Seizures Explained

When individuals undergo substance detoxification, they often experience withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification is recommended for those who are dependent on drugs or alcohol and involves reducing the intake of the substance until the patient can function adequately without it.
In order to limit the severity of withdrawal symptoms, detoxification is gradual, although if a person is substance dependent, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms of withdrawal can vary in severity.

Different substances will trigger different withdrawal symptoms, and the intensity of the symptoms will depend upon the extent of the patient’s dependence.

Having seizures is a very common symptom of withdrawal and is associated with a number of different substances.

What Is a Seizure?

Seizures are sudden uncontrollable bursts of energy within the brain that cause an abnormal synchronization of electrical neuronal activity. This phenomenon affects the way the brain works temporarily.

Seizures can manifest in a variety of ways such as convulsions, a change in mental state or collapse. The symptoms associated with a seizure will depend on the type of seizure an individual is experiencing and its severity. Some seizures only last for a few moments, although some are continuous and will not stop without medical intervention.

Most people who experience recurrent seizures experience them as a symptom of epilepsy, although there are other explanations for seizures such as substance abuse and withdrawal.

Types of Seizures

There are four main categories of seizures: focal or partial seizures, generalised seizures, infantile spasms and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures.

Focal seizures are localised within part of one brain hemispheres and do not involve convulsions. There are two types of focal seizures. Focal seizures with retained awareness are seizures during which an individual remains conscious, is able to communicate and can remember the episode. A focal seizure with loss of awareness is the opposite; patients are unable to communicate during these seizures or recall the episode.

Generalised seizures refer to seizures that cause widespread electrical activity in both hemispheres of the brain. Examples of generalised seizures include absence seizures (petit mal) that cause unconsciousness without convulsions, tonic-clonic seizures (grand mal) that cause unconsciousness and convulsions and atonic seizures (drop attacks) that cause patients to suddenly drop to the floor.

Infantile spasms are also epileptic seizures, although their symptoms do not fit within the focal or generalised categories.
Psychogenetic non-epileptic seizures look very similar to epileptic seizures; however, they are not caused by that condition.

Causes of Seizures

Nerve cells within the brain send and receive electrical impulses. These impulses facilitate communication within the brain. If anything disrupts this communication, a seizure will occur.
The most common cause for disruption of the communication pathways in the brain is epilepsy. Epilepsy is a life-long condition that causes the brain to repeatedly misfire, which results in recurrent seizures.
Seizures can also be caused by injuries that cause brain damage, high fevers, hyponatremia, strokes and brain tumours.

The use of illegal drugs and alcohol abuse are also known causes of seizures. Seizures are particularly common during times of high intoxication or withdrawal.

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Symptoms of Seizures

Seizures can vary from mild to severe, and the symptoms an individual experiences will reflect their severity.

Symptoms of a seizure include temporary confusion, a loss of consciousness, absences that cause patients to stare into space and become unaware of their surroundings whilst still awake and emotional or cognitive symptoms including anxiety and fear.

Other seizures can result in convulsions such as uncontrollable jerking, shaking, twitching, lip-smacking and random noises.

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