Leisure time and epilepsy
Helping you make decisions about alcohol, drugs and relationships when you have epilepsy.
The decision to drink alcohol is a personal choice. How alcohol affects someone with epilepsy depends on the individual, whether they are taking anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) and how much alcohol they drink. For most people with epilepsy, the occasional alcoholic drink does not usually cause a problem. It is usually recommended that people with epilepsy have no more than 1-2 units of alcohol per day. The patient information leaflet that comes with your AEDs may have information about drinking alcohol with that particular medication.
It may also be useful to consider the following:
- alcohol can make the side effects of AEDs worse
- AEDs may increase the effects of alcohol
- alcohol can trigger seizures for some people
- some people may be more likely to have a seizure if they are hungover
- alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns, which can make seizures more likely.
DIY and gardening
If you have seizures and would like to do your own home improvements, it may be helpful to think about the type and frequency of your seizures, the potential risks of each job.
Knowing your own abilities may help reduce the risk of accidents or injuries. If you are in doubt about doing a job yourself, or the risks involved, you may want to talk to a professional such as an electrician, plumber or gardener.
Recreational drugs have particular risks for people with epilepsy. Amphetamines (speed), cocaine, ecstasy and heroin have all been shown to increase the frequency of seizures.
Taking cannabis is also not advised if you have epilepsy. Some reports claim cannabis is not harmful, however other research has shown it can lead to an increase in seizures. This may be partly because cannabis can be made up of different compounds, so the effects on the brain can vary. (In November 2018 a change in the law meant that specialist doctors in the UK can now prescribe medicinal cannabis for some people with epilepsy).
Read more about medicinal cannabis
For some people, using recreational drugs could cause epilepsy to start and may increase the risk of triggering mental health problems. For more information about drugs visit talktofrank.com
Sex and relationships
Some people with epilepsy have problems with sex or relationships. Problems such as a low sex drive can happen for a number of different reasons: anxiety, depression, and the side effects of some AEDs can all contribute. Relationships can also be affected by how you or your partner feels about epilepsy.
Talking to your partner and a doctor can help to find the right support and treatment. For example, a doctor may suggest a review of your medication or identify where counselling might be helpful.
See our guide to sex and relationships
Television and computer games
Epileptic seizures can sometimes be triggered by certain speeds of flashing or flickering lights, and by some geometric patterns. This is called photosensitive epilepsy and it affects up to 3% of people with epilepsy. For someone with photosensitive epilepsy triggers can include:
- playing video games
- watching moving computer graphics
- watching a faulty television or other light source that flickers
- strobe lights.
The common rate for a flashing light to trigger seizures is between 3 and 30 hertz (flashes per second).
It is a good idea for everyone to take regular breaks when watching TV or using a computer, and to watch TV from a distance in a well-lit room.
TV programmes, films and theatre performances often have a warning if they have flashing lights or images. Video and computer games that have fast moving or flickering images may carry a warning on the packaging. Strobe lighting may be used in nightclubs too.
If you are suddenly exposed to a trigger, covering one eye completely with your hand may help reduce the photosensitive effect.
Read more about photosensitive epilepsy.
Know your triggers
Taken from our Leisure leaflet. Order this leaflet from our online shop as part of our 'first five free' offer, or download the pdf using the link below.