Alcohol Withdrawal Seizure

Alcohol withdrawal happens when you've been drinking a lot of alcohol for days, and you then stop or cut back. This can cause seizures in some people. This is more of a risk in people who drink a lot of alcohol every day. Seizures can also be caused by alcohol (often with heavy consumption), even without withdrawal. Seizures may occur as soon as a few hours after your last drink. Or they can occur up to several days later.

If you've had a seizure from any cause, you're more at risk for a seizure from alcohol abuse. Seizure medicines may not prevent seizures that are caused by alcohol withdrawal.

Delirium tremens (DTs)

When you have a seizure due to alcohol, you are more likely to develop DTs. DTs are the worst stage of the alcohol withdrawal process. If it happens, it often starts about 3 to 5 days after your last drink. It can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of DTs include:

  • Sudden and severe mental or nervous system changes

  • Uncontrollable tremors

  • Severe disorientation, confusion, hallucinations

  • Heart racing, or irregular heartbeat

  • High blood pressure

  • Heavy sweating

  • Seizures

  • Coma and death

Home care

If you've been a heavy drinker for a long time, talk to your healthcare provider before you stop drinking. Talk to your provider if you have had serious withdrawal symptoms in the past. They may give you medicine to help manage your symptoms. To care for yourself at home:

  • You'll need a lot of rest and fluids over the next few days. Eat regular meals. Don't drink any more alcohol. During this time, it's best to stay with family or friends who can help and support you. You can also admit yourself to an outpatient, inpatient, or residential detox program.

  • Don't drive until all symptoms are gone and you feel better. You should also not drive until you have been checked by your provider. They will need to make sure you don't have a seizure disorder.

  • If you were given sedative medicine to help your symptoms, don't take it more often than prescribed. Never take it with alcohol.

  • Take daily vitamins. Heavy drinking plus poor nutrition can lead to a thiamine deficiency. This can cause permanent brain damage. Look for vitamins that have thiamine.

Follow-up care

Once you've gone through the withdrawal symptoms, you've fought half of the battle. To prevent the risk of going back to your old drinking pattern, get follow-up support and treatment. These resources can help you:

You can also search online for Drug Abuse & Treatment Centers in your area.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Another seizure

  • Trouble breathing or slow, irregular breathing

  • Chest pain

  • Sudden weakness on one side of your body or sudden trouble speaking

  • Heavy bleeding or vomiting blood

  • Very drowsy or trouble awakening

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Rapid heart rate

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Severe shakiness

  • Hallucinations

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher, or as advised by your provider

  • Headache, confusion

  • Pain in your upper abdomen that gets worse

  • Repeated vomiting

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