Seizures and alcohol withdrawal: A literature review PMC

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  • Alcohol’s half-life is around four to five hours, which means your body will process the chemical out of your bloodstream within that time frame.
  • By Sarah Bence, OTR/L

    Sarah Bence, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist and freelance writer.

  • Individuals may also want to consider maintenance medications, a support group, or enlisting the support of friends.
  • For people at low risk of complications, an office visit to your primary care provider, along with at-home monitoring and virtual office visits, may suffice.

This may be due to alcohol’s effect on the brain, sleep, and anti-seizure medications. Inclusion and exclusion criteria, age, sex, ethnicity, alcohol withdrawal severity at presentation, method of determining alcohol withdrawal, comorbidities, number of participants in main analysis, losses to follow-up. There are many support options available that can help guide you through alcohol withdrawal, as well as abstaining from alcohol after withdrawal. “It is best to seek medical treatment during the early signs of withdrawal to prevent its progression,” Volpicelli says.

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In most cases, alcohol affects these targets only at high, suprapharmacologic concentrations. However, certain GABAA-receptor isoforms are exquisitely sensitive to alcohol so that functionally relevant effects can occur at concentrations within the intoxicating range (32,33). From why does alcohol withdrawal cause seizures there, you may continue in residential or outpatient addiction treatment, depending on your needs. Addiction treatment often involves cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), family therapy, group and individual therapies, and therapies to address co-occurring mental health issues.

Previous seizure activity while in alcohol withdrawal indicates that, if the person relapses, they will then experience more severe withdrawal symptoms when they quit drinking again. Excessive alcohol consumption may cause seizures, particularly alcohol withdrawal after heavy drinking. Our review supports the use of benzodiazepines as first-line treatment of severe alcohol withdrawal in the ED. However, our review of evidence from interventional studies performed in the ED does not provide sufficient evidence to recommend routine use of phenobarbital or propofol in ED treatment algorithms. References for this review were identified by searches of PubMed between 1985 and 2016, and references from relevant articles.

Mental Health And Alcoholic Seizures

Two commonly used tools to assess withdrawal symptoms are the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol Scale, Revised, and the Short Alcohol Withdrawal Scale. Patients with mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms without additional risk factors for developing severe or complicated withdrawal should be treated as outpatients when possible. Ambulatory withdrawal treatment should include supportive care and pharmacotherapy as appropriate.

seizure from alcohol withdrawal

Although RASS score is better than CIWA, no tool can replace bedside assessment by an experienced clinician. When in doubt about whether the patient truly has alcohol withdrawal symptoms, the patient should be thoughtfully re-assessed. High risk of seizures has been linked to long-term alcohol abuse, alcohol addiction, heavy drinking, and binge drinking. Alcoholic seizures are a serious potential side effect of alcohol withdrawal. Due to seizures and other dangers, it may be important to make sure that treatment for alcohol addiction includes medically supervised detoxification. People with alcohol withdrawal seizures may also experience tremors, hallucinations, muscle spasms, and a rapid heart rate.

Treatment / Management

This helpline is answered by Ark Behavioral Health, an addiction treatment provider with treatment facilities in Massachusetts and Ohio. Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available. Additionally, if a seizure cannot be stopped or multiple seizures occur in rapid succession, it could result in permanent injury or prove fatal. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, seizures by themselves typically are not fatal. However, they may cause people to fall and sustain potentially serious injuries, such as head injuries.

  • Withdrawal seizures are believed to reflect unmasking of these changes and may also involve specific withdrawal-induced cellular events, such as rapid increases in α4 subunit–containing GABAA receptors that confer reduced inhibitory function.
  • Studies also poorly reported detailed inclusion criteria, and/or clinical/patient information that would allow an interpretation of the populations most likely to benefit from each type of intervention.
  • The timeframe will be different for everyone, but seizures will normally start within the first 72 hours.
  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a condition that occurs when an individual stops consuming alcohol after a long-term dependence.
  • For patients without support, a social worker should be involved to help facilitate addiction rehabilitation.

Physical dependence on alcohol occurs over time as a result of excessive drinking. If you are dependent on alcohol, suddenly stopping alcohol use can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Individuals experiencing alcohol withdrawal syndrome should receive treatment according to the severity of their condition. Those with very mild symptoms can receive treatment as outpatients but may require the support and help of family and close friends for help.

When your body develops chemical dependence on alcohol, it adapts to a consistent chemical balance change over time. When you stop drinking abruptly, a significant chemical change happens all at once. This will throw your body into chemical imbalance, which leads to uncomfortable feelings of withdrawal. Your body is adaptable, and your brain chemistry will adjust to alcohol’s presence over time. Since alcohol causes inhibitory effects on your brain, your brain may produce fewer of its own inhibitory effects. It may also increase excitatory effects in an attempt to balance brain chemistry.