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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.

For most people with epilepsy, drinking small or modest amounts of alcohol does not make them more likely to have seizures. But drinking larger amounts of alcohol can cause seizures in people with or without epilepsy. Read on to find out more.

Can I drink alcohol when I have epilepsy?

Drinking small or modest amounts of alcohol is unlikely to make you have more seizures. But moderate to heavy drinking over a short space of time can make you more likely to have a seizure. You are most at risk of having a seizure between 6 and 48 hours after you have stopped drinking.

For some people, drinking alcohol can mean they get less sleep or forget to take their epilepsy medicine. These are both things that can make you more likely to have a seizure.

How much can I safely drink?

Everyone is different, so how much someone with epilepsy can drink varies from person to person. There are no official guidelines about drinking alcohol for people with epilepsy. But if you do choose to drink, you might decide to follow the NHS guidelines about low risk drinking for everyone. These say that men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. You can find out more about the guidelines and alcohol units at Drinkaware.

Is it safe to drink alcohol with my epilepsy medicine?

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

The leaflet that comes with your epilepsy medicine should tell you if alcohol interacts with your medicine.

If you do drink, it’s important to keep taking your epilepsy medicine as usual. Missing a dose could make you more likely to have a seizure.

Can alcohol cause seizures in people who don’t have epilepsy?

Yes, people with or without epilepsy can have seizures after heavy drinking. These are known as alcohol withdrawal seizures. They are most likely to happen between 6 and 48 hours after your last drink.

You could have alcohol withdrawal seizures if you are alcohol dependent and stop drinking suddenly. Signs of being alcohol dependent include a strong desire to drink and finding it hard to control your drinking.

If you think you may be alcohol dependent and want to stop drinking, it’s important to get medical advice about how to stop safely. This is to reduce the risk of seizures and other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

If you are not alcohol dependent, you could still be at risk of alcohol withdrawal seizures if you drink heavily over a short space of time.

Sometimes alcohol withdrawal seizures can develop into status epilepticus. This is when a seizure lasts longer than 30 minutes, and can pose more danger than shorter seizures.

Where can I get help and advice about drinking?

Your family doctor can give you advice on cutting down or stopping drinking. They may refer you to a service to help you safely reduce the amount you drink.

You can also get information and support from the following websites:

NHS Choices

Drinkaware

Alcoholics Anonymous

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone on 0808 800 5050.

Code: 
F063.04

Epilepsy Action would like to thank Dr John Paul Leach, consultant neurologist at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow, for his contribution to this information.

Dr John Paul Leach has declared no conflict of interest.

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

  • Updated September 2016
    To be reviewed September 2019

Comments: read the 8 comments or add yours

Comments

Hi I don't know if you can help but I will try anyway .
My Son age 36has been diagnosed with epilepsy in Nov and has been put on lamictol .Building up the strength every 2 week til he reaches 150mg .
He had no real side effects except a cough and a little forgetful .
Since he went up to 125mg the cough persists the forgetfulness has increased when at infrequent times he has no recollection of conversations . His sleeping pattern ha also become disruptive .
He run his own successful business, recently separated from his wife although amicable his worry is how his 4 children are coping .
He does smoke and drink . I am worried the drinking is exasperating these side effects and suggested he should cut down his drinking he drinks beer probably 4/6 tins at the weekend Fri and Sat and 1/2 beers 3/4 night a week on 2 occasions at the weekend I found him secretly consuming a half bottle of whisky and denying this . He goes to bed around 12/1 am at the weekends and around 10 during the week he is on his phone and computer for long periods at a time This worries me , he does eat well and takes his medication faithfully everyday . Is the alcohol linked to the increased side effects or is it the strength increase in medication will these reduce when the medication flatlines or can he be doing something else .
Thankyou
Mary

Submitted by Mary on

Hi Mary 

Thank you for your post.

I can understand your concerns about your son. In fact, looking after their wellbeing can help some people  to have as few seizures as possible, and they feel better and function better in their daily lives. 

Maybe you could let your son know about the wellbeing section of our website. We cover issues such as eating a well-balanced diet, getting active, limiting alcohol and having a good sleep routine. This information is also available in a printed booklet. If you wish to receive this booklet please contact the helpline team directly. Our contact details are below. 

The general information on epilepsy and alcohol is to drink small or modest amounts as this doesn’t usually increase the risk of having seizures. But moderate to heavy drinking over a short space of time can make seizures more likely. Excessive drinking can also make some epilepsy medicines work less well.

Do you think it may help your son to talk to others with epilepsy? From our experience, in most case people find it helpful to talk to or contact people who understand what they are experiencing. If you think this could help your son, he may find some of our services helpful. Such as our local groups, our forum4e online community, facebook and twitter.

He can also talk to one of our Advice and Information Officers, on the Epilepsy Helpline (freephone, UK only) 0808 800 5050. Callers to the Helpline are guaranteed a friendly welcome and can discuss their concerns confidentially. Our helpline is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am until 5.30pm. 

If we can be of any more help, please feel free to contact us again. You can do this directly, either by email helpline@epilespy.org.uk or the Epilepsy Action Helpline

Regards

Diane

Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

Hi All, I liked your above-mentioned details and I have a question. I don't drink regularly (I haven't drunk for the last 3-4 months) but in the last month, I got to know that I'm suffering from epilepsy and I'm on medication now. I have to attend a party in next few days and I'm sure I'll need to drink there. However, I have control on myself and I'll not drink more than 1 quarter (1/4th of a liter bottle) and a few cigarettes too but I'm still worried about the consequences.

Hoping for your quick response.

Submitted by Atul Jangra on

Hi Atul

I’m glad you found the information useful.

It can be tough knowing that too much alcohol can make seizures more likely.

I hope you find a way to stay safe and enjoy the party.

Regards

Cherry  

Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

Hi I have just been diagnosed with seizures. Not sure yet if it’s epilepsy. I have been prescribed Keppra, I normally enjoy a couple of glasses of white wine on Saturday night. My seizures only happen at night and on average once a month, Can I still have a drink or should I refrain, my prescription is 1 tablet 250mg in the morning and night Thank you

Submitted by Angela on

Hi Angela

Thank you for your question.

For most people with epilepsy, drinking small or modest amounts of alcohol does not make them more likely to have seizures. But drinking larger amounts of alcohol can cause seizures in people with or without epilepsy. We have more information on the above alcohol webpage.

Regards

Diane
Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by Diane, Epilepsy... on

I've been told by every doctor I've seen not to drink with my epilepsy medication. At present I'm on Epilim Chromo (enteric coated) 2100mg per day; Zonisamide (zonigram) 500mg per day; and Clonazepam (which can be used for epilepsy, [and Depression which I also suffer from], plus Parkinson's and SAD.
Why is that most of the people on this forum are drinking? I've never touched a drop even when on less tablets!

Submitted by Sue Camp on

Hi Sue

It does sound like you are doing exactly the right thing for you.

Particular epilepsy medicines can make some people feel drunk much more quickly. It’s possible the effect is even more likely when you are taking more than one epilepsy medicine.

I think you would find that very many people with epilepsy either don’t drink, or only drink in moderation. The comments on the alcohol page are possibly not very representative.

Regards

Cherry  

Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

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