Alcohol abuse can lead to seizures. This widely consumed legal substance, which is at the heart of so many social activities, is one of the most dangerous substances you can abuse.
How dangerous? It can do more harm to the body than any other substance in the world. In fact, scientists assigned alcohol their highest score for the harm it can do to individuals. According to Verywell Mind, these scientists looked at “the physical, psychological and social harm the drugs do to life expectancy, health risks, dependence, mental functioning, loss of tangibles, loss of relationships, crime, costs to society, family adversities and other factors.”
Alcohol outranked deadly substances such as heroin, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, and tobacco, among many infamous substances of abuse.
What makes alcohol so dangerous are the disturbances it can unleash once someone stops drinking, commonly referred to as symptoms of withdrawal. Seizures are one of the severe withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol abuse. People who drink heavily for more than 10 years are especially prone to developing seizures.
Read on to find out more about what constitutes an alcohol use disorder and the dangerous effects associated with misuse.
Normal vs. Heavy Drinking
Drinking is so prevalent in the U.S. that more than 86 percent of people age 18 and older said they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime, according to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
Alcohol use, in and of itself, is not dangerous. The amount you drink, however, can determine whether you are at risk for succumbing to the deleterious effects of alcohol. Thus, it is important to distinguish between normal and heavy drinking.
One drink a day for women and two per day for men are considerate moderate levels of alcohol consumption, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
That recommended daily amount is based on the measure of a standard drink, which is 14.0 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This pure alcohol level is found in
- 12 ounces of beer (5 percent alcohol content)
- 8 ounces of malt liquor (7 percent alcohol content)
- 5 ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol content)
- 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40 percent alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (i.e., whiskey, vodka, rum or gin).
Excessive alcohol consumption constitutes binge drinking, heavy drinking, alcohol use by individuals under the age of 21, and any alcohol use by pregnant women.
Heavy drinking is considered quaffing 15 or more drinks a week for men, and eight or more a week for women.
Binge drinking is considered heavy drinking. It occurs when people engage in a pattern of consumption that brings their blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) level to 0.08 percent or more. Binge drinking is also when a man has five or more and a woman has four or more drinks on a single occasion. This drinking pattern is established when it occurs within about two hours.
Excessive drinking does not necessarily mean you have an alcohol use disorder (AUD), a diagnosis that was previously referred to as alcoholism or alcohol dependence. There, however, established criteria that can determine whether an AUD is present.
How to Tell if You Have an Alcohol Use Disorder
When problem drinking becomes severe, it is diagnosed as an AUD. An AUD diagnosis is present when a person has met certain criteria as outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the principal authority on psychiatric diagnoses.
Under the DSM-5, if someone has met two of the 11 criteria over 12 months, it means an AUD is present. The severity of AUD, whether it is mild, moderate, or severe, is based on the number of the following criteria a person meets.
To Determine Whether You or A Loved One Has an AUD, Here are Some Questions to Ask. In the Past Year, Have You or That Person:
- Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
- Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
- Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?
If you or a loved one exhibits any of those symptoms, drinking may already be a problem. The more symptoms you or a loved one displays, the more urgent the issue.
Seizures and Other Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Seizures are among the litany of distressing symptoms that can result from alcohol withdrawal.
Someone who exhibits withdrawal symptoms already has progressed to the stage of dependence, where they need alcohol in their system to feel normal. When they stop drinking, and alcohol leaves the body, physical and psychological disturbances may occur.
Those symptoms present themselves on two levels, common and severe. People with severe withdrawal symptoms typically have a history of heavy drinking.
The Common Symptoms of Withdrawal Can Include:
- Increased heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sweating and chills
- Feeling exhausted
- Difficulty concentrating
- Pale skin
Those Severe Effects Are As Follows:
- Accelerated breathing
- Tremors in the hands
- Rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Dilated pupils
When Alcohol Withdrawal Becomes Deadly
There is a more severe effect of alcohol withdrawal that can kill you. It is termed delirium tremens (also known as DTs), and it is considered the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal. People who have been heavy drinkers for more than 10 years are especially at risk for developing DTs. Overall, delirium tremens affects about 5 percent of people in alcohol withdrawal.
The symptoms of DTs generally occur between two to four days after that last drink. They also may not show up until a week or 10 days later.
Nevertheless, The Life-Threatening Effects Of DTs are as Follows:
- Rapid heart rate
- Sudden severe confusion
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sensitivity to light, sound, or touch
- Heavy sweating
- Sudden mood changes
- Bursts of energy
- Body tremors
- Deep sleep lasting for a day or longer
- Sleepiness and fatigue
If you exhibit any combination of these symptoms, it constitutes a medical emergency. Treatment must occur as soon as possible. Without proper medical attention, DTs carries a high mortality rate.
If you are exhibiting seizures or worse, it is time to consider professional treatment.
How Professional Treatment Can Help
Because alcohol is so dangerous, especially in withdrawal, professional addiction treatment is essential.
A professional recovery program will start with medical detoxification where you will be under 24-7 care and supervision as a medical team gets you through withdrawal as safely and comfortably as possible.
To further your recovery, you can receive ongoing care on a full-time basis through a partial hospitalization program (PHP) or an intensive outpatient program (IOP). With either option, you will receive intensive treatment and therapy that allows you to uncover the root of your alcohol use disorder. However, an IOP will allow you to live at home (or some other housing arrangement) during treatment.
After treatment is completed, a caseworker will arrange aftercare through an alumni program, which allows you to connect to a recovery community that provides support, motivation, and inspiration.