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of everyone affected by epilepsy

Alcohol

These pages are about alcohol and epilepsy in the UK. If you are looking for information about alcohol and epilepsy in another country, please contact your local epilepsy organisation.

In this section

• Introduction
• Drinking alcohol if you have epilepsy
• Drinking alcohol when you take epilepsy medicine
• Alcohol causing seizures
• Further information and getting help

Introduction

The information in this section is in two parts. The first part gives some facts about drinking alcohol if you have epilepsy. The second part looks at the risks of having seizures because of heavy and regular alcohol drinking.

Drinking alcohol if you have epilepsy

Several studies show that drinking small or modest amounts of alcohol does not increase the risk of having seizures. But if you have a history of alcohol abuse, even drinking small amounts could increase the number of seizures you have. This is also the case if you have had seizures related to drinking alcohol in the past.

Drinking more than modest amounts of alcohol in 24 hours can increase the risk of having seizures. For most people, the risk is highest when the alcohol is leaving their body after they have had a drink. This risk is highest between six and 48 hours after they have stopped drinking.

Drinking alcohol when you take epilepsy medicine

Alcohol can reduce the amount of some epilepsy medicines in the body. This can make you more likely to have seizures. Alcohol can also increase the side-effects of epilepsy medicines. And some people say that drinking alcohol when they are taking epilepsy medicine makes them feel drunk quicker.

Whatever you decide to do about drinking alcohol, it’s important always to take your epilepsy medicine as prescribed.

Alcohol causing seizures

If you are ‘alcohol dependent’, it means you are likely to drink heavily. You may drink at any time and for days at a time. There is a real risk of having seizures if you stop drinking suddenly after a long session of heavy drinking. These seizures are known as ‘alcohol withdrawal seizures’.

If a person with epilepsy dies suddenly and unexpectedly, and no obvious cause of death can be found, it is called sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). Suddenly withdrawing from alcohol can increase your risk of SUDEP. 

If you want to cut down your drinking, it’s important to do this gradually, to reduce the risk of alcohol withdrawal seizures. It’s also possible to get treatment to stop seizures happening during alcohol withdrawal. Once you have stopped drinking, alcohol withdrawal seizures should not come back, as long as you don’t start drinking again.

Epilepsy Action has more information about epilepsy, seizures, epilepsy medicines and SUDEP.

Further information and getting help

If you are worried you are drinking too much, and would like to do something about it, talk to your family doctor. They may be able to refer you to someone who can give you support, and help you to safely reduce the amount of alcohol you drink.

Organisations that offer advice about cutting down on alcohol:

Alcoholics Anonymous:
Website: alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk
Drink Aware:
Website: drinkaware.co.uk
NHS Choices:
Website: nhs.uk

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. See Alcohol and epilepsy.

Pay it forward

This resource is freely available as part of Epilepsy Action’s commitment to improving life for all those affected by epilepsy.

On average it costs £414 to produce an advice and information page – if you have valued using this resource, please text FUTURE to 70500 to donate £3 towards the cost of our future work. Terms and conditions. Thank you

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F063.03

Our thanks

Epilepsy Action would like to thank Consultant Neurologist Dr John Paul Leach and  of  Southern General Hospital Glasgow for his contributions to this information. He has declared no conflict of interest.

This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated October 2013
    To be reviewed October 2015

Comments: read the 4 comments or add yours

Comments

i have had seizures for 20 years now and i think it is caused mainly by drinking, also i used to take various illegal drugs like speed, lsd, ectasy and cannabis which im sure contributed to the seizures.
I still have the occasional seizure when i have a lot to drink usually the next day when im drying out not all the time, just when drinking heavily which i do try to avoid.

Submitted by jules on

I. HAVE EPILELEPSY MYSELF . I AM 45yrs old. I HAD THIS CONDITION WHEN I WAS A BABY BUT GREW OUT OF IT WHEN I WAS 7yrs old. NOW BEEN DIAGNOISED WITH IT AGAIN? THEY TOLD ME THIS AROUND 5years ago after being being beaten by my partner in front of my children. the mount of beatings i took & traura to my head has started my seizures back again . NICE EY.

Submitted by FRAGGLE on

I HAVE THIS PROBLEM WIYH EPELEPSY SO MUCH THAT ME SEIZURES R GETTING WORSE BY THE WEEK. CANT HANDLE THIS ANYMORE

Submitted by FRAGGLE on

Hi Fraggle

I’m really sorry to read about your awful experience.

As your seizures are getting worse by the week, it is important that you get some medical advice. This could be from your GP, neurologist or epilepsy nurse (if you have one). The doctor or nurse will be able to review any medication that you are taking and see if they can make any changes, to try and help you get better seizure control.

It would also be helpful to talk to your GP about how you are feeling. As you are finding things difficult at the moment, they may be able to suggest some treatment or therapy that could help you.

If you would find it helpful to talk things over with an epilepsy specialist, please feel free to contact the Epilepsy Helpline, freephone 0808 800 5050.

Best wishes

Amanda

Advice and Information Team

Submitted by amanda on

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