to increased levels of alcohol and medication. This increases the risk of an alcohol overdose or having too much medicine in your body, potentially leading to side effects and creating toxic levels of medication.

How To Find Help for Alcohol Abuse in Ohio

Those who misuse alcohol will be at higher risk for seizures, especially if they have epilepsy. While cutting back on alcohol may be sufficient for decreasing this risk, people who misuse alcohol often find it almost impossible to simply reduce alcohol use and maintain this reduced intake. Stopping alcohol completely is often necessary.

If you have epilepsy, you should only attempt to detox from alcohol with medical assistance, as you are much more likely to have withdrawal seizures during the detox process. This will normally require a detox facility or rehab to ensure your medical safety.

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