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Sex, drugs, and social life

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Sex, drugs, and social life

Whether or not you are in a relationship, it's not unusual for people to worry about their sex life, whether they have epilepsy or not. Getting close to someone else can be great but it can also leave you feeling vulnerable. What if they go off me? What if something embarrassing happens? Do I tell them about my epilepsy?

Sex and relationships

You may worry about having a seizure during sex, but it is usually no more likely than having a seizure at any other time.

Going out with someone who you can really talk to and who understands your epilepsy can be great. Sometimes it can be helpful for you to find out how they feel about your epilepsy too. See more about relationships and sex.

The charity Brook offers free and confidential sexual health advice for under 25s.


Having safe sex protects you and your partner against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There are lots of different contraceptive methods available.

For girls and women with epilepsy some ASM can affect how well 'the pill' works and can increase the risk of getting pregnant. And 'the pill' can affect how some ASMs work. See more about contraception and epilepsy.

You can talk to your epilepsy doctor or a family planning advisor about the combination of ASMs and contraception that is best for you. If you are taking sodium valproate (Epilim, Depakote, Convulex, Episenta, Epival, Kentlim, Orlept, Syonell, Valpal, Belvo, and Dyzantil) it is especially important that you talk to your epilepsy doctor, and that you have effective contraception.

The Family Planning Association (FPA) can give you more information about safe sex and contraception. Or you can visit the NHS website.

Epilepsy and alcohol - do they mix?

Drinking alcohol is a personal choice, but for some people with epilepsy, alcohol makes their seizures worse. Having epilepsy doesn't necessarily mean you can't have an alcoholic drink, but it is important to be careful with alcohol for the following reasons:

  • Alcohol disrupts your sleep. Seizures can be triggered by tiredness for many people, so poor sleep makes seizures more likely to happen.
  • Drinking alcohol can trigger seizures for some people; not always while they're actually drinking. Often it's later during a hangover, when the alcohol level in the body is falling, that seizures happen.
  • Drinking water in between alcoholic drinks can help reduce the chances of a hangover, but will not prevent seizures from occurring.
  • Vomiting (being sick) may reduce the level of anti-seizure medication (ASM) in your system, so it may not work so well to control your seizures.
  • ASM can increase the the effects of alcohol and alcohol can make some of the side effects of ASM worse. The information leaflet that comes with your drugs should say if alcohol is not recommended. You could ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure.

Recreational drugs

You might already know quite a bit about drugs and the risks of taking them or you may have made a decision about what you'll do if you're offered drugs.

Taking cannabis, ecstasy, speed, cocaine and other recreational drugs can all increase the chance of having a seizure. There are no safe limits. Frank has more information about drugs.

Going out

Having a good time when you go out is important and a fun part of being young. But for some people a party lifestyle can make seizures more likely to happen.

Seizures can be triggered by being tired from late nights, alcohol, or drugs. Finding a balance, and working out what affects your epilepsy can be helpful. Friends can also help you have a great time, if they know what you can handle.

You may want to tell them about your seizures – what happens to you and what you would like them to do if you have a seizure when you are out.

Know your triggers

Keeping a seizure diary may help you monitor your triggers. 

Are you taking, or have taken, the epilepsy drug sodium valproate? New guidelines have been introduced by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) around the way in which the drug, sodium valproate is prescribed to people under the age of 55. 

Epilepsy Society is grateful to Dr F J Rugg-Gunn Consultant Neurologist & Honorary Associate Professor, Clinical Lead, Chalfont Centre for Epilepsy, who reviewed this information.

Information updated: November 2023

University and epilepsy

If you're considering going to university or if you’ve definitely decided that’s what you want to do, you’ll need to think about what this will mean for you in practical terms and about what support you might need, including financial support. Being well prepared will help you to make the most of your time at university.

Want to know more?

Download our Young people leaflet:

Download the PDF (pdf 2,066 KB)

For printed copies, please call our Helpline on 01494 601 400. Please note - we require a purchase order for bulk orders.


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