The diversity of seizures related to alcohol use. A study of consecutive patients

Eur J Neurol. 1999 Nov;6(6):697-703. doi: 10.1046/j.1468-1331.1999.660697.x.


The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of hazardous alcohol drinking on the occurrence of epileptic seizures, the semiology of such seizures, and the extent of the problem. A consecutive sample of 142 acute seizure patients (78 male and 64 female, mean age 46 (16-79) years) was studied. Control groups were 185 consecutive sciatica patients and 254 healthy individuals. Subjects with a hazardous alcohol drinking level were identified by a score >8 in the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). Seizures in AUDIT-positive individuals occurring within 72 h of the last drink were considered to be related to alcohol withdrawal. Generalized or partial onset seizures were classified on the basis of history, electroencephalographic (EEG) and neuroradiological findings. Thirty-five percent of seizure patients were AUDIT-positive, whereas conversely 27% were abstainers. Two-thirds of AUDIT-positive seizure patients met the criteria for withdrawal seizures. Indications of partial onset seizures were found in 25 (51%) of AUDIT-positive patients, all secondarily generalized seizures. Sixty percent of generalized onset seizure patients were AUDIT-positive. In conclusion, seizure patients included significantly more AUDIT-positive subjects, as well as abstainers, than healthy Norwegian controls and consecutive sciatica patients from our hospital. Partial onset seizures are more frequent among hazardous drinkers than hitherto recognized. A generalized onset seizure in adults warrants a high suspicion of alcohol as a provoking factor. Routine screening of acute seizure admissions with the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test is recommended.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Seizures / chemically induced*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Ethanol