Alcohol and Seizures: Can Drinking Cause Seizures?

Written by Brennan Valeski

& Medically Reviewed by Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN

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There are several ways that alcohol increases your risk of seizures. While alcohol itself can theoretically decrease your risk of seizures while you are drunk, it can lead to seizures that occur when it wears off or if you use too much. Alcohol can also increase your risk of developing epilepsy, a condition that causes seizures.

Alcohol and the Brain

Alcohol primarily impacts your brain, suppressing its activity. In small doses, this can lead to the pleasurable experience people have when using alcohol. In excess, it can increase your risk of complications, including seizures. 

Seizures occur when the normal pattern of electrical activity in the brain malfunctions, causing all your brain cells to fire together instead of in their regular coordinated routine. This can lead to convulsions or a cessation of normal function until the seizure has passed.

How Alcohol Affects Brain Chemistry

Alcohol works by affecting your brain’s chemistry. When you consume alcohol, it increases the activity of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors in your brain cells, slowing down brain activity. At the same time, it reduces the activity of glutamate receptors, which would typically increase brain activity. This imbalance not only causes intoxication but can also disrupt normal brain function and lead to harmful consequences like seizures.

Types of Seizures From Alcohol

Decreased brain activity, like that caused by alcohol, reduces your likelihood of having a seizure. So, how does alcohol cause seizures? There are three different ways that alcohol can increase your risk of having a seizure, even though it suppresses brain activity.

Seizures From Alcohol Abuse

Abusing alcohol can increase your risk of developing a condition called epilepsy. With epilepsy, your overall chance of having seizures increases, and you may have seizures spontaneously occur, whether you are drinking or not. Additionally, alcohol affects many epilepsy medications, further increasing your risk of seizures after epilepsy develops.

Seizures From Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning happens when you consume a large amount of alcohol in a short period. The high level of alcohol can severely suppress your brain, causing it to fail to perform essential functions, like helping you breathe. When you have alcohol poisoning, it can cause dangerous conditions in which not enough oxygen reaches your brain. This can lead to seizures and can be very dangerous.

Seizures From Alcohol Withdrawal

Those who consume large amounts of alcohol or use alcohol for prolonged periods may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop alcohol. Seizures are one of the more severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms and can occur 6 to 48 hours after the last drink. Someone who may experience seizures during alcohol withdrawal should detox from alcohol under the supervision of a medical professional due to the dangers this condition can cause.

Risk Factors for Alcohol-Induced Seizures

Anyone misusing alcohol will be at risk for alcohol-induced seizures. There are, however, several risk factors that can increase this risk. Someone with one or more of these risk factors may be more likely to experience an alcohol-induced seizure; however, they can occur in anyone. 

History of Seizures or Epilepsy

People with a history of seizures or epilepsy are at a higher risk of experiencing seizures related to alcohol. In these people, the brain is more prone to seizures, making it more likely that the conditions caused by alcohol will lead to a seizure occurring. Additionally, alcohol can interfere with seizure medication, further increasing the risk of seizures in these individuals.  

Use of Other Substances

Mixing alcohol with other substances, especially certain drugs, can elevate the risk of seizures. Some drugs can potentiate the effects of alcohol, causing excessive strain on the brain and nervous system. Others can counteract alcohol, creating conflicting messages in the brain that can lead to an increased risk of seizures occurring.

Brain Abnormalities or Injuries

Individuals with brain abnormalities, either present from birth or acquired from injuries, might be more susceptible to alcohol-induced seizures. This is due to the brain’s altered state and its potential sensitivity to changes in chemistry. The degree of risk depends on the type and extent of injury, and it is necessary to consult with a doctor to understand the risk specific to a particular individual.

Heavy Alcohol Intake or Binge Drinking

Binge drinking, consuming a large quantity of alcohol all at once, significantly increases the chances of experiencing a seizure. When you binge drink, you increase the risk of an overdose, which is a significant potential cause of seizures. Binge drinking also creates a very high amount of alcohol in your bloodstream and can lead to seizures as the amount of alcohol in your blood drops once you are done drinking alcohol.

How to Prevent Alcohol-Induced Seizures

The only 100% sure method for preventing alcohol-induced seizures is to stop drinking alcohol. Even just moderating your drinking can significantly reduce the risk of seizures in most people; however, this does require discipline and can be difficult if addiction has developed.

If you plan on continuing to use alcohol, there are some strategies that you can use to reduce the risk of alcohol-induced seizures. These include:

  • Limit alcohol consumption and avoid binge drinking.
  • If you’re on medication or have underlying health conditions, consult with a healthcare provider about the safety of drinking alcohol.
  • Understand your family’s medical history, especially concerning seizures or epilepsy.
  • Educate yourself on the signs of alcohol poisoning and be proactive in seeking medical attention if needed.

Treatment Options for Alcohol-Related Seizures

When it comes to treating seizures related to alcohol, immediate medical attention is crucial. The primary goal is to manage the symptoms and avoid harm during the seizure. Once the seizure is over, treatment focuses on treating the alcohol use that caused the seizure.

If you or a loved one are using alcohol so much that there is an increased risk of seizures, it is a clear sign that you should consider seeking professional help. At The Recovery Village Indianapolis Drug and Alcohol Rehab, we understand your difficulties and what it takes to succeed. Contact us today to learn how we can help you start your journey to lasting freedom from the effects of alcohol.


MedlinePlus. “Alcohol.” March 22, 2022. Accessed October 3, 2023.

Schachter, Steven C. “Alcohol as a Seizure Trigger.” Epilepsy Foundation. 2023. Accessed October 3, 2023.

Davies, Martin. “The role of GABAA receptors in mediating the effects of alcohol in the central nervous system.” Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience. July, 2003. Accessed October 3, 2023.

Woo, Kyoung Nam; Kim, Kihun; & et al. “Alcohol consumption on unprovoked seizure and epilepsy: An updated meta-analysis.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence. March, 2022. Accessed October 3, 2023.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol’s Effects on Health.” January, 2023. Accessed October 3, 2023. 

Berman, Jacob. “Alcohol withdrawal”. MedlinePlus. February 28, 2023. Accessed October 3, 2023.

Ko, David Y. “Epilepsy and Seizures Clinical Presentation.” Medscape. July 26, 2022. Accessed October 3, 2023.

Rogawski, Michael A. “Update on the Neurobiology of Alcohol Withdrawal Seizures.” Epilepsy Currents. November, 2005. Accessed October 3, 2023.


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