Benzodiazepines for Epilepsy
What To Think About
It may take time and careful, controlled adjustments by you and your doctor to find the combination, schedule, and dosing of medicine to best manage your epilepsy. The goal is to prevent seizures while causing as few side effects as possible. After you and your doctor figure out the medicine program that works best for you, make sure to follow your program exactly as prescribed.
- Adverse effects. Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants, which means that they can slow down your thinking, judgment, and motor skills. These effects are usually not severe, but they are a major drawback for some people.
- Drug interactions. Many medicines for epilepsy can interact with other medicines you may be taking. This means that your epilepsy medicine may not work as well or it may affect the way another medicine you are taking works. Some of these interactions can be dangerous. It is important to tell your doctor about all the medicines, herbal pills, and dietary supplements you are taking.
- Risks associated with long-term use. Long-term use of benzodiazepines can sometimes lead to physical and psychological dependence on the drug (addiction). Use of benzodiazepines may decrease seizures at first. But some people begin to have seizures again after using the drug for weeks or months (tolerance). To control their seizures, they have to increase the dose, which tends to increase side effects. Sudden withdrawal of the drug can cause you to go into Reference status epilepticus Opens New Window or may make your epilepsy worse.
- Risk of birth defects. All medicines for epilepsy have some risk of birth defects. But the risk of birth defects needs to be carefully compared to other risks to the baby if the mother stops taking her epilepsy medicine. If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, be sure to plan ahead and talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of taking epilepsy medicine during your pregnancy. It you are already pregnant, it is not too late. The best thing to do is talk to your doctor about your pregnancy before you make any changes to the medicines you are taking.
- Ease of use. For children or adults who have occasional clusters of seizures (acute repetitive seizures) despite long-term drug therapy, rectal diazepam may be a good choice for treating them at home. It usually stops the series of seizures quickly, and family members can treat the person at home safely and easily. Ending these types of repetitive seizures can prevent status epilepticus and other problems associated with prolonged seizures and can help families avoid emergency room visits when a family member has a long history of acute repetitive seizures.
- Other concerns. While taking benzodiazepines, avoid alcohol or any other drugs that are central nervous system depressants.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: August 26, 2011|
|Medical Review:||Reference Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Reference Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology