A drunk driving accident. A fight at a bar after a night of drinking. Many brain injury survivors received their brain injuries while under the influence of alcohol. In fact, studies have shown that between 35% and 81% of people who received a traumatic brain injury had been drinking at the time of their injury. Doctors and therapists routinely recommend that survivors abstain from alcohol after a brain injury but some survivors ignore this advice. But drinking after a brain injury has a new and more dangerous risk than before, namely post-injury seizures.
In general, brain injury survivors are more prone to developing a seizure disorder than are people without brain injuries. Depending on the severity and location of a traumatic brain injury, research shows that post-traumatic brain injury seizure rates are between 2-50%. Similarly, post-stroke seizure rates are between 5-20%. Both of these are significantly higher than the seizure rate in the general population.
Unfortunately, alcohol can raise both the likelihood and frequency of post-injury seizures. Alcohol lowers the threshold for seizures to occur, making a seizure more likely to happen. For those already taking anti-seizure medication, alcohol can interfere with the performance of the medication, causing the medication to be ineffective and allowing more seizures to occur. As a seizure can be a potentially life-threatening medical issue, anything that raises the likelihood of seizures should be avoided.
Overall, it is smart for many reasons to avoid consuming alcohol after an injury. But the risk of seizures is an important reason which should not be ignored.
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