“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.”
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There are other things that are helpful in order
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to remain seizure-free and improve your chances
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of having good control, and some of those things
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are simple lifestyle choices.
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We do counsel people to be careful
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in terms of how much alcohol that they drink.
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Your common wine, beer, cocktail,
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any of those things, in limited quantities
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For women, one equivalent in a 24-hour period,
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it's a glass of wine or one beer or one small cocktail.
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For men, two.
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Once beyond that, for a seizure patient,
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it can cause more problems.
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It can interfere with actually achieving
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the right amount of time in the deeper stages
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That predisposes and makes it easy then
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for that person to potentially have a seizure then
the next day.
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Alcohol can definitely cause seizures
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in people who don't have epilepsy.
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There's this magic level that causes problems
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for every individual.
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Under these more extreme circumstances
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of drinking binge amounts of alcohol
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and then suddenly stopping for several days
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can produce a seizure.
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The good news is that you don't need to be
on seizure medication.
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What you need to do is not binge-drink
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