“There’s this magic level that causes problems for every individual.”
If you have epilepsy, your doctor has probably already told you that alcohol is a trigger for seizures, and they may have cautioned you about safe drinking.
“It can interfere with actually achieving the right amount of [sleep] and the deeper stages of sleep, [which] predisposes and makes it easy … for that person to potentially have a seizure then the next day,” says Padmaja Kandula, MD, neurologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian.
How Alcohol Affects the Brain
Alcohol has many effects on the brain, acting on various receptors. When drinking is heavy, the central nervous system has to learn to adapt to the presence of alcohol, resulting in a higher tolerance level. This means your brain is learning to operate with—and depend on—the presence of alcohol.
A few hours after drinking stops and alcohol leaves the system, alcohol withdrawal can occur. This is when a seizure may happen. This could occur if someone with alcohol use disorder abruptly tries to quit drinking, or simply in the morning after binge-drinking.
FYI, experts define binge-drinking as more than five drinks for men and four drinks for women in a two-hour period.
Understanding Your Seizure Risk
It’s not just those with epilepsy who need to be aware of their alcohol intake. “Alcohol can definitely cause seizures in people who don’t have epilepsy,” says Dr. Kandula. “There’s a limit or threshold. There’s this magic level that causes problems for every individual.”
Because of the way alcohol affects the brain, Dr. Kandula particularly points to weekends as a risky time for triggering seizures. “People drink excessive amounts and then don’t drink anything for the next three or four days. That can cause a withdrawal feeling for the brain," she says.
“The good news is that you don’t need to be on seizure medication,” says Dr. Kandula. “What you need to do is not binge-drink alcohol anymore.”
Dr. Kandula is a neurologist specializing in seizures and epilepsy at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian in New York City.
00:00:00.867 --> 00:00:02.499
00:00:02.500 --> 00:00:04.866
There are other things that are helpful in order
00:00:04.867 --> 00:00:07.599
to remain seizure-free and improve your chances
00:00:07.600 --> 00:00:10.399
of having good control, and some of those things
00:00:10.400 --> 00:00:12.266
are simple lifestyle choices.
00:00:12.267 --> 00:00:16.266
00:00:16.267 --> 00:00:18.766
We do counsel people to be careful
00:00:18.767 --> 00:00:21.132
in terms of how much alcohol that they drink.
00:00:21.133 --> 00:00:23.199
Your common wine, beer, cocktail,
00:00:23.200 --> 00:00:26.699
any of those things, in limited quantities
00:00:26.700 --> 00:00:29.632
For women, one equivalent in a 24-hour period,
00:00:29.633 --> 00:00:33.366
it's a glass of wine or one beer or one small cocktail.
00:00:33.367 --> 00:00:34.999
For men, two.
00:00:35.000 --> 00:00:37.799
Once beyond that, for a seizure patient,
00:00:37.800 --> 00:00:40.066
it can cause more problems.
00:00:40.067 --> 00:00:41.899
It can interfere with actually achieving
00:00:41.900 --> 00:00:44.999
the right amount of time in the deeper stages
00:00:45.000 --> 00:00:47.866
That predisposes and makes it easy then
00:00:47.867 --> 00:00:50.866
for that person to potentially have a seizure then
the next day.
00:00:50.867 --> 00:00:53.832
Alcohol can definitely cause seizures
00:00:53.833 --> 00:00:56.366
in people who don't have epilepsy.
00:00:56.367 --> 00:00:59.099
There's this magic level that causes problems
00:00:59.100 --> 00:01:00.532
for every individual.
00:01:00.533 --> 00:01:03.799
Under these more extreme circumstances
00:01:03.800 --> 00:01:06.199
of drinking binge amounts of alcohol
00:01:06.200 --> 00:01:08.799
and then suddenly stopping for several days
00:01:08.800 --> 00:01:10.232
can produce a seizure.
00:01:10.233 --> 00:01:13.766
The good news is that you don't need to be
on seizure medication.
00:01:13.767 --> 00:01:17.399
What you need to do is not binge-drink
00:01:17.400 --> 00:01:19.533