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Are alcoholic seizures dangerous?

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Quick Answer

Seizures resulting from alcohol withdrawal are dangerous and can be fatal if severe enough, states LiveScience. Death may occur if a patient undergoing seizure chokes on food or sustains a fatal injury from a fall.

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Patients who have experienced multiple instances of alcohol withdrawal are more likely to undergo seizures, reports WebMD. These seizures may occur between 24 and 48 hours following the last period of alcohol consumption. Delirium tremens, a condition that has a death rate between 1 and 5 percent, may result from severe cases of alcohol withdrawal and typically occurs between 48 and 72 hours after drinking. Patients with a history of alcohol-related seizures, abnormal liver function or acute medical illness are more likely to undergo delirium tremens. Symptoms include fever, severe tremors, irregular heart beat, hallucinations and excessive sweating.

Patients with mild-to-moderate alcohol withdrawal are likely candidates for outpatient treatment, according to WebMD. Withdrawal seizures, delirium tremens, pregnancy, specific psychiatric illnesses and history of alcohol detoxification are factors that may require a person to attend inpatient treatment. Benzodiazepines are prescriptive drugs that can mitigate severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol affects many of the brain's neurotransmitters, explains WebMD. These include GABA, which is responsible for feelings of relaxation, and glutamate, which accounts for excitability. As tolerance to alcohol builds over time due to the suppression of neurotransmitters, more of it is necessary to achieve the same effects. When drinking ceases, the neurotransmitters become unsuppressed, and the brain enters hyperexcitability, which causes withdrawal symptoms.

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