Epilepsy medicine

    Fast facts

    1. 1
      Epilepsy medicines are also known as anti-epileptic drugs or AEDs
    2. 2
      Epilepsy medicine isn’t a cure. The medicines aim to try and stop the seizures happening. This is done by changing the levels of chemicals in the brain that control electrical activity. The short video below explains more about how AEDs work
    3. 3
      Many people find their seizures are controlled with one medicine, but some people need to take 2 or more
    4. 4
      Epilepsy medicine is absorbed into the blood and carried to the brain. For the medicine to work properly there needs to be a steady supply in the blood
    5. 5
      Missing a dose of your epilepsy medicine can increase the risk of having a seizure
    6. 6
      If you take your medicine twice a day taking it exactly 12 hours apart may increase your seizure control


    This short video that explains how AEDs work

    Top tips



    Woman with a glass of water about to take a tablet

    There might be side-effects

    Side-effects are unwanted symptoms caused by medicines. All medicines come with a patient information leaflet with a list of the known side-effects and how common they are. Your epilepsy doctor or nurse will be able to talk about possible side-effects with you.

    Fast facts

    Different medicines produce different side-effects

    People are affected by epilepsy medicine in different ways

    Many side-effects are mild and lessen over time, as your body gets used to the medicine

    If you are badly affected by side-effects talk to your epilepsy doctor. They might try you on a different medicine or a different dose

    The benefits of seizure control are usually greater than the impact of any side-effects


    Some side-effects, such as a rash, can be a sign of a serious reaction.

    Your epilepsy doctor or nurse should warn you about these and explain what to do if they happen to you.

    Remembering to take your epilepsy meds

    Managing medicines and remembering to take them can be a challenge, particularly if you take several different ones.

    Here are some tips to help make sure you take your epilepsy medicine:

    Stories by you

    If you have a story to share about side-effects, remembering to take your medicines, or anything else about epilepsy medicines we’d love to hear from you.

    Cannabis plant leaves

    Medical cannabis for epilepsy

    We know the restrictions on the availability of medical cannabis is a frustration for some people with epilepsy.

    Epilepsy Action is working to ensure that everyone with epilepsy who could benefit from cannabis-based medicines can access them in a safe and timely manner.

    For the latest on medical cannabis for epilepsy in the UK visit the Epilepsy Action website.

    Fast facts

    In specific cases medical cannabis may be available as a treatment

    Cannabis contains hundreds of natural chemicals. In medical cannabis, the two most important are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

    CBD products sold online and in health food shops are not licensed as medicines. There's no guarantee of their quality or safety

    The Food Standards Agency say that as a precaution, people taking any medicine should not use CBD products, unless directed to do so by their doctor

    If you choose to use a cannabis-based product it’s best to let your epilepsy doctor know, because it might interact with your epilepsy medicine(s)

    There's only one cannabis-based medicine licenced for treating epilepsy. It's called Epidyolex

    Epidyolex is only prescribed by the NHS as a treatment for people with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome

    Do something

    How good are you at remembering to take your epilepsy medicine as prescribed?

    If you don’t have a routine in place. This template might help.

    If it is: ____________________________
    and I am: _________________________
    and I have: ________________________
    then I will take my epilepsy meds.

    Filled in it might look like this:

    If it is: 8am
    and I am: in the bathroom
    and I have: finished brushing my teeth
    then I will take my epilepsy meds.

    More info

    The Epilepsy Action website has more information about epilepsy medicines

    Epilepsy medicines available in the UK

    List of AEDs

    More about side-effects and interactions


    Epilepsy Action – the latest on medical cannabis for epilepsy in the UK

    Medical cannabis
    Updated 12 May 2020
    Review 12 May 2023
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