Epilepsy: The Hidden Cost of Substance Use

International Epilepsy Ribbon

Most of the costs of drug use are infamous enough to not need repeating. Drug use often leads to financial, social, legal, emotional, and psychological peril. These costs should not be underestimated and should not be undersold. Those reasons alone are more than enough to avoid using addictive substances or to get help if you already are. But the physical costs of drug use are often the first side effects that come to mind. Overdoses, tooth loss, paranoia, insomnia, organ damage/organ failure: the list of physical symptoms goes on and on. But there is one symptom of drug use that is rarely discussed, yet it can remake an entire life if it manifests: drug-induced epilepsy.

What is Epilepsy?

According to the WHO:

Epilepsy is a chronic noncommunicable disease of the brain that affects around 50 million people worldwide. It is characterized by recurrent seizures, which are brief episodes of involuntary movement that may involve a part of the body (partial) or the entire body (generalized) and are sometimes accompanied by loss of consciousness and control of bowel or bladder function…Epilepsy is one of the world’s oldest recognized [health] conditions, with written records dating back to 4000 BCE. Characteristics of seizures vary and depend on where in the brain the disturbance first starts, and how far it spreads. Temporary symptoms occur, such as loss of awareness or consciousness, and disturbances of movement, sensation (including vision, hearing and taste), mood, or other cognitive functions.

Epilepsy is most commonly brought on by one of a variety of factors, including “brain damage from prenatal…perinatal causes….congenital abnormalities…a severe head injury…a stroke that restricts the amount of oxygen to the brain”. It is a treatable but highly serious disorder that requires medication and therapy. As of now, there is no cure for epilepsy; it is only possible to treat and manage the worst of the symptoms.

Can Drug Abuse cause Epilepsy?

While drug use is very, very far from the most common way to contract epilepsy, it is sadly possible. The permanence and complications of epilepsy disorders mean that it’s a risk worth taking seriously. As far as current research shows, epilepsy cannot be directly brought about by any drug, but the many side effects of repeated substance abuse can either create a case of epilepsy where none existed, or aggravate the condition if it is already present.

Epilepsy is incredibly serious Avoiding drug use can limit your risks of contracting this incurable disorder

How can Drug Abuse cause Epilepsy?

When not present at birth, epilepsy can be brought about by trauma and injury to the brain. Drugs like alcohol, opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, Xanax, stimulants and many, many others all increase the user’s risk of stroke. A stroke is a blood clot that lodges inside the brain and blocks blood flow to some portion of the brain. Without oxygen, brain tissue is damaged and begins to die within minutes. Strokes can be fatal, but victims survive with lasting damage. In some cases, this damage can lead to epilepsy as the brain re-wires itself in the aftermath of the stroke, leaving the victim with periodic surges in electrical activity within the brain, otherwise known as seizures. These seizures *are* epilepsy. And as stated above, there is no cure for it.

Sadly, strokes are not the only ways that drugs and alcohol can increase one’s risk of epilepsy. Substance abuse can either damage the immune system directly or be a co-factor in damaging it indirectly, making one more vulnerable to pathogens that can attack the brain and leave epilepsy in the wake of the damage.

Substance use also increases the risk of seizure if the user already has an epilepsy disorder present. Most drugs alter respiratory, circulatory and endocrine balances, all of which are known triggers for seizures in people with epilepsy. As you probably already know, drugs are not good for your health. If you’re at risk for epilepsy, you owe it to yourself to get treatment for substance abuse and lower your risk factors as soon as possible.

Protect yourself. Get treatment now.

At Better Tomorrow, we know that the best way to prevent drug-induced epilepsy is to get treatment and start recovery as soon as possible. Every day that you wait is another day you’ll be lucky to avoid a health crisis that can’t be fixed. It can be scary to contemplate your own mortality, and all the ways that substance abuse can change your life for the worse. Getting help takes courage. But you have all the strength you need within you. Contact us today to start your recovery journey.

Better Tomorrow Treatment Center’s modern, evidence-based addiction care is designed to foster the personal growth needed to sustain a lifetime of recovery. Find the insight and strength required for the rewarding sober lifestyle your or your loved one deserves. If you or a loved one wants to start their recovery journey, please contact us at (888) 653-1149, or head over to our website and scroll down to the bottom of the page and fill out our 100% confidential information form and a compassionate member of our team will reach out to you.

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