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Epilepsy Blog Relay: What’s the deal with alcohol and epilepsy?

This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™, which will run from November 1 to November 30, 2018.  Follow along!

Epilepsy in Everyday life: Interactions of Alcohol and Epilepsy Medication

The theme of this week during the Epilepsy Blog Relay is, “Epilepsy in Everyday Life”. When this category was given to me I played with a few different ideas. I even started asking around my group of friends and family what was something regarding epilepsy that no one really told you when you were first put on AED’s (anti epilepsy drugs) or something you were curious about. The common theme that kept coming up was, can you drink while you are on AED’s?

I think this is a topic that many people with and without seizure disorders ask about a lot. It is also one that some of us are fearful to ask our doctors. There is that nagging gut instinct of what the answer will be.

According to epilepsy.com, “Seizure medicines can lower your tolerance for alcohol, so the immediate effects of alcohol consumption are greater. In other words, people get drunk faster. Rapid intoxication is a big problem because many of the side effects of these medicines are similar to the acute effects of alcohol itself. If you are sensitive to alcohol or seizure medicines, you may find the combination even worse.” In other words, those on seizure medications can feel more intoxicated after having a smaller number of drinks than others around them.

I also found a few tips for those pondering the question of whether or not to drink:

Reasons not to drink:

  • According to the Epilepsy Society, “Alcohol disrupts your sleep. Seizures can be triggered by tiredness for many people, so poor sleep makes seizures more likely to happen.”
  • Driving while on AED’s and alcohol can be extremely dangerous. Both AED’s and alcohol can affect your awareness, reflexes, coordination, and ability to drive safely
  • Large amounts of alcohol in a short time frame is not encouraged for people on anti-seizure medications.

Moderation is key

  • According to the Epilepsy Foundation, if you must, then definitely drink in moderation.
  • According to the Mayo Clinic, “The biggest risk is with people who binge drink or use alcohol excessively. This can lower seizure thresholds.”

This is a topic that many people with epilepsy avoid (me being one of them). Personally, for most of my life I have not wanted many people to know that I have Epilepsy nor did I want to be treated differently than anyone else. It is a very difficult task. I know this sounds “cliché” or silly, but do not be afraid to say no when you feel uncomfortable in situations regarding drinking. Also, if you are in social situations make sure that someone around you knows that you have epilepsy and are on medications in case something happens.

Related article: Epilepsy isn’t my only story

How to handle a social situation if you decide not to drink

If you are at a bar or a cocktail party, ask the bartender for a glass of tonic water and lime or ginger ale and lime. You don’t even have to drink it. Simply by carrying it around you will fend off those pesky, “How come you are not drinking?” questions. The glass looks like a gin and tonic and people won’t bat an eye.

If you are at a party at someone’s home fill up a red cup with water. People are unlikely to peer over the rim of your glass to see what you have in there.

And always turn the question back on whoever is asking. If someone asks, “What are you drinking?” just ask them “What are YOU drinking?”. It could help you to avoid an awkward encounter, but there is always the chance that you might have to buy them a refill.

Now your turn: How do you handle epilepsy and alcohol?

Comment below!

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Follow Rachel Ehrhardt:
Rachel Ehrhardt Streelman is from Houston , Texas. She has been a writer and contributor to Living Well with Epilepsy for two years. Rachel has had epilepsy since 9 months old. She comes from a family where her father, sister, and herself all have different forms of epilepsy. Rachel is married to Casey and they have a Cavapoo named Sheldon.

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