Most people are familiar with seizures; in fact, you may have even seen a person fall into one at some point in your life. Seizures are most commonly associated with epilepsy, a chronic neurological disorder which causes recurrent, unprovoked seizures. However, what many don’t know is that addiction can cause seizures too. Not only is a withdrawal a high risk time for seizures, but an individual can have one after their first time ever using a drug.
Drug Induced Seizures
When a person binges or uses drugs in excess amounts, seizures can occur. In some cases, they happen right before a person overdoses, or falls into complete unconsciousness. Although scary to witness, this precursor can be a vital opportunity to get help before the full fledged overdose takes place.
Likewise, there have been instances in which a person has a seizure after using a stimulant like cocaine or methamphetamine. They’re not necessarily overdosing, but their body is basically reacting to the drug and what could soon be a toxic overload. Why or how recreational drug abuse causes seizures is not fully understood. Researchers believe it may have to do with drug combinations (polydrug use), or a fixed neurologic deficit.
Addiction Can Exacerbate the Symptoms of Epilepsy
When a person has been diagnosed with epilepsy and taking medication, there is a high risk of having an epileptic seizure. This is because certain drugs affect the specific areas of the brain and can have clashing interactions with the medications or epilepsy. Cocaine and crack cocaine can cause seizures immediately after using and for the duration it lasts in the body. Cocaine induced seizures are unique in that they can lead to heart attacks and death. These seizures can occur even if you’ve never had a seizure, but are more common in epileptics.
Choking and Injury During Seizures
During a drug induced seizure, you could fall down, make jerking movements, choke or vomit. You cannot control what is happening to your body and even afterwards, you most likely will not remember what happened or where you are. Concerns of choking on vomit or hitting the head upon falling are very realistic. These actions could lead to further problems and be potentially life threatening.
How Withdrawal can Cause Seizures
In the case of a withdrawal from addiction, seizures can occur. This is especially true for alcoholism and benzodiazepines. Although research is limited, alcohol can lead to seizures during the withdrawal. This includes complete abstinence and drinking after a short while of cessation. It is believed these addiction induced seizures happen from the toxic effects of alcohol which lower the “alcoholic's seizure threshold due to un-regulation of NMDA-receptors in neurons” of the brain. In the U.S.A., around 2 million Americans will experience alcohol withdrawal syndrome every year. Seizures are the most dangerous symptoms which occur in around 1/3 of all people who experience alcohol withdrawal. They are triggered in the brain stem and distinct from other clinical seizure types; of which there are 40. The risk for alcohol induced seizures can be decreased with prescribed benzodiazepines. If these are provided, the dosage will be decreased and eliminated as necessary.
What to Do if a Seizure Takes Place
It can be extremely terrifying to watch a seizure. If you witness someone demonstrating body spasms, loss of consciousness, convulsions or foaming at the mouth, there is a good chance a seizure is taking place. It’s important to call your nearest emergency center or hotline immediately.
Why Getting Help at Rehab is Vital
One of the biggest concerns of drug and alcohol rehabs is the initial withdrawal. Some centers will follow strict guidelines that make a hospitalized detox mandatory before treatment can begin. Other’s will offer a monitored withdrawal at the facility. Either way, in the case of addiction withdrawal, going cold turkey is never a good idea. Apart from the risk of addiction seizures, there are other risks which could be hazardous, yet managed under medical supervision.
Getting Help for an Addiction at Serenity Chiang Rai
Siam Rehab is a drug and alcohol rehab centre in the north of Thailand. We offer private treatment based around a 12 step programme to men and women from around the world. We have an addiction psychiatrist as our medical director who will fist assess you on arrival and prescribe medication if he feels necessary to limit the chance of any potential seizures.