Last week I had my annual neurologist appointment. I have well controlled epilepsy so I have only have to go once a year. It’s been almost 2.5 years since my last seizure. When I first had seizures, the hospital I went to afterwards told me that alcohol is known to lower the seizure threshold. As a result, they told me I should avoid alcohol. To date, I haven’t drank since I was diagnosed with epilepsy, roughly 2.5 years.
My dad also has a seizure history. He had his first seizure in his mid 50’s, when I was 10. (yes, he had me really late in life!). He had a seizure or two per year despite medication, but after about 8 years he stopped having break-through seizures so his doctor weaned him off. He’s now been medication and seizure free for over five years. I forget exactly when it was, it might be closer to 7 or 8 years now.
Before my dad’s first seizure he had an emotional dependence on alcohol. He wouldn’t drink during the week, but he was a very heavy binge drinker on the weekends. His first seizure was on a Tuesday, following a four day (binge) weekend. It was suggested to him that his first seizure may have been the result of alcohol dependence. He stop drinking and has remained sober since. He was really scared from the seizures and it was enough to get him to stop which I am thankful for. Despite stopping the drinking, he had seizures off and on for 8 years afterwards which makes me wonder if it had to do with his drinking or not. To this day, I feel a little uncomfortable being with him in common settings that involve drinking, such as my nieces’ wedding last summer. I’m so glad that he continues to choose just not to risk it.
I was never much of a drinker. Prior to my first seizure I would drink maybe 3 or 4 times per year. I would only drink pretty mild things like Mike’s Hard Lemonade or Smirnoff Ice. The sort of drinks that don’t have an overpowering alcohol taste, and usually have something like a 5% alcohol level. I’d drink maybe 3 or 4 of those in a night, at most. I’m 5’1″ so I could get good buzz on two or three, so four was plenty for me. I never had an interest in getting truly drunk.
Still, I quit drinking when I had my first seizure because I didn’t want to risk lowering my seizure threshold and having another seizure. However, now that I have been 2.5 years seizure free I wanted to ask my neurologist if I still should be avoiding alcohol. I know some of my readers have epilepsy, so please always ask specific advice from your neurologist. Your situation may be very different from my own. I had read of others doing okay with alcohol online but I wasn’t about to risk it unless my neurologist said it was okay. I highly recommend that you follow your doctors and/or neurologists advice!
Anyway, my neurologist said it’s probably safe for me to drink within moderation. The medication I am on (Keppra) does not interact poorly with alcohol. She said most people who have seizures related to alcohol are either addicts who have them while withdrawling, or people who drink heavily while staying up. She said if I do drink that avoiding sleep deprivation is important.
Seems how I am on the smaller side, and I haven’t drank at all in 2.5 years I will start very slow. I plan to drink just a single bottle when I first try, just to see if I have any brain fog, headaches, tremors or any other “red flags”. If that goes okay I’ll probably try 2 the next time, and so on. Of course, I will also make sure I only drink when I have had plenty of sleep.
It’s odd that I’m now looking at drinking despite my seizure history, when my dad has been seizure free over 5 years and I would still be nervous if he decided to try to drink. In part, him drinking would make me nervous because he was using it as an emotional crutch. He clearly had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol which is a risk factor by itself. I still feel a little hypocritical knowing that I am going to try drinking.
After having an aura (which ended without leading to a tonic/clonic seizure) and then a second aura which led into a tonic/clonic (formerly known as grand mal), I have been on Keppra ever since, and have remained seizure free. My seizure trigger is sleep deprivation. I too have a family history of epilepsy (four brothers and my son all have it, but all have different triggers). While I do believe that alcohol can increase the likelihood of some people to have seizures, it has never bothered me.