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Alcohol and a number of drugs, legal and illegal, even some alternative therapies can increase the risk of you having a seizure.

Although it’s often a last minute decision, it’s important to think seriously before making any decisions about taking drugs or binge drinking.

If you have a seizure unexpectedly, especially if you are seizure-free, it can change your lifestyle dramatically – for example; losing your licence, getting injured or regular seizures could start happening again. It may seem like a fun thing to do at the time, but the consequences might not be worth it.

Want to know why this can happen? There are heaps of reasons drugs and alcohol can cause seizures.

  • Drugs and alcohol get metabolised in the liver and compete with the enzymes that metabolise the antiepileptic medication; therefore there is less antiepileptic medication circulating in your blood which can cause an increase in the number of seizures.
  • Alcohol disrupts sleep cycles and can cause a severe lack of sleep.
  • Alcohol depresses your water retaining hormone, the antidiuretic hormone, causing you to pass a lot of urine and become dehydrated.
  • Stimulant drugs are known to cause seizures.
  • Seizures can occur when alcohol levels in the bloodstream drop. Alcohol can act as a depressant and temporarily inhibit seizures while it’s in the bloodstream, but when you stop drinking you can have what is known as a withdrawal seizure.
  • People often forget to take regular medication when they party hard.

Other links:

Epilepsy and Alcohol

Party Right
Remember that people taking medications for epilepsy are likely to be more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. Each person will react differently but alcohol can:

  • Mix poorly with some anti-epileptic medications affecting how they are absorbed, meaning the medication blood levels are too low to control seizures.
  • Make the medication side effects worse.
  • Make you feel drunk and out of control after drinking only a small amount of alcohol.

Missing a dose, taking extra medication or changing the time of taking your anti-epileptic medications before drinking will not alter this reaction and may cause additional side effects or seizures.

Some doctors recommend that alcohol should always be avoided when taking medication for epilepsy, while others say a small amount will do no harm. Small amounts of alcohol do not usually increase seizures or significantly change the levels of antiepileptic medications, but the effects of alcohol can be very different from person to person.

It’s best to avoid drinking alcohol if seizures related to alcohol have happened in the past. If unsure whether you can or cannot drink with the medication you are taking, talk to your doctor about it.

Click on the link if you want to access an information brochure about alcohol and epilepsy

Alcohol and epilepsy 
Other links

EAA Smartclip – Dr Andrew Bleasel on Alcohol and Epilepsy
Recreational drugs are made up of many different substances of unknown quantity. They are illegal, harmful, and there are no regulations to control quality. Like alcohol, each person will have different reactions to various drugs.

Many recreational drugs, especially stimulants such as cocaine, ‘crack’, angel dust (PCP), ecstasy , speed (amphetamines) and synthetic drugs such as Skunk, Ash Inferno, Black Widow, Kronic, Montana Madness all have the potential to cause seizures and it is uncertain what interactions these, or any recreational drugs, may have with prescription medicines.

As the name suggests, stimulants are types of drugs that stimulate brain activity causing an increase in alertness, attention, and energy.

Drug taking is well known to impact sleep, hydration and remembering to take regular medications. These alone are common triggers of seizures.

The decision to take recreational drugs is a personal one, but it is important to be aware that there is a high risk of seizures. You can never predict what side effects will happen when mixing antiepileptic medications and other drugs.

Also remember that the recreational use of these substances is illegal in Australia with recent changes in law to include synthetic drugs bought over the internet and previously in tobacconist stores.

Click here to read about Dai Greene’s personal experience – the second fastest man in Britain who has epilepsy.

Marijuana contains over 60 chemicals called cannabinoidsTHC is one of the active ingredients to produce the high. Whilst its short term effects feel good, long term it binds to receptors in the brain cells, affecting brain function, and can cause:

  • learning and memory problems
  • mental health problems
  • addiction
  • breathing problems.

There are many forums and blogs that talk about the use of marijuana to control seizures, just be aware that not all the information or comments are credible.

There is a significant difference between medicinal and recreational use of marijuana. Some countries use specially formulated medical marijuana products which have very low to almost no THC, and a number of people with epilepsy report benefits of a decrease in seizures. The marijuana products bought ‘off the street’ have no consistency in the THC concentrations as this differs from plant to plant whilst medicinal marijuana is specially breed for consistently low levels of THC.

Currently the scientific evidence is limited and medical marijuana products are not readily available in Australia whilst the product bought ‘off the street’ has not been legalised in Australia. It’s not a recommended treatment for epilepsy and has many unknown long term risks.

A few medicines that you can get over-the-counter (without prescription) can potentially cause or increase seizures in people with epilepsy, or even cause first-time seizures.

A common one is the active ingredient in some colds and flu medicines which is used for allergies, and to promote sleep.

It is important to remember that these products do have physical effects on the body, and can possibly affect your epilepsy medication and seizures.

Before taking anything additional to your epilepsy medication, its best to speak to your parent, pharmacist or doctor to make sure it’s OK.

If you want more information on different substances to click on these links.
If you’re planning on partying? Check this out.