There is a complicated link between drinking and seizures. Most alcohol-related seizures happen within the first two days of withdrawal, but heavy drinkers can experience them at any time. Depending on the type of seizure and what its root cause is, it can be treated or completely eradicated.
It is never the wrong time to move toward quitting alcohol or substance use and striving to live a more fulfilling and healthy life. The road to sobriety can be dangerous and you may face health complications such as seizures, but Crestview Recovery’s trained and compassionate staff are experts at making the journey easier.
Learning about the link connecting seizures and alcohol is important for you or a loved one who may have a history of alcohol withdrawal or seizures. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction Crestview Recovery has addiction treatment programs in Portland that can help!
Can Alcohol Cause You to Have a Seizure?
Seizures are sudden changes in the brain’s electrical activity that can affect how a person feels or acts. Alcohol acts on brain receptors called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA receptors) which are directly linked to seizure risk. Alcohol can trigger seizures in some people, particularly those who are epileptic, have a long and sordid history of alcohol abuse, or those with other underlying health issues that make them seizure-prone.
Unprovoked and recurrent seizures are a disorder known as epilepsy. Epileptics are at a higher risk of suffering seizures when they drink alcohol, particularly if they drink too fast or too much. Alcohol affects blood sugar levels and sleeping, which increases the likelihood of seizures in epileptics even higher.
How Much Alcohol Will Cause a Seizure?
Both epileptic and non-epileptic people can suffer alcohol-related seizures, depending on how much they drink and how frequently. Epileptics are at a higher risk, especially if they drink too much too fast, skip meals, or forget to take their medication. Alcohol can also reduce the effect of epilepsy medication.
Chronic alcohol abuse in people without epilepsy could lead to withdrawal seizures or the development of epilepsy. You can prevent alcohol withdrawal seizures by drinking responsibly. We provide alcohol rehab in Portland to help get you on the right path toward sobriety.
Alcohol Withdrawal Seizures
Over-consumption of alcohol increases the risk of seizures, but almost all alcohol-related seizures happen during withdrawal or detox. Seizures related to alcohol withdrawal will most likely happen within the first 12 to 48 hours.
Alcohol withdrawal is a situation where someone who has been drinking heavily and consistently for a long time suddenly stops or reduces their intake of alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal can be accompanied by various side effects such as tremors, sweating, hallucinations, anxiety, and in some cases, seizures. Seizures related to alcohol withdrawal are triggered by overstimulation of the CNS and sudden changes in brain chemistry. Withdrawal seizures, however, do not usually recur and are not related to epileptic seizures.
Side effects, such as seizures, are why it’s important to complete a medical detox program in Oregon, rather than quitting on your own. In a detox program, residents are closely monitored and treated for withdraw symptoms.
Will I Have a Seizure If I Stop Drinking?
Though it is not a guarantee, alcohol withdrawal seizures can happen, and those who have been consistently heavy drinkers are at higher risk of suffering them. People with diabetes, people who have experienced alcohol withdrawal-related seizures before, and people with underlying health risks for seizures are at the most risk. Light drinkers and people who drink moderately pose a very low risk of alcohol withdrawal-related seizures.
What Triggers Seizures?
Seizures are sudden changes in brain activity that affect how a person feels or acts. They can have different causes and triggers, depending on the type and severity of the seizure. Some of the common triggers are:
- Lack of sleep. This affects the brain’s normal functioning and lowers the seizure threshold.
- Alcohol or drug use. This also affects the brain’s functioning and reduces the effectiveness of anti-seizure medications.
- Stress increases the brain’s sensitivity to stimuli and excitability.
- Menstrual cycles/hormonal changes. These can affect seizure patterns in some women.
- Flashing bright lights or patterns. These are well-known to trigger seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy.
- Illness, fever, infection, or other medical conditions. These can affect the glucose levels, blood vessels, immune system, and electrolytes can cause seizures.
Taking medication as instructed, maintaining fluid levels, and managing or avoiding the triggers can all work to prevent seizures.
What Causes Seizures in Adults with No History?
The possible causes and types of seizures are numerous. Some seizure disorders start in childhood, but others begin in adulthood. These are classified as adult-onset seizures and are normally a result of a traumatic event or specific condition.
A few common causes of adult-onset seizures include:
- Central nervous system infection. These infections are where parasites, viruses, or bacteria infect the brain tissue causing inflammation and damage, which disrupts electrical signals in the brain and triggers seizures. CNS infections that can trigger seizures include encephalitis, meningitis, brain abscess, and cerebral malaria.
- Brain tumor. Abnormal growths of cells cluster together in the brain and put pressure on the surrounding blood vessels and tissue. This can affect the functioning of the brain and trigger seizures. Astrocytoma, glioma, meningioma, and others are all seizure-causing brain tumors.
- Traumatic brain injury. External head injuries damage the brain and can cause swelling, scarring, and bleeding while disrupting the brain’s electrical activity. These brain injuries may not trigger seizures for days, months, or even years. This is why it is important to see a medical professional immediately if you have suffered concussions or other head-related injuries.
- Substance use and withdrawal. Using certain substances or stopping use disrupts the brain’s neurotransmitter activity. Such substances can be antidepressants, cocaine, alcohol, tramadol, and more.
Treating the root causes of adult-onset seizures, such as infections, substance abuse, tumors, and injuries will help prevent their onset and recurrence.
Can Alcohol Trigger a Seizure Without Epilepsy?
Yes. Alcohol causes changes to the brain’s regular functioning and disrupts electrical signals between the brain and the CNS. These disruptions could bring about seizures, though they are not usually recurring. Non-epileptic people can also have seizures if they go through alcohol withdrawal or detox.
It is safer and more beneficial for someone seeking to kick an alcohol addiction to do so under the care and supervision of an experienced medical professional, particularly at a detox or recovery center.
Can Dehydration Cause Seizures?
Dehydration is a state your body enters when your intake of water falls below your output of water, which hampers the body’s ability to function normally. Dehydration can lead to numerous health issues including seizures.
The two main seizure types are epileptic and provoked. Epileptic seizures are unprovoked and recurrent because they have no direct causes. They are brought on by internal differences in structure or permanent brain damage that affect the brain’s electrical activity. Provoked seizures (also known as acute symptomatic seizures) have a detectable root cause that triggers them. They are usually non-recurring and are not considered epileptic.
Both types of seizures can be caused by dehydration depending on the dehydration level and its effects on the body.
A few ways dehydration can cause seizures include:
- Electrolyte imbalances. Electrolytes are the minerals that help regulate the body’s pH levels, muscle contractions, nerve impulses, and fluid balance. The fluid lost during dehydration can include magnesium, potassium, sodium, and calcium and cause electrical imbalances in the brain that trigger seizures.
- Hypotension is low blood pressure. This can be further aggravated by a further decrease in blood flow and reduced blood volume through dehydration. Low blood flow to the brain starves it of oxygen and glucose which can make it malfunction and trigger seizures.
- Hyperthermia means the body is producing more heat than it can dissipate. Dehydration robs the body of the water levels it needs to regulate your internal thermostat. High body temperatures can increase your stress levels and make you more prone to seizures.
Maintaining your body’s fluid levels and replenishing your electrolytes when needed can help prevent dehydration and dehydration-related seizures.
What Does a Seizure Feel Like?
Signs and symptoms differ from one type of seizure to another, as do their physical effects on the body. Seizures fall into three general groups.
Generalized Onset Seizures
These affect both sides of the brain simultaneously.
- Seizure types included here are absence, atonic, and tonic-clonic.
- A person will almost always lose consciousness and feel nothing during one of these seizures.
- This person will have no recollection of what occurred during the seizure.
Focal Onset Seizures
Formerly called simple partial seizures, these can begin on one side or in one in one area of the brain. These seizures occur while a person is awake and conscious of what is happening, and they will remember the entire event.
These seizures (depending on the part of the brain it starts in) can feel like:
- A “rising” feeling in the stomach
- Déjà vu
- Distinctive smell or taste
- Sudden, intense feelings of fear or joy
- Like a “wave” going through the head
- Stiffness or twitching in body extremities (like in a hand or a foot)
- Numbness or tingling
- An arm or leg feeling smaller or larger than it actually is
- Visual disturbances like colored or flashing lights
Focal Onset Impaired Awareness Seizures
Formerly known as complex partial seizures, these occur when a person’s awareness is affected or when they are confused during a focal seizure.
Focal onset impaired awareness seizures may feel like:
- Comprehension and perception disabilities
- Abnormally reacting to others
- Inability to remember the seizure, making it hard to tell when it ends
Do Seizures Cause Brain Damage?
Seizures can lead to lasting or even permanent brain damage. Seizures can recur and last for longer than five minutes an episode in a dangerous condition known as status epilepticus. Status epilepticus can lead to irreversible brain damage and should be treated as a medical emergency.
Seizures can also cause a person to lose their motor function, making them prone to fall and hit their head which can cause serious brain injuries. They can also deprive a person’s brain of the oxygen it needs, which will lead to permanent brain damage.
Can You Die From an Alcohol-Induced Seizure?
The seizure itself is unlikely to be fatal, but seizures can cause injuries that can range from moderately dangerous to life-threatening. Falling and sustaining head injuries, biting off your tongue and choking on it, and losing consciousness behind the wheel are various ways in which seizures could be fatal.
Are There Warning Signs of a Seizure?
People suffer seizures differently, but they can often be predicted before they occur through the appearance of an aura. An aura can take different forms, such as a particular smell, a visual disturbance, a taste, and even strong emotions. Auras help people with a history of seizures to recognize when one is incoming, thus enabling them to prepare and manage them better.
Some common indicator feelings that could mean an incoming seizure include:
- Deja vu or other strange feelings
- Confusion, anxiety, or irritability
- Headache, nausea, or fluttery stomach
- Hallucinations or perceptual changes
- Muscle spasms or jerking movements on one side of the body
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Erratic heartbeat or changes in blood pressure
Get Help For Alcohol Addiction at Crestview Recovery!
Recognizing the triggers and signs of an oncoming seizure can help you protect yourself or your loved one from serious injury or death. Contact us at Crestview Recovery today to make your first step down the road to recovery from alcohol addiction or misuse.