Alcohol and seizures: What to know

Two commonly used tools to assess withdrawal symptoms are the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol Scale, Revised, and the Short Alcohol Withdrawal Scale. Patients with mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms without additional risk factors for developing severe or complicated withdrawal should be treated as outpatients when possible. Ambulatory withdrawal treatment should include supportive care and pharmacotherapy as appropriate.

  • It is unclear if symptom-triggered protocols are effective for use in EDs, especially in those without attached observational units that can support longer stays.
  • After a seizure, the brain is working very hard to get itself back under control.
  • Similarly, studies in rodents have shown that repeated alcohol withdrawal experiences increase the severity and duration of subsequent withdrawal seizures (85,86).
  • Stock and colleagues completed a randomized, double-blind controlled study in an outpatient setting where gabapentin was compared with chlordiazepoxide in 26 veterans (25 males and one female) with mild-to-moderate AWS [42].
  • When you suddenly stop using that substance, your body goes through withdrawal symptoms as it adjusts to the absence of the addictive substance; this is why alcohol and seizures have a relationship with one another.

The Kindling Effect refers to the phenomenon where each successive withdrawal from alcohol becomes more severe than the previous one, even if the alcohol consumption levels remain consistent. This is because the brain becomes more sensitive to the effects of alcohol withdrawal over time. For individuals with a history of multiple detox attempts, this can result in increasingly intense and dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including a higher risk of having an alcohol withdrawal seizure. At Journey Hillside, we’re acutely aware of the Kindling Effect and tailor our detox protocols to ensure the safety and well-being of those in our care. Lamotrigine has demonstrated preliminary efficacy in the treatment of co-occurring psychiatric disorders with alcohol dependence.

Medications to Ease Withdrawal Symptoms

It is also crucial during this time to develop a long-term strategy to prevent relapses and stay sober. After treatment, the patient should be referred to AA and urged to abstain from alcohol. For patients without support, a social worker should be involved to help facilitate addiction rehabilitation.

  • If your home environment is not supportive for staying sober, talk with your doctor.
  • Heavy drinking, particularly withdrawal from heavy drinking, may trigger seizures in those with epilepsy.

In line with results from animal studies, there is little evidence that carbamazepine prevents alcohol withdrawal seizures and delirium in humans, although it may be useful to treat alcohol craving (1). Similarly, phenytoin is not effective in protecting against the occurrence of seizures in withdrawing alcoholics (71,72). Valproate is protective against alcohol withdrawal convulsions in mice (73). The intravenous formulation is gaining acceptance in the clinical management of status epilepticus so that it could potentially be used in prophylaxis against alcohol withdrawal seizures. Increasing interest is expressed in the potential of gabapentin as a treatment for alcohol withdrawal (74–78) and of topiramate in alcohol dependence (79).

Don’t abuse alcohol.

If you decide to get treatment, your doctor can recommend the type of care that you need. Alcoholics tend to have nutritional deficiencies and thus should be provided with folic and thiamine supplements. Propofol is used to manage refractory cases of delirium tremens, and baclofen can be used to treat muscle spasms. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference.

can you get a seizure from alcohol withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal seizures typically occur 6 to 48 hours after discontinuation of alcohol consumption and are usually generalized tonic–clonic seizures, although partial seizures also occur (7,8). Gabapentin and carbamazepine appear to be the most promising NBAC agents for treating AWS, primarily as an adjunctive treatment to traditional benzodiazepines and/or in mild-to-moderate withdrawal of low-risk patients in outpatient settings. The evidence for use of NBACs to target heavy drinking in outpatient settings is stronger than the evidence for AWS, with most evidence being in support of topiramate and gabapentin. Pregabalin, an anticonvulsant that has been approved in Europe for treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, has also been studied for relapse prevention/harm reduction in AUDs. In an initial open-label 16-week trial of pregabalin (150–450 mg/day), ten of 20 patients receiving pregabalin remained alcohol-free at the end of the study—five relapsed, four dropped out, and one discontinued due to adverse effects.

How Alcohol Can Trigger A Seizure

Heavy, long-term alcohol use and withdrawal from alcohol can lead to seizures. Alcohol can also trigger seizures if you have epilepsy and often interacts poorly with anti-seizure medications. Our use of rapid review methodology may increase the chance of inaccuracies in our study assessments vis-à-vis a formal systematic review. Nonetheless, we employed a systematic search strategy and our trained reviewers applied rigorous, prespecified criteria for inclusion, extraction, and risk of bias assessments, which strengthen our approach. Furthermore, our findings contribute more rigorous evidence compared to those previously published in expert opinion articles and narrative reviews.

Rapid reviews are a pragmatic and resource-efficient approach to knowledge synthesis that remains scientific, transparent and reproducible [24]. The utility and importance of rapid reviews is recognized by the Cochrane Rapid Review Methods Group [25], and health policy institutions such as the World Health Organization and the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health [26, 27]. When the alcohol level suddenly drops, your brain stays in this keyed up state. Or contact us online to be connected with a compassionate intake specialist who can give you more information. Patients with a history of alcohol dependence may have confounding social or underlying psychiatric issues that one should also be aware of once they are stabilized.

Can Alcohol Trigger a Seizure?

Symptom-triggered protocols have been implemented in EDs with clinical decision units that can support longer stays, although patient outcomes have not been rigorously evaluated [33, 40]. One retrospective chart review suggested that a symptom-triggered protocol may decrease total doses of benzodiazepines administered, however, this finding would need to be replicated in a prospective, controlled why does alcohol withdrawal cause seizures study [40]. Adult patients (18 years and older) who presented to the ED with any clinical feature of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, as determined by criteria specified by study authors, e.g., Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol (CIWA) score. Few studies have evaluated the safety and efficacy of pharmacotherapies for alcohol withdrawal specifically in the ED setting.

  • Having access to medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, like benzodiazepines or anti-epileptic drugs, can be helpful.
  • Alcohol acts by stimulating receptors in your brain that cause brain activity to be suppressed.
  • When that depressant is removed, you may feel a sudden lack of its rewarding effects, leading to nervousness, insomnia, and anxiety.
  • These programs can monitor and provide treatment to avoid and alleviate symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

After a seizure, the brain is working very hard to get itself back under control. If you don’t already have a supportive network, you can make new connections by joining social media communities dedicated to alcohol-free living. Addiction can make it even harder to stop using alcohol, and it often involves or leads to chemical dependence. Alcohol works as a depressant on the central nervous system and alters the function of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors.

Alcohol and Seizure Risks

If a person has already been diagnosed with epilepsy, the risk of seizures is much higher with alcohol consumption. Binge drinking, heavy drinking, and other forms of alcohol abuse should be avoided. In fact, people suffering from chronic alcohol abuse increase their risk of developing seizures when they suddenly stop drinking. A study by The Recovery Village found heavy drinkers were 45% more likely than light or moderate drinkers to experience seizures during withdrawal and 73% more likely to have had a seizure in general.

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