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Pharmacy and Medications

Alcohol Use While Taking Epilim

12/02/2010

Question:

My sister is 47yrs old with Downes Syndrone and Petite Mal taking epilim 300mgs twice daily is it safe to drink alcohol one whiskey at night

Answer:

Epilim is a form of valproic acid, a medicine that is used primarily to treat certain kinds of seizures. Central nervous system (CNS) depression, usually seen as drowsiness, is one of its main side effects. Most of the side effects related to CNS depression go away or become less noticeable with continued use of the valproic acid. Alcohol also causes CNS depression. In older adults, having even one alcohol-containing beverage increases the risk of a fall. The combined CNS depression from drinking an alcohol-containing beverage while taking valproic acid could increase this risk. For this reason it is probably best to avoid alcohol entirely while taking valproic acid.

However, drinking alcohol is not absolutely contraindicated in this situation. Depending on the particular patient, one drink (30ml of whiskey), a night might be reasonably safe. It is important to understand the risks. One drink should not become 2 or more as often occurs with alcohol. The patient should avoid potentially hazardous tasks. For a downs syndrome patient it is important for the caregiver to monitor for excessive CNS depression like stumbling, slurred speech, dizziness, and excessive drowsiness to minimize the risk of injury.

This answer was prepared in part by Molly Manning, a 2011 PharmD Candidate at the University of Cincinnati college of Pharmacy.

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Response by:

Robert James Goetz, PharmD, DABAT
Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati