Alcohol Consumption and Keppra: What Are the Effects? | MyEpilepsyTeam

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Alcohol Consumption and Keppra: What Are the Effects?

Written and medically reviewed by Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD
Posted on March 26, 2024

For millions of people with epilepsy, navigating daily life means balancing seizure control with everyday activities. The drug levetiracetam (pronounced “lee-veh-ty-RA-seh-tam”) is a key ally in this journey. Levetiracetam is sold under brand names including Keppra, Keppra XR, Elepsia XR, and Spritam.

Seizure management and common lifestyle choices, such as consuming alcohol, raise important questions. For example, how does drinking alcohol affect those who depend on levetiracetam?

Many MyEpilepsyTeam members have wondered about this interaction. “Has anyone ever drank beer or a cocktail while taking Keppra?” one member asked.

Another member wrote, “I’m turning 21 soon and want to be prepared when drinking/trying alcoholic beverages.”

The article discusses the safety of alcohol consumption while taking levetiracetam and offers guidance for individuals managing epilepsy.

What Is Levetiracetam?

Levetiracetam belongs to a class of medications known as antiepileptics (formerly called anticonvulsants). Levetiracetam works by keeping electrical activity in the brain stable. Seizures often result from excessive electrical discharges in a group of brain cells. Levetiracetam helps prevent these bursts so that seizures are less frequent and less intense. To be diagnosed with epilepsy, a person must have had two or more unprovoked (not caused by a certain event) seizures more than 24 hours apart.

The dosage of levetiracetam depends on a person’s age, weight, and type of seizures. For adults and older children, the dosage can range from 250 to 3,000 milligrams a day, typically taken in one or two doses. The medication can be taken with or without food, on an empty or full stomach. As with all medications, levetiracetam must be taken exactly as prescribed.

Side Effects of Levetiracetam

Levetiracetam can cause a variety of side effects. Common ones include:

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness

Less common side effects include dizziness, memory loss, and coordination problems. In rare cases, people using levetiracetam can experience serious adverse effects like severe allergic reactions and skin reactions.

These side effects can occur solely from the medication, even without use of an additional substance, such as alcohol.

Potential Risks of Mixing Levetiracetam and Alcohol

When it comes to seizures, understanding how alcohol interacts with medications is crucial. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant — it slows down brain function and changes the way your nerves send messages back and forth. Knowing about this interaction is particularly important when considering a medication like levetiracetam.

Alcohol’s effect on the central nervous system can worsen levetiracetam’s side effects, particularly drowsiness. Drinking alcohol while taking levetiracetam can also heighten side effects like dizziness and difficulty concentrating. The combined use can raise the risk of accidental injury due to impaired motor skills and judgment.

It’s also possible that alcohol may make levetiracetam less effective in controlling seizures. In fact, alcohol itself can be a trigger for seizures, especially in large quantities or during withdrawal.

The effects of alcohol on individuals taking levetiracetam vary. Common concerns include:

  • Cognitive impact — Alcohol can impair cognitive functions (related to thinking and memory), leading to poor judgment and slower reaction times.
  • Physical effects — Combining alcohol and levetiracetam can increase the risk of seizures and falls because of enhanced side effects.
  • Mental health — Alcohol may worsen mental health issues like depression and anxiety, which can be particularly challenging for people with epilepsy.

Questions To Ask Your Neurologist and Pharmacist

It’s essential to have an open dialogue with your health care providers about drinking and epilepsy treatment. Your neurologist and pharmacist can provide personalized advice on managing your condition based on your lifestyle choices, including alcohol consumption.

Make sure you get the knowledge you need to make an informed decision about whether to consume alcohol while taking levetiracetam. Below are some examples of questions you can ask your neurologist or pharmacist about alcohol.

How Much Alcohol Is Safe To Drink?

Ask what, if any, level of alcohol consumption is safe for you. Having no more than two drinks per day “usually causes no meaningful changes in the blood levels of seizure medicines or in seizure control,” according to the Epilepsy Foundation. The NHS recommends not exceeding 14 units of alcohol per week, describing a pint of beer as two to three units and a glass of wine as two units.

These recommendations are general and may not apply to your situation. Your health care provider can offer your specific guidance.

Will Alcohol Affect My Treatment Effectiveness or Safety?

Ask if alcohol could interact with your specific treatment plan. Levetiracetam isn’t the only medication that can be affected by alcohol. Have an honest conversation with your doctor about your alcohol consumption habits and all the medications you take, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements.

Could Any Lifestyle Changes Improve My Health?

Discuss any lifestyle adjustments you could make to improve your treatment and overall well-being. Ask if there are other substances, like caffeine, or medications you should avoid while taking Keppra or another brand of levetiracetam.

Levetiracetam and Alcohol Dependence

If you have alcohol dependence or an alcohol use disorder, approach the management of epilepsy and your relationship with alcohol with care. Generally, medical professionals advise gradually reducing alcohol intake to minimize risks associated with abrupt alcohol withdrawal.

Ongoing support from health care professionals is essential to maintaining seizure control while addressing alcohol dependence. This might include modifying your dose of levetiracetam and closely monitoring your response.

Talk With Others Who Understand

Living with epilepsy involves navigating various challenges, including understanding how lifestyle choices like alcohol consumption can affect your condition. On MyEpilepsyTeam, the social network for people with epilepsy and their loved ones, more than 120,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with epilepsy.

Have you faced challenges with epilepsy and alcohol? How do you manage your condition while maintaining your lifestyle? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on March 26, 2024
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Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Pacific University School of Pharmacy in Portland, Oregon, and went on to complete a one-year postgraduate residency at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida. Learn more about her here.

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