Alcohol-Induced Seizures: Can Drinking Cause Seizures?

Present reality without challenging or escalating the patient’s anxiety and thought disturbances. Build a therapeutic rapport with the patient by providing relief from his or her symptoms and meeting physiologic and safety needs. Meet the patient’s needs promptly to reduce the risk of violence or aggression. Do not approach the patient with loose items that the patient could grab if he or she becomes agitated, such as a clipboard or dangling ID badge or phone. Prevalence of at-risk or heavy alcohol use tends to be higher among adults actively seeking healthcare in the general population.

Drinking a Risk Factor for Epilepsy? – Medscape

Drinking a Risk Factor for Epilepsy?.

Posted: Fri, 04 Feb 2022 08:00:00 GMT [source]

Other problems that disturb neuronal activity in the brain, including alcoholism or alcohol withdrawal, Alzheimer’s disease, and brain inflammation. When you have a seizure due to alcohol, you are more likely to develop DTs. If it happens, it often starts about 3 to 5 days after your last drink.

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Sometimes, the seizure experienced involves all areas of the brain. These are called generalized seizures and there are a few different kinds of them. Focal seizures and their symptoms can be misdiagnosed as a different medical problem such as narcolepsy, migraine, or mental illness. When a seizure nears 5 minutes in duration, it becomes a medical emergency. Alcohol binds to the GABA receptors in the brain and alters the release and absorption of neurotransmitters. When there is too much GABA, the person begins to slur their speech, becomes fatigued, stumbles and trips. They also become anxious, have trouble sleeping, and run a far higher risk of seizures.

  • The emerging understanding of the neurobiology of alcohol withdrawal suggests additional treatment approaches.
  • Clearly, detoxification and withdrawal are best handled with the aid of medical professionals.
  • Thus, people who have experienced seizures provoked by binge drinking may begin to experience unprovoked epilepsy seizures regardless of alcohol use.
  • Some people may lose consciousness while others remain conscious.

If you or a loved one has a history of seizures or alcohol withdrawal, learning about the link between drinking and seizures is important. Detox is an inpatient setting with medical staff available at all times. You may be given anxiolytic and sedative medications to help overcome the anxiety and insomnia that is common with alcohol withdrawal. Drugs like benzodiazepines are often used to treat alcohol withdrawal, and they can also be used to taper you off alcohol. As a response to chronic alcohol misuse or abuse, your body will adapt by tilting your chemical balance toward more excitatory chemicals. Unconscious functions that your nervous system controls will also be affected.

Summary of evidence

Wallner M, Hanchar HJ, Olsen RW. Ethanol enhances α4β3δ and α6β3δγ-aminobutyric acid type A receptors at low concentrations known to affect humans. Lovinger DM, White G. Ethanol potentiation of 5-hydroxytryptamine3 receptor-mediated ion current in neuroblastoma cells and isolated adult mammalian neurons.

Although most people with alcohol-linked seizures experience them during withdrawal, others can get them while drinking heavily. Alcohol acts on receptors in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA receptors, which are closely linked to seizure risk. This creates a close connection between alcohol use and seizures.

Cellular Mechanisms of Alcohol Dependence

The long-term administration of anticonvulsants for uncomplicated ethanol withdrawal seizures is unnecessary and possibly dangerous. Some alcoholics abruptly withdraw from both alcohol and anticonvulsants, thereby increasing the risk of status epilepticus. Research has indicated that the severity of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal progressively increases over years of alcohol abuse. Repeated detoxes and relapses increase the likelihood of alcohol withdrawal seizures. This is known as the “kindling effect.” The kindling theory is that every withdrawal incident acts as an irritation to the brain. The accumulation of several of these incidents tends to lower the intensity needed for seizures.

Intravenous fluids may be necessary in patients with severe withdrawal because of excessive fluid loss through hyperthermia, sweating, and vomiting. Intravenous fluids should not be administered routinely in patients with less severe withdrawal, because these patients may become overhydrated. Focal seizures stem from abnormal electrical activity focused on one area of the brain. Some people may lose consciousness while others remain conscious. There are two different categories of seizures, and within the categories nestle several subcategories.


Insomnia is a common protracted withdrawal symptom that persists after the acute withdrawal phase of alcohol. Studies have found that magnesium or trazodone can help treat the persisting withdrawal symptom of insomnia in recovering alcoholics. The acute phase of the alcohol withdrawal syndrome can occasionally alcohol withdrawal seizure be protracted. Protracted delirium tremens has been reported in the medical literature as a possible but unusual feature of alcohol withdrawal. Compensatory upregulation of NMDA and kainate receptors as well as calcium channels also have been implicated in alcohol dependence and withdrawal seizures.

  • Before full-text screening, articles were flagged for secondary review by the principal investigator as needed.
  • Symptoms that you may experience in this stage include confusion, anxiety, irritability, and headache.
  • Further studies are needed to evaluate symptom-triggered benzodiazepine protocols in the ED.
  • Kindling is caused by the chronic use of drugs that cause GABA receptors’ downregulation.
  • To date, Executive Home Detox has not had a client develop seizures or DT’s during an alcohol detox.
  • At 12 to 48 hours following the last ethanol ingestion, the possibility of generalized tonic–clonic seizures should be anticipated, occurring in 3-5% of cases.

Dr. Maldonado’s research focuses primarily on solid organ transplantation, delirium, and neuropathophysiology of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. With aggressive prevention and recognition, mortality rates decrease to 1-4% . Complicated alcohol withdrawal syndrome is defined as withdrawal hallucinosis, withdrawal-related seizures, or delirium tremens. 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. While you’re in inpatient treatment, you may also be treated with IV fluid, which can help keep you hydrated through the withdrawal process.

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