Can Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Cause Seizures?
You probably already associate seizures with epilepsy, but did you know that alcoholism and drug addiction cause seizures, too? These frightening episodes vary in severity, and in the case of alcohol withdrawal, can even be fatal. For some, experiencing a seizure causes so much stress that turning away from drugs and alcohol is the only conceivable option. For others in the throes of addiction, it’s only one more stop on a perilous journey.
Alcoholism, Drug Addiction and Seizure
Although alcoholism and liver disease are probably the two best known health problems associated with chronic heavy drinking, epilepsy is another possible side effect. Not only can heavy drinking cause epilepsy — a brain condition characterized by seizures — it can also trigger seizures in heavy drinkers who don’t have epilepsy.
If you already have epilepsy and take medicine to control seizures, that’s extremely dangerous. Alcohol interferes with many drugs, and some seizure medications are among them. If you are a heavy drinker, and you plan to quit, always get help. Seizures are a common alcohol withdrawal side effect, indicating an immediate need for professional medical assistance.
Recreational drug abuse also causes seizures. One 1989 study identified 49 cases at one hospital alone of recreational drug abusers who experienced seizures after taking drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, heroin and PCP. In 11 cases, polydrug abuse took place, and 10 patients admitted having had a seizure before. Seven patients experienced multiple seizures while under hospital care. Unlike alcoholism, it did not matter whether the patient was a chronic heavy user or a first-time user. One patient developed epilepsy after experiencing the seizure.
What to Do in the Event of Seizure
Watching a friend have a seizure can be confusing and terrifying. If it’s a petit mal seizure, you may not even realize it’s happening. Petit mal seizures often cause prolonged staring, which can resemble daydreaming. In a grand mal seizure, the victim loses consciousness, demonstrates spasms and convulses. Seizures can occur during withdrawal or during abuse, and once you have one, the more likely you are to experience another.
If someone you know is having a seizure, you can help by staying calm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends:
- Clearing the area nearby the person of “anything hard or sharp.”
- AVOIDING placing anything in the person’s mouth. Using a wooden spoon to prevent injury is a myth. Also, DO NOT hold the person down or attempt to restrain him or her.
- Placing a soft jacket or pillow under the person’s head.
- Removing anything from the person that might cause harm. Eyeglasses, a necktie or anything in the mouth are examples.
- Rolling the person into the recovery position, which is lying on one side. This prevents vomit or foaming from disrupting breathing.
- Timing the seizure. Call 911 if it lasts longer than five minutes, if another seizure immediately follows, or if the person is uncomfortable or injured afterward.
- Staying with the person until the seizure ends.
12 Keys Rehab
For more information on alcohol and drug-induced seizures, or to learn more about our holistic recovery center, call 12 Keys Rehab now.