What Types of Addictions Can Cause Seizures During Withdrawal?

Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease that affects millions of Americans each year. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 48.7 million people aged 12 or older struggled with an addiction in 2022.[1]

No matter what type of substance you are addicted to, you will experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it. However, some addictions cause more severe withdrawal symptoms than others. For example, certain substances can cause seizures during withdrawal if you do not receive medical treatment.

The two types of substances that can cause seizures to occur include alcohol and benzodiazepines. If you are addicted to either of these substances, you should always seek help from a medical detox center.

What Types of Addictions Cause Seizures During Withdrawal?

Addiction can cause you to experience a wide range of withdrawal symptoms, some mild with others even being life-threatening. Even specific drugs have endless symptoms that become possible during withdrawal. As a result, it can be difficult to predict what symptoms you will experience.

Unfortunately, severe withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines can cause you to experience seizures. Due to this possibility, you should always seek medical assistance from a detox program.

Alcohol

Alcohol increases activity in specific receptors in your brain that produce a neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). When your brain becomes accustomed to this increase, suddenly stopping the consumption of alcohol can lead to a significant decline in GABA activity.[2] As a result, you can experience seizures during withdrawal.

Typically, seizures during alcohol withdrawal only occur when you develop delirium tremens (DTs), which occurs in 3-7% of chronic alcohol users. If you develop this form of severe alcohol withdrawal, you will begin to experience symptoms 3 to 4 days after your last drink.

Certain factors make you more likely to experience alcohol withdrawal seizures, including:

  • Drinking heavily over a long period
  • Consuming large amounts of alcohol daily
  • Age, as older individuals are more susceptible to severe symptoms
  • Having poor overall health
  • Having a co-occurring mental health issue
  • Experiencing alcohol withdrawal in the past

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are a class of prescription drugs primarily used to treat anxiety, panic disorder, insomnia, and seizures. Examples of benzodiazepines include Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), and Ativan (lorazepam).

If you become addicted to a benzodiazepine, allowing your withdrawal symptoms to go untreated could cause you to experience seizures. You are at the highest risk of experiencing seizures if you have been taking benzodiazepines long-term and at high doses, however, anyone experiencing withdrawal could suffer from them.

According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the severity of benzodiazepine withdrawal seizures ranges from single episodes to coma and death.[3]

Since the seizures associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal can be life-threatening, you should never attempt to detox at home.

How Can Detox Programs Prevent You From Experiencing a Seizure?

During alcohol or benzodiazepine withdrawal, seizures occur because of imbalances in the brain caused by the absence of a substance you were dependent on. This means that these seizures can be prevented by the use of medications that balance these chemicals properly.

Medical detox programs can prevent you from experiencing a seizure during withdrawal by managing your symptoms with medications. Not only will these medications prevent a seizure, but they will also lessen any other symptoms you are experiencing.

Typically, benzodiazepines are used during both alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal to prevent severe symptoms like seizures. The dose you are provided will depend on the severity of your addiction. Over time, your dose will be slowly tapered until you completely overcome withdrawal.

In addition to administering medication to control withdrawal symptoms, medical supervision can help prevent complications, therapy sessions can help you address the root cause of your addiction, and counseling can teach you relapse-prevention techniques to maintain long-term sobriety.

Find Help Now

Whether you struggle with alcoholism, benzodiazepine abuse, or another type of addiction, an outpatient detox center can help you overcome withdrawal. With medications, daily check-ins at a facility, and therapy sessions, you can detox safely and comfortably.

At Cobb Behavioral Health, we understand the importance of medically assisted detox. To ensure our clients do not experience severe symptoms like seizures, we prescribe FDA-approved withdrawal medications and provide comprehensive support.

To learn more about our outpatient detox program, contact us today.

References:

  1. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): HHS, SAMHSA Release 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Data, Retrieved January 2024 From https://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/press-announcements/20231113/hhs-samhsa-release-2022-nsduh-data
  2. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Update on the Neurobiology of Alcohol Withdrawal Seizures, Retrieved January 2024 From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1312739/
  3. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Benzodiazepine withdrawal seizures and management, Retrieved January 2024 From https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21815323/

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