Alcohol and Drugs
Alcohol and Epilepsy
There are two questions that have to be considered when the question of alcohol use and epilepsy comes up. One is the effect that alcohol could have on the medicines used to control seizures. Alcohol can be dangerous when mixed with sedative drugs, such as phenobarbital, and can cause coma, or even death. The other question is whether the alcohol itself will cause seizures.
Large amounts of alcohol are thought to raise the risk of seizures and may even cause them. When you drink alcohol, it temporarily reduces seizures for a few hours, but then increases the chances of having seizures as the alcohol leaves your body. Thus, people who drink heavily, even though they may not have epilepsy, may experience seizures after periods of binge drinking.
However when it comes to "social drinking"-- that is, having one or two drinks during an evening -- there seems to be a lot of individual variation. Some people with epilepsy are not affected, and some are. A drink as part of a large meal is less likely to cause a seizure than a drink on an empty stomach.
Check with your doctor before deciding on your own alcohol use. Be sure to ask about the kind of medicine you are taking and how it might react with beer, wine, or hard liquor. There is roughly the same amount of alcohol in a glass of wine, a bottle of beer and a shot of liquor.
Sometimes people resort to using drugs or alcohol in order to feel better. They may not even realize they are doing this. If you find you are drinking more alcohol than usual, or have started using recreational drugs, this may be a sign that you are suffering from a mood disorder related to your epilepsy. Ask your doctor to help you determine whether a mood disorder is responsible for your alcohol or drug use. Alcohol or drugs provide only temporary relief from mood problems and may lead to increased seizures. Alcohol and drugs may also cause mood problems or make your mood problems worse.
No one should use illegal drugs, but it is particularly unwise if you have epilepsy.
Most illegal drugs, especially stimulants such as cocaine, crack, PCP and speed, cause seizures. Some of the impurities or additives to illegal drugs cause seizures, and illegal drugs may have unpredictable or dangerous interactions with prescription medicines.