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Alcohol & Health
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Updated on July 6, 2023
4 min read

How Dangerous are Alcohol Seizures?

Can Alcohol Trigger Seizures?

Alcohol-related seizures can happen when people are acutely intoxicated. It can also occur when an alcoholic suddenly stops drinking and experiences alcohol withdrawal.

Drinking large amounts of alcohol slows down brain activity. Abrupt cessation will dangerously speed it up, causing a seizure.


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What Causes Alcohol-Induced Seizures?

Alcohol-induced seizures could happen for many reasons. However, you face a higher risk of developing them if you have one of the following risk factors:

  • Being epileptic
  • Genetically predisposed to seizures
  • History of withdrawal seizures
  • History of multiple previous detoxifications 
  • Recent history of alcohol dependence
  • Current infection
  • Cerebrovascular disease

Other causes for alcohol-induced seizures include:

1. Alcohol Withdrawal (Delirium Tremens)

Alcohol withdrawal seizures (delirium tremens) occur when the body undergoes severe and unexpected nervous system changes after an alcohol-dependent person stops drinking.

When alcohol withdrawal syndrome sets in, seizures may arise within approximately 6 to 48 hours.

The main characteristics of seizures associated with delirium tremens include:

  • Occurs as early as 48 hours after the last drink
  • Lasts on and off up to 5 days after alcohol cessation
  • Occurs in those with a history of complications from alcohol withdrawal
  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures

However, withdrawal symptoms accompanying delirium tremens do not need to be present when a person experiences a seizure.

2. Excessive Alcohol Consumption (Alcohol Poisoning)

Alcohol poisoning can lead to seizures, but these may not result from the alcohol intake itself. Lower blood sugar or head trauma caused by a sudden fall could be the underlying cause.

Current evidence shows that drinking to intoxication and binge drinking are highly associated with seizures. In such cases, episodes may be worse if they do occur.4

3. Mixing Alcohol and Epilepsy Drugs

Currently, there have not been enough clinical trials to show the efficacy and safety of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) in alcohol-dependent people.8

However, there have been reports that the risk of seizure increases in an alcohol-dependent person who misuses a sedative and takes nonsedative AEDs. 

Overall, an alcohol-dependent person should seek care first for alcohol dependence before any drug treatment for non-withdrawal-related seizures. This approach minimizes the likelihood of:

  • Drug use
  • Drug intoxications
  • Drug-alcohol interactions
  • Seizures 

4. Alcohol and Epilepsy

People with generalized genetic epilepsy may be more susceptible to alcohol-related seizures, especially after three or more drinks. However, occasional alcohol consumption may not increase the risk of attacks in many people with epilepsy.7

It’s best to seek medical advice before having any alcoholic beverage since each person is unique. A heathcare provider can assess whether light or moderate alcohol drinking is safe.  

Other factors that accompany excessive drinking and could increase the risk of seizures include:

  • Altered sleeping patterns 
  • Not adhering to antiepileptic medication 
  • Metabolic disturbances (or changes)

Symptoms of an Alcohol Seizure

If you experience an alcohol-related seizure, you may experience falling to the floor and shaking violently for a few minutes. The clinical term for this type of seizure is called a tonic-clonic seizure.

You may harm yourself unintentionally when you have an alcohol-related seizure. Because you cannot control your body, you may:

  • Hit your head
  • Bite your tongue
  • Lose control of your bladder (incontinence)
  • Feel confused and irritated after

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Alcohol-related seizures are more common among men than women in the US. A possible contributing factor is that women heavily drink three to four times less frequently than men.3


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Are Alcohol Seizures Dangerous?

Alcohol seizures can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Experiencing this kind of seizure can make you hurt yourself by biting your tongue or hitting your head. You can even stop breathing.

You could develop status epilepticus, which is multiple seizures, or prolonged seizures, and can lead to permanent brain damage or death.

Status epilepticus happens when:

  • A seizure occurs for more than 5 minutes
  • You have more than one seizure within 5 minutes without regaining a normal level of consciousness

Treatment for Alcohol Seizures

Doctors may consider three different approaches to treat alcohol seizures, including:

  • Treatment in progress through long-acting benzodiazepines or antiepileptics drug prescription
  • Preventive medication for seizures for those admitted for detoxification
  • Preventative medicine for multiple seizures and status epilepticus after an acute alcohol withdrawal seizure episode

Treatment for Alcohol Use & Addiction

If you or a loved one suffer from alcohol addiction, you have different treatment options available:

  • Supervised Detox: You receive professional help while undergoing drug detoxification
  • Support Groups: These offer mutual encouragement and understanding to people who share similar experiences
  • Inpatient and Outpatient Facilities: You receive professional services to recover from alcohol addiction
  • Counseling: Professionals help you learn how to cope with alcohol addiction by identifying triggers and avoiding situations leading to relapses
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment: Healthcare specialists may prescribe medications to treat the alcohol problem


Drinking too much alcohol can lead to life-threatening conditions, such as seizures. An alcohol-related seizure may result in your inability to control your actions, which could be dangerous.

If you experience an alcohol-related seizure, seek immediate medical attention. Professional help is also available for those struggling with alcohol addiction.

Updated on July 6, 2023
8 sources cited
Updated on July 6, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. “Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2021. 
  2. “Alcohol Related Seizures: Information for Patients, Relatives and Carers.” York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, National Health System (NHS), 2020.
  3. Hamerle et al. “Alcohol Use and Alcohol-Related Seizures in Patients With Epilepsy.” Frontiers in Neurology, Frontiers, 2018. 
  4. Hillbom et al. “Seizures in Alcohol-Dependent Patients: Epidemiology, Pathophysiology and Management.” CNS Drugs, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2003.
  5. Rogawski, MA. “Update on the Neurobiology of Alcohol Withdrawal Seizures.” Epilepsy Currents, Blackwell Science Inc, 2005. 
  6. “Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  7. Schachter, SC. “Alcohol as a Seizure Trigger.” Epilepsy Foundation.
  8. Wahab A. Difficulties in Treatment and Management of Epilepsy and Challenges in New Drug Development.” Pharmaceuticals (Basel), 2010.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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