Carbamazepine is a pharmaceutical drug used to treat people with epilepsy or other seizure-related problems. The side effects of carbamazepine can be similar to the effects of consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, so carbamazepine and alcohol are not considered to be a good combination. Side effects can be made worse and as with other anti-seizure medicines, a person’s tolerance to drinking is much lower. This anticonvulsant has been also been used to treat people who have alcohol withdrawal to lower the number of seizures associated with detoxification.
This medication can be useful in treating a variety of seizure-inducing conditions. It dissolves easily in alcohol, and someone who takes the drug and drinks is likely to experience extreme drowsiness. Carbamazepine and alcohol together increase the severity and frequency of side effects. Dizziness and headaches are common side effects of carbamazepine. The dizziness, unsteadiness, and fatigue that can result from consuming large amounts of alcohol can lead to dangerous results, especially when combined with this drug.
Carbamazepine can have adverse effects on the liver. Alcohol is also processed in the liver where excess consumption can cause problems, another reason why carbamazepine and alcohol should not be taken together. People with epilepsy are often advised by physicians not to drink alcohol, though light to moderate drinking generally does not make seizures worse. Small amounts of alcohol can suppress the activity leading to seizures, but convulsions can occur from hours to days after someone stops drinking.
Binge drinking and withdrawal can make seizures occur more often, especially for people with epilepsy. Three or more drinks are typically enough to cause a problem. Carbamazepine and alcohol do not usually create changes in brain activity on an electroencephalogram (EEG), or on a blood test. Since alcohol withdrawal has a profound effect on the nervous system, however, the neurological disturbances associated with seizures can be exacerbated by the combination and possibly be life threatening.
Aside from the adverse effects of carbamazepine and alcohol, excessive drinking can trigger epilepsy in some people. The condition can remain even if they stop drinking. No matter what dosage of carbamazepine is prescribed, patients should avoid drinking. Which conditions or diseases treated with the drug do not usually make a difference in this recommendation, because the neurological effects of both combine to make the side effects worse. It is also important to be aware of when possibly serious side effects begin, which is another reason to be sober while taking carbamazepine.