Alcohol is a normalised element of social gatherings and celebratory events. However, when casual drinks tip over into excessive drinking, the resulting health complications can be severe and sometimes life-threatening. One particularly alarming and less-known consequence is the onset of seizures and the potential link to epilepsy.
You might be wondering what the connection is between these two conditions. This is why we have decided to share some key facts about the subtle yet significant ways alcohol addiction can be hazardous for your brain.
Alcohol-induced seizures are typically viewed as an alarming medical event, often associated with dramatic convulsive episodes. However, they can be more inconspicuous, characterised by a range of symptoms from staring spells to loss of awareness.
According to the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases, a seizure is “a transient occurrence of signs and/or symptoms due to abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain”.
In simpler terms, they occur when there’s a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain. The expression of a seizure varies widely. It can be a brief lapse of attention or muscle jerks to severe and prolonged convulsions.
During our practice, we have had clients who have suffered with seizures which varied in frequency, from less than one per year to several per day. While a seizure doesn’t necessarily indicate epilepsy, recurrent seizures are an identifying characteristic of epilepsy. We can help you define your condition and present you with options to treat the seizures, based on your specific history, addiction and eventual dual diagnoses.
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How Excessive Drinking Impacts Your Brain
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. It slows down the brain’s activity and alters its structure and function. Aside from the increased seizures, chronic alcohol abuse can lead to various neurological complications.
According to a study, any level of drinking can cause significant alterations in brain structure and operation. It can interfere with the brain’s communication pathways, impacting how our brain appears and operates.
Drinking excessively over an extended period can lead to changes in mood and behaviour. It may hamper your ability to think clearly and deteriorate coordination skills. Memory loss and poor judgement are also common symptoms of persistent heavy drinking.
Additionally, alcohol may cause a decline in motor control, slowing reflexes and making activities like driving risky. Finally, the most extreme threat of excessive drinking is alcohol overdose, which can result in permanent brain damage or even death.
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Alcohol and Seizures — The Connection
Many aspects of our brain are yet to be explored. However, the relationship between alcohol misuse and seizures is a critical area of interest. Simply put, excessive alcohol consumption and withdrawal can trigger seizures, forming a dangerous link. There are also two ways these seizures manifest. It could be due to overdrinking or withdrawal due to addiction.
Chronic alcohol consumption & seizures: Prolonged heavy drinking can significantly alter your brain’s structure and functioning, including neurotransmitter changes. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that keep your brain working smoothly. Disruption of these neurotransmitters can raise your brain’s seizure threshold, making it more susceptible to seizures.
Alcohol withdrawal seizures: If you have an alcohol dependency, abruptly stopping alcohol intake can lead to withdrawal seizures. Alcohol withdrawal can cause a rebound effect in the brain. The brain, which has adapted to contending with high alcohol levels, overcompensates once alcohol is withdrawn. This ultimately leads to seizures. These seizures usually occur within 6 to 48 hours after the last drink and are a sign of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome.
In both cases, you don’t need to have epilepsy to suffer a seizure. Anyone without an epileptic history can experience ‘acute symptomatic seizures’ due to heavy drinking or alcohol withdrawal.
If you are worried about yourself or a loved one experiencing similar symptoms due to alcohol abuse, please contact the Providence Projects today. We have over 25 years of experience in the addiction treatment field, and will offer you bespoke alcohol addiction detox and rehab as part of our primary treatment.
Prevention: The Crucial Weapon Against Alcohol-Induced Seizures
Awareness of the signs of alcohol abuse can help prevent its repercussions, such as seizures. Preventing alcohol-induced seizures primarily depends on responsible drinking behaviour and making informed lifestyle choices.
Here are some crucial preventive measures:
- Moderate alcohol consumption: Limiting alcohol intake to moderate levels, as defined by general guidelines, can significantly reduce the odds of alcohol-related seizures.
- Identify triggers: Alcohol might not be the sole trigger for seizures. Keep track of individual triggers such as stress, sleep deprivation, or caffeine.
- Gradual reduction of alcohol intake: Seeking professional help to taper off alcohol gradually can be an effective approach to preventing seizures during withdrawal.
- Healthy lifestyle: Adhering to a balanced diet, participating in regular exercise, and getting adequate sleep are vital components of maintaining health. They lower the risk of seizures.
Providence Projects offer unrivalled support to those struggling with alcohol dependence, providing life-changing education and therapies. Our goal is to assist you in reinventing coping mechanisms, redefining behaviours, and developing new reactions to triggering situations.
With The Providence Projects, sober living and long-term recovery are made possible thanks to our team of dedicated professionals. You don’t have to let alcohol control your life, take the first step towards recovery and a healthier, happier life today.