Alcohol Health and Epilepsy

drink32The issue of epilepsy and alcohol consumption can be very confusing.
Is it safe to drink with epilepsy? Can alcohol cause epilepsy to develop?

Drinking too much can make seizures more likely because of the effect of alcohol on the brain. Late night, missed meals or missed dosages of anti-epileptic medication, all of which can be associated with heavy drinking, can be triggers for seizures.

Most people with epilepsy find they can have one or two units of alcohol, perhaps more, without this increasing their chances of having a seizure. Other people find that even a small amount of alcohol triggers their seizures and consequently they may choose not to drink alcohol at all.

If you are taking drugs that act on the brain – like anti-epileptic medication – you are likely to be more sensitive to the effect of alcohol. This means you may feel drunk faster.

Alcohol can make the side effects of some anti-epileptic drugs worse. Carbamazepine can cause dizziness, drowsiness or headaches, all of which can be made worse by drinking alcohol. If you take Primidone or Phenobarbitone and drink alcohol, the sedative effect of the drug may be increased. This does not mean that you should miss taking your anti-epileptic medication before having a drink. You are far more likely to have a seizure by missing your medication than by having an occasional drink.

Can Alcohol Cause Epilepsy?

Binge drinking can cause a seizure, even in people who do not have epilepsy. Such seizures can be due to alcohol withdrawal, the toxic effects of alcohol, or too much fluid, resulting in chemical changes in the body. Reports show that alcohol withdrawal seizures usually happen seven to forty-eight hours after reducing or stopping heavy or prolonged drinking.

If you continue to drink large quantities of alcohol and experience more seizures because of this, you are at risk of developing epilepsy as a result. Even if you stop drinking alcohol altogether, the seizures may continue to happen unless you start to take anti-epileptic medication to gain control of them.

Epilepsy and Other Recreational Drugs:

drugs Cannabis
Cannabis, or marijuana, is available in many different qualities. Some reports suggest that it can reduce seizures and other reports to an increase in seizures.

drugs Ecstasy
According to research, ecstasy increases the amount of certain chemicals found in the nervous system, resulting in over stimulation. One of the results of this stimulation can be seizures. If you take ecstasy with other recreational drugs, there is evidence to suggest that this could also trigger seizures. Taking ecstasy can lead to dehydration. This may be as a result of being much more physically active, for example, dancing all night. If you then drink a very large amount of water over a short period of time, this can lead to too much fluid in the body, which in turn could cause a seizure.

drugs Heroin
Using heroin can cause seizures in people whether they have epilepsy or not. More commonly, seizures are related to taking other recreational drugs or alcohol at the same time as taking heroin. They can also happen following a heroin overdose. If you inject heroin, you could experience seizures if you get an infection from using dirty needles.
It is important to know that some of the medications used in treating heroin addiction can have an effect on seizure threshold, possibly making seizures more likely. If you have epilepsy and are seeking medical help for heroin addiction, you may want to discuss this with your doctor or key worker.

drugs Speed
Taking a large amount of speed can cause seizures. If you take speed with other recreational drugs this may also trigger seizures. If you use speed to stay awake, the resulting lack of sleep could be a trigger for seizures.

drugs Cocaine
Cocaine can cause seizures in people who do not have a diagnosis of epilepsy, as well as making someone’s epilepsy worse. There can be a number of reasons for this It can trigger seizures in itself It can cause complications in the brain leading to problems such as strokes It can lower the seizure threshold Seizures can also happen as an indirect result of taking cocaine, such as not getting enough sleep, lack of food and not taking anti-epileptic medication as prescribed.

drugs Solvents
Evidence suggests that if you use solvents long term they can cause brain/nerve damage which could in turn cause epilepsy.

drugs Temazepam
Taken in large quantities, this drug can trigger seizures as a result of the toxic effects in the body. Withdrawal from the drug, as with alcohol, can also trigger seizures.

drugs Steroids (used in sports)
Anabolic steroids should be used with caution if you have epilepsy, as they can increase the risk of having seizures.


If you have epilepsy, it makes sense to be aware of any possible risks from drinking alcohol or taking other recreational drugs.

  • Alcohol can make seizures more likely and can make some drug side effects worse
  • Anti-epileptic drugs can exaggerate the effects of alcohol
  • Drinking too much or drinking heavily over a long period of time is likely to increase the risk of seizures and may lead to other health problems
  • For some people, even moderate drinking may make their epilepsy worse
  • Recreational drugs can be made up of many different ingredients, and there are no regulations to control quality. Heavy drug taking often leads to other problems, such as not getting enough sleep, or not eating properly. These in themselves are common triggers of seizures.

info32 Further Information:

info Epilepsy Helpline: freephone 0808 800 5050, Website: