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Excessive consumption of alcohol, either in the form of binge drinking or continued regular use, can lead to alcoholic seizures. Alcohol is a drug that depresses the central nervous system ("CNS"). The CNS consists of the brain and the spinal cord, and relays sensory and motor information between the body and the brain. When a binge drinker consumes too much alcohol, or when a chronic drinker suddenly stops drinking, the brain may react by sending that person into a seizure.
You do not have to be an alcoholic to experience an alcohol-induced seizure. You may have a tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure when you unintentionally or intentionally consume a large quantity of alcohol within a short period of time (binge drinking).
Alcohol Withdrawal Seizures
The more a person drinks, the more he becomes physically dependent upon alcohol. The CNS struggles to function normally, despite its repeated exposure to alcohol. The body adapts by building up a tolerance for liquor. The person is compelled to drink more to obtain the same "buzz" he got when he drank less, and he begins to have withdrawal symptoms when his blood alcohol levels drops.
A chronic alcohol user may experience several alcohol withdrawal seizures within 24 to 48 hours after his last drink, and up to 1 week later. The CNS is so depressed by heavy alcohol use that it can rebound, or go into a hyper-excited state, once alcohol is reduced or removed from the system. This rebound activity is what causes alcohol withdrawal seizures.
Alcoholic seizures can be caused when alcohol is mixed with illicit or prescription drugs, including antibiotics. Head trauma from falls and auto accidents can cause seizures; these injuries may be linked to excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol may bring on seizures in epileptics or those with underlying seizure disorders.
Identification of Seizures
Symptoms of a grand mal seizure include blinking or rolling of eyes, loss of consciousness and uncontrollable stiffening and relaxing of the muscles. The seizure may last for several minutes. The person may froth at the mouth. She will be groggy or confused when she wakes from the seizure. She will have no recollection of the incident.
One in three people who experience alcohol withdrawal seizures go on to experience delirium tremens (DTs). Delirium tremens can be fatal. Symptoms include high blood pressure, fever, terrifying hallucinations, tremor, rapid heartbeat and respiratory depression. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms while cutting down or abstaining from alcohol.
Once someone decides to embark upon a sober lifestyle, prognosis is good for complete recovery from alcohol-related seizures. He should consult his physician to assist with alcohol withdrawal symptoms. He may find help through support groups, recovery centres, employee assistance programs, counselling or therapy.
Family intervention is another effective therapeutic tool in convincing the chronic alcohol abuser to enter treatment for his disease.
- Loosening the Grip: A Handbook of Alcohol Information; Jean Kinney, M.S.W.: 2006
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