Epilepsy

Taking and stopping medication for epilepsy

It is important to take anti-epileptic medication regularly and as prescribed by the doctor. Many people discussed taking their tablets as prescribed and ways of remembering to take medication. A few people reported feeling light-headed or dizzy if they forgot medication on the odd occasion. Although missing a single dose very occasionally is unlikely to be dangerous and result in seizures, one person recalled how missing a single dose of medication led to an episode of status epilepticus, which is a medical emergency.

A drug wallet helped some people remember to take medication. Others discussed methods that helped them. One woman said that while she usually found it easy to take medication regularly, problems can occur when her routine changes.

Failure to take the drug as instructed - either not taking the drug at all or taking it irregularly - can also cause problems. Occasionally patients decide to stop their drugs suddenly, often because of depression or frustration. This can be dangerous because it can lead to prolonged and frequent seizures. One woman explained how temporarily stopping medication caused her problems.

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There can be risks in stopping treatment suddenly, even if the medication was not successfully controlling the seizures. While one man with epilepsy and cancer discussed stopping medication suddenly, he also advised against it. A few people described coming off medication gradually and under the doctor's supervision, but they were not seizure free.

If someone has not had a seizure for two or more years they may consider slowly coming off their medication under medical supervision. Several people reported that, while they had been seizure free for a number of years, they were wary of stopping medication. One woman described being both seizure free and drug free after having neurosurgery for epilepsy.

Most anti-epileptic drugs have at least two names, a chemical (generic) name and a trade (brand) name given by the manufacturer of the drug. It is advisable for people with epilepsy to take the same manufactured preparation all the time, either generic or branded, as preparations can vary slightly, for example in the speed with which they are absorbed from the intestine.

Some medicines can interact with anti-epileptic drugs. Some anti-epileptic drugs can also interact with alcohol.

Last reviewed May 2016.
Last updated March 2014.

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