Alcohol and recreational drugs

    Fast facts

    1. 1
      Drinking small or modest amounts of alcohol is unlikely to cause more seizures
    2. 2
      Drinking lots in a short space of time (binge drinking) can make you more likely to have a seizure
    3. 3
      The risk of a seizure is most likely between 6 and 48 hours after stopping drinking
    4. 4
      The guidelines for anyone drinking alcohol say that men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week
    5. 5
      Excessive drinking can reduce the amount of some epilepsy medicines in the body
    6. 6
      Recreational drugs can trigger seizures, and put your health at risk
    7. 7
      You can never be exactly sure what is in recreational drugs
    8. 8
      Recreational drugs include illegal drugs and ‘legal highs’

    Top tips

    4 friends relaxing at home with food and drinks

    What others have said

    If I was put on a different dose of my medication I’d always stop drinking. I wanted to see how well it worked. But as soon as I had a seizure again I’d go back to drinking again.”

    Alcohol is a trigger for me. Definitely. When I drink loads generally 2 to 3 days later I have a seizure”

    I went through a stage of smoking cannabis it seemed to help me to relax. It’s one of those things that I had to try and now I accept that it was never going to be a solution”

    It’s not something I’m proud of but I started using drugs with my friends. It got really bad and what helped was talking to my epilepsy nurse – she didn’t judge, but she was quite blunt. She told me if I carry on the way I’m going, I was probably going to die. It was good for me, she was amazing”

    “I’m right off hangovers – I just end up having loads of absences the next day. There are consequences”



    What is a unit?

    A unit expresses the quantity of pure alcohol in a drink.

    One unit equals 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which is around the amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour.

    Flip the cards to find out how many units there are in some common drinks.

    How many units are there in these drinks?

    • 3 units = Pint (5.5% alcohol)

      2 units = Pint (3.6% alcohol)

      1 unit = Half a pint (3.6% alcohol)

    • 3 units = Large glass of wine (12% alcohol, 250ml)

      2.1 units = Standard glass of  wine (12% alcohol, 175ml)


    • 2 units = Double shot of spirits (50ml, 40% alcohol)

      1 unit = Single shot of spirits (small, 25ml, 40% alcohol)



    • 10 units = Bottle of wine (750ml, 13.5% alcohol)

      7.5 units = Bottle of wine (750ml, 10% alcohol)

    To work out how many units you are drinking try this unit calculator. It tells you the number of calories too.

    Unit calculator

    Stories by you

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    Do something

    Have you ever wondered how many units of alcohol you drink in an average week? Use the information above to work it out.

    You could make a note of how much you drink in your seizure diary to see if it has any impact on your seizures.



    More info

    There is a page about alcohol and epilepsy on the Epilepsy Action website


    There is a page about seizure triggers on the Epilepsy Action website


    The Epilepsy Space has more info about medical cannabis on the epilepsy medicines page

    Medical cannabis

    The Epilepsy Space has info and tips about going out

    Going out

    For more information about drinking visit the Drinkaware website


    To find out more about drug use visit the Frank website. You can also contact them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via their helpline.

    Talk to Frank
    Updated 12 May 2020
    Review 12 May 2023
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