Due to the prevalence of alcohol in our society, it’s easy to overlook the adverse side effects that can result from using it. Alcohol can affect every part of your physical and mental health over time, yet the symptoms still seem to be overlooked. One thing that should worry people, however, is how alcohol causes withdrawals and seizures. The American culture is tied so profoundly with alcohol that it is common for people to binge drink.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 38 million adults in the U.S. engaged in binge drinking four times per month and consumed an average of eight drinks per binge. When it comes to the underaged people in our society, approximately 5.3 million people between the ages of 12 and 20 were considered binge drinkers. While the numbers are admittedly high, it’s understandable with the sheer volume of advertisements geared toward alcohol; they often portray it positively as well.
In a country that has emerged as a binge culture, more people have begun to accept this as the social norm of drinking to get drunk as a staple of our youth.
Drinking is glamorized all over social media, in movies, and the culture has manifested itself as a significant role in their lifestyle. Memes are regularly published on sites such as Instagram that poke fun at poor choices made the night before because of lowered inhibitions.
Unfortunately, no one stops to think about the consequences of their actions, and how alcohol is a poison that affects our body negatively. Long-term drinking is shown to cause cancer, liver disease, and brain damage. At a certain point, we need to focus on changing the culture.
Alcohol is the fourth-leading killer in the United States and is one of the most preventable causes of death worldwide. Death comes as a result of drunk driving, underage drinking, and alcohol-related health issues. Nearly 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA). Of those, 2,200 deaths in the U.S. were related to alcohol poisoning, which translates to six deaths per day.
The majority of alcohol poisoning deaths occur among men in older age groups, with three in four deaths involving adults between the ages of 35 and 64. The numbers don’t end there, however, as driving fatalities caused by drunken driving amounted to 9,967 deaths in 2014.
While we are young, we often feel immune to the effects that alcohol can cause. “I’m young; nothing bad can happen now.” Unfortunately, that narrative is false, and those who binge drink alcohol put themselves at risk to not only become addicted but experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Those who drink in moderation may be less likely to deal with this, but those who drink heavily should read on to learn more about what the relationship with alcohol and seizures can be.
As we discussed above, those drinking in moderation or social situations are not likely to experience withdrawal symptoms or seizures. To add, researchers also believe there’s no increased risk of seizures or epilepsy in those who have two drinks or less a day. If you drink more significant amounts of alcohol, though, the risk of seizures increases dramatically.
Binge drinking can be dangerous, and it can cause seizures even in people not previously diagnosed with epilepsy. If you’ve already been diagnosed with epilepsy unrelated to alcohol, it’s crucial to know the relationship between alcohol and seizures. If you have epilepsy and have been drinking moderate amounts, the likelihood of increased risk is less. Researchers have shown that having an occasional drink isn’t going to increase seizure activity, and small amounts of alcohol don’t change the amount of seizure medication that is concentrated in your blood.
However, it’s necessary to note that some seizure medications can react negatively with alcohol, or they may lower your alcohol tolerance, so you must speak with a doctor about the medicines you are taking. Drugs for epilepsy are called anti-epileptic drugs (AED), but alcohol can sometimes reduce the effectiveness of the medicine. In addition, some of the medication may respond negatively to drinking, which is why you must discuss this with a physician.
Those who have seizures or epilepsy are advised to avoid binge drinking and to ensure that control is kept when consuming alcohol. Moderate drinking is defined as no more than one drink a day for women, and no more than two for men, which is in line for what is less dangerous for people with seizures or epilepsy.
It is estimated that two million Americans experience the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal each year. Generalized tonic-clonic seizures are the most dramatic, and dangerous component of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Abrupt cessation of alcohol intake after prolonged heavy drinking can trigger alcohol withdrawal seizures. Ethanol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that produces euphoria and behavioral excitation at low blood concentrations, and acute intoxication at higher levels.
Prolonged use of alcohol leads to the development of tolerance and physical dependence, which can then turn into a full-blown substance use disorder. Abrupt cessation of prolonged alcohol consumption unmasks these changes and leads to alcohol withdrawal syndrome, which includes blackouts, tremors, muscular rigidity, delirium tremens (DTs), and seizures.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can occur in as little as six hours after your last drink, or take as long as 48 hours.
Research shows that up to one-third of patients with significant alcohol withdrawal may experience seizures as a result, and can be severe. In the United States, benzodiazepines are considered the drugs of choice to treat alcohol withdrawal and prevent the occurrence of seizures. Clinical experience demonstrates that benzos do reduce the risk of recurrent seizures in those with alcohol withdrawal seizures, but it should only be taken as needed.
If you have a drinking problem and fear you may have withdrawal symptoms, you must check yourself into treatment. Medical detoxification is a place that can legally provide benzodiazepines to cope with the adverse side effects that may occur.
Since alcohol withdrawal can be deadly, it’s imperative to enter into treatment. If you’ve decided to take a step in the right direction and get sober, you should never forego this process alone.”
Detox is designed to be a safe and caring environment that gives you access to medical professionals around the clock for as long as you need to stay. During your stay, treatment specialists will thoroughly assess your needs to determine your next step. It could mean that you enter into a residential treatment facility, where you will spend up to 90 days dealing with your addiction. If they decide you require less intensive treatment, they will recommend outpatient treatment. Either way, you will receive a high level of care that will treat your alcohol addiction.
Rogawski, M. A. (2005, November). Update on the neurobiology of alcohol withdrawal seizures. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1312739/
Tonic-Clonic (Grand Mal) Seizures. (n.d.). from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/epilepsy/tonic-clonic-grand-mal-seizures
Alcohol Facts and Statistics. (n.d.). from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
During binges, U.S. adults have 17 billion drinks a year |U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Online Newsroom | CDC. (n.d.). from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0316-binge-drinking.html