Can Alcohol (or Withdrawal) Cause a Seizure?

Published On: December 28, 2022

Seizures occur as a result of an increase in electrical activity in the brain through the neural network. Most commonly, individuals display behaviours such as shaking and tremblinggenerally uncontrolled movement.

However, this is not always the case, and some seizures may be completely visually undetectable.

Seizures can be incredibly dangerous, with some seizures causing the individual to cause harm to themselves.

This is why it is important to identify what type of seizure an individual is having in order to provide the most suitable and appropriate form of care and support.

Although seizures are most commonly associated with epilepsy and related disorders (1), they are also recognised as a symptom of high alcohol consumption and alcohol withdrawal. These are known as alcohol withdrawal seizures.

This can be especially dangerous, as the individual has the risks of both the seizure itself but also the risks and dangers that come with alcoholism and high alcohol consumption.

Different Types of Seizures


As mentioned above, there are different types of seizures that can require different types of support and treatment.

Telling the difference between these types of seizures can be difficult and additional medical support should always be sought if the individual is unsure.

The different types of seizures can cause different effects on the body, as well as having different behavioural effects, and generally result from the area of the brain which is affected.

The following subheadings outline the different types of seizures, some characteristics of these seizures, and the reason for each of these different types.

1. Focal Seizures

Focal seizures occur on one side of the brain and are common amongst individuals who have epilepsy.

Symptoms include unusual head or eye movements, as well as dilated pupils, nausea, tightened muscles, numbness, tingling, hallucinations, and difficulty in talking.

These seizures can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes and can vary in frequency and severity depending on whether it is during the day or during the night (2).

Within this category of seizures, there are also subcategories, and these generally have the same characteristics of being conscious, but perhaps not visually.

This means that although the individual who is suffering from the seizure may not appear to be conscious, they are generally unaware of their surroundings.

This can be dangerous, as the individual is unaware of their surroundings and therefore may injure themselves if they experience muscle spasms or uncontrolled movements.

2. Generalised Seizures

Generalised seizures generally start across both sides of the brain, and individuals have impaired awareness when experiencing these forms of seizures.

As with focal seizures, individuals are likely to experience muscle stiffening or spasming, but they can also experience crying, biting the inside of the mouth and/or cheek, impaired bladder control, falling to the floor, and facial twitching.

These types of seizures can also be common in the night time – something which can require additional care and support from individuals around the individual who is struggling with seizures.

These types of seizures are most often characterised by falling to the floor or loss of muscular control, meaning that those around them should ensure to support them where suitable and protect them from further harm should this be necessary.

Can Drinking Alcohol Cause Seizures?


Alcohol is known to be a dangerous drug due to its physically addictive nature. This means that the body becomes dependent on alcohol for essential processes and functions.

This means that without alcohol, the individual may begin to struggle to produce essential hormones and chemicals within the body that are essential for everyday processing.

This can lead to further issues, as the body struggles to cope without alcohol which they have become dependent upon for everyday processing.

Specifically, alcoholic seizures are most common during the withdrawal process – the process of removing the harmful chemicals and toxins that have built up in the body as a result of long-term addiction and therefore dependence.

Seizures are a listed symptom of alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) which encapsulates a wide range of severe effects as a result of withdrawing from alcohol without proper and appropriate assistance (3).

This can cause long-term health issues in both the individual’s physical and mental health, worsened by experiences of seizures.

1. Binge Drinking Seizures

If an individual is drinking large quantities of alcohol over a long period of time, then their body may go through multiple withdrawals as the individual attempts to quit drinking over multiple tries.

Multiple withdrawal attempts and alcohol withdrawal symptoms can lead to greater brain activity, leading to the potential risk of developing epilepsy as a result of high alcohol intake.

Therefore, individuals who consume large quantities of alcohol actually increase their brain activity, leading to a greater risk of seizures and an additional risk of developing epilepsy itself – something which can cause a higher risk of seizures in the future.

Binge drinking in itself can have serious impacts, but the additional risks of seizures and epilepsy make it even more dangerous.

2. What can trigger a seizure?

As previously mentioned, seizures can result from increased neural activity, but this also includes disruption of these networks as a result of additional neurons being fired.

These disruptions can be caused by a variety of different factors such as higher or lower blood sugar levels, high fever, changes in blood pressure, alcohol and other drug withdrawal processes, and/or brain concussions.

Basically, seizures can be caused as a result of the disruption of homeostasis within neural networks and the brain in general (4).

However, if the individual has two or more seizures with no discernible cause then they are diagnosed with epilepsy.

Seizures can affect individuals from any culture or background. Some individuals may have one or two seizures in their lives, some may have none, whereas others may have hundreds throughout their lives.

3. Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning occurs when the individual consumes large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time – also known as binge drinking.

This is a common occurrence, especially in the UK where there is a strong drinking culture and drinking above the recommended number of units is normalised on nights out with friends.

However, drinking above the recommended number of units in a short space of time can have serious consequences, especially in terms of developing further physical or mental health issues.

As mentioned previously, binge drinking and consequent attempts to withdraw can impact the brain’s activity, leading to additional risks involving epilepsy and further seizures.

Risks Associated with Alcohol-Related Seizures

Alcohol addiction

Seizures related to alcohol are most common during alcohol withdrawal seizures i.e., during the process of withdrawing from alcohol.

This means that these individuals also struggle with the risks associated with withdrawal.

Alcohol withdrawal seizures can have serious impacts on the individual’s body as a result of the associated symptoms.

For example, with muscle stiffening and spasming, individuals can cause muscle tears and strains – something which can cause long-term health issues and require long-term physiotherapy and rehabilitation.

Individuals struggling with severe withdrawal symptoms and alcohol withdrawal seizures should always seek medical support when undergoing these processes in order to get the best form of care that is essential for their long-term health and well-being.

What Happens When You Stop Drinking?

Woman with head on clasped hands, eyes closed

As previously explained, alcohol is a physically addictive substance.

This means that when individuals who are struggling with alcohol addictions and heavy drinking stop drinking, their body will no longer have the support it needs from alcohol to continue the everyday processes and functions on which it has become dependent.

This is known as alcohol withdrawal.

This is an incredibly risky situation, and individuals who have a long-term history of alcohol consumption and addiction should never attempt to go ‘cold turkey’ – where alcohol consumption is stopped completely.

This can cause serious issues, especially when considering that alcohol withdrawal seizures are common among individuals who have decided to quit drinking.

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be severe and Rehab 4 Alcoholism are here to help with any issue relating to addiction, no matter how serious or mild it may seem to be to the individual.

Understanding Delirium Tremens

A man taking off his glasses and rubbing his face

Delirium tremens is another common symptom of AWS and is commonly associated with alcohol withdrawal seizures, especially in the aftermath of these seizures and the long-term effects of other AWS effects.

Delirium tremens refers to shaking, trembling, confusion, and irregular heart rate that occurs rapidly after withdrawing from alcohol (5).

Individuals may also experience hallucinations – something which can also cause additional harm as the individual misinterprets the world around them.

These symptoms generally occur within three days of withdrawal and can last for three or more days during the withdrawal process.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)


If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction or have experienced seizures as a result of alcohol consumption, then it is important to seek help as soon as possible.

This can be achieved through multiple methods. For example, some individuals may choose to enter residential rehabilitation, join local Alcoholics Anonymous groups, or check their suitability for home detox programmes.

During rehabilitation, individuals will be assisted through the process of withdrawing from alcohol and the treatment of alcohol withdrawal, counselling to face to root causes of their addiction, and maintaining this rehabilitation in the long term, even after leaving these specific programmes.

There are multiple addiction treatment programmes available for individuals in any situation.

For example, most individuals will benefit from therapy in some form – either one-to-one counselling or as part of a group – as well as additional or holistic treatments available from some rehabilitation service providers.

Rehabilitation Goals

Support groups

Through rehabilitation recommended through Rehab 4 Alcoholism, individuals will always be recommended the abstinence approach to treatment.

This refers to the individual completely stopping their consumption of alcohol and maintaining this in the long term, even after leaving rehab.

This is known to be the most effective approach to rehab as it allows the individual to leave their previous bad habits behind and work towards an addiction-free lifestyle.

Addiction is never completely curable, though rehabilitation will help individuals to learn specialised and tailored coping mechanisms for their specific needs and requirements.

This means that even after leaving rehabilitation, individuals will carry on this abstinence, avoiding alcohol and maintaining their rehabilitative techniques into the future.

Abstinence is more effective than other approaches to rehab such as moderation management or harm reduction, both of which focus on reducing the negative impacts of addiction rather than determining the root cause and working on moving away from addiction.

Individuals seeking help outside of Rehab 4 Alcoholism should always ensure that this is the approach taken and not the other approaches such as those mentioned above.

What Happens After Alcohol Detox?

Support Group

After detoxing from alcohol and the treatment of alcohol withdrawal, individuals are likely to move on to additional treatments such as therapies and other addiction treatment programmes, specific to their needs.

This is because a detox without further treatment is generally ineffective. Without further treating the root cause of the addiction, individuals are unlikely to make any progress with their addiction-free future, often relapsing soon after the detox has been successfully completed.

Addiction is both a physical and mental health disorder, meaning that it affects both areas. Therefore, this means that both areas should be treated.

A detox focuses solely on the physical health and withdrawal of the individual rather than the mental health effects of their addiction. Therefore, both areas of health should be treated rather than entering rehabilitation believing that a detox is all that is needed.

Help For Alcoholism

Rehab 4 Alcoholism provides a referral system for individuals looking to seek support for alcohol or other drug abuse.

Through our referral system, Rehab 4 Alcoholism matches individuals to appropriate and suitable treatment programmes for their needs, allowing individuals to focus more wholly on their experience of rehab rather than worrying about finding the right service provider.

A member of our team will assess each individual’s needs through an initial telephone assessment before making any suggestions, ensuring to enquire about the individual’s health, history of addiction, current environment, and any other factors that are essential to long-term recovery and rehabilitation.

To contact our addiction support line today, please call 0800 111 4108 to speak to a member of our friendly and professional team.

No matter how mild or severe the individual’s issues may be, the best time to call Rehab 4 Alcoholism is now.


[1] Engel Jr, J., 2013. Seizures and epilepsy (Vol. 83). Oxford University Press.

[2] Pavlova, M.K., Shea, S.A. and Bromfield, E.B., 2004. Day/night patterns of focal seizures. Epilepsy & Behavior, 5(1), pp.44-49.

[3] Bayard, M., Mcintyre, J., Hill, K. and Woodside, J., 2004. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome. American family physician, 69(6), pp.1443-1450.

[4] Delanty, N., Vaughan, C.J. and French, J.A., 1998. Medical causes of seizures. The Lancet, 352(9125), pp.383-390.

[5] Erwin, W.E., Williams, D.B. and Speir, W.A., 1998. Delirium tremens. Southern Medical Journal, 91(5), pp.425-432.

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