Can Alcohol Cause Brain Zaps? (Wet Brain Syndrome)

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Can Alcohol Cause Brain Zaps?

Brain zaps, which many also call head shocks, brain shocks, or brain shivers, are considered to be the most challenging type of withdrawal symptom a person may experience when he suddenly stopped taking medicines for anxiety and depression.

As its name suggests, brain zaps can cause a person to experience a very uncomfortable sensation, often referred to as sudden brain jolts, shakes, tremors, electrical buzzes, and zaps.

While alcohol does not directly cause brain zaps, it triggers its effects. 

As concluded in the analysis conducted by the New York Times, a lot of people are afraid to deal with the possible withdrawal symptoms, including brain zaps, when they stopped taking their medications.

With that, a hundred thousand to millions of individuals take antidepressant medicines yearly, thinking that they cannot behave very well without them.  

For instance, the researchers surveyed 250 individuals as their respondents. These people have been using antidepressants and psychiatric drugs.

The survey concluded that more than half of the users experienced severe withdrawal symptoms when they decided to stop taking their medicines.

The remaining individuals also concluded that they are not interested in controlling their medication with the threat of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.  

A lot of individuals are probably asking whether this severe withdrawal symptom can be treated or prevented.

These days, professionals stated that there are still no medications or medical interventions that medical enthusiasts may recommend to people with brain zaps.

On the other hand, many people found help in using natural remedies to treat or prevent antidepressant withdrawal symptoms.

These include taking medicines to boost his cognitive health, improve GABA naturally, effectively control anxiety and stress, and slowly cut off using drugs and alcohol.  

Natural remedies for alcoholism and drug addiction are available at our Abbeycare clinic. If you’re having brain zaps and need professional help, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.  

This article will talk about brain zaps and answer the question, "Can alcohol cause brain zaps?" 

What are Brain Zaps?  

As mentioned earlier, brain zaps are a withdrawal symptom that a person may experience after discontinuing taking antidepressant medicines.

That's why this condition is considered a severe withdrawal effect linked to the discontinuation of antidepressant medications.

How Does it Feel to Have Brain Zaps?  

People who already experienced brain zaps stated that this symptom occurs all of a sudden. Sometimes, it lasts for a few minutes, then gone afterwards.

It does not show any warnings or triggers that could help a person to determine that brain zaps will occur.

Others concluded that they experience brain zaps during night time while sleeping or after they sleep. 

Aside from that, excessive consumption of alcohol can also trigger brain zaps.

Not only that, stress and anxiety are two factors that contribute to the possible occurrence of brain zaps.

The following are the different feelings and symptoms a person may experience when he's suffering from brain zaps:

  • A person may lose his appetite and always feel nauseous.  
  • A person may experience difficulty while swallowing as if there is a hand gripping his throat.  
  • Tinnitus or the feeling that something is ringing inside his head  
  • A person may experience either vertigo or dizziness, or both.  
  • Uncontrollable movements of the head or the eyes  
  • A person may experience the sudden occurrence of buzzes, jolts, or shivers inside their brain. Some experience as if their whole head has been affected by the jolts. Others stated that only a portion of their brain is affected. There are times that brain zaps may cause a person to feel as if some blood is quickly running around in his head.

What Are Possible Causes of Brain Zaps?

People who are taking antidepressants may be asking about the possible causes of brain zaps.

Professionals still don't have any idea about the possible reasons behind the development of brain zaps.

But as mentioned, brain zaps are usually linked to sudden discontinuation of taking drugs, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

SSRI is the most prescribed form of antidepressant medication to those individuals suffering from anxiety and depression.  

If a person suddenly stops taking certain medications, it is called discontinuation syndrome. Fortunately, this condition only lasts temporarily.

As mentioned, this usually occurs after sudden discontinuation, reduction, or interruption of taking antidepressant medicines.

For instance, discontinuation of taking any form of SSRI medicine can lead to discontinuation syndrome. These include Pexeva or Paxil (Paroxetine), Prozac (Fluoxetine), Lexapro (Escitalopram), Celexa (Citalopram), and Zoloft (Sertraline).  

Many people shared their opinion on the internet, claiming that brain zaps are pretty connected to Zoloft withdrawal.

Keep in mind that brain zap is not the only type of withdrawal symptom a person may experience after stopping drugs, such as Prozac or Zoloft.

Other forms of withdrawal symptoms cover nausea, headaches, dizziness, and even paresthesia, defined as a prickling or burning sensation on a person's feet, legs, arms, or hands.  

Withdrawal symptoms do not cover the side effects of taking antidepressant medicines.

A person may experience antidepressant side effects, such as constipation, sexual dysfunction, headaches, cognitive impairment, sleep disturbances, fatigue, weight gain, and even suicidal thoughts.

Brain zaps do not only occur when a person discontinues taking SSRI. IT also happens if a person quits consuming any of the other drugs listed below:

  • Ecstasy or MDMA, which is a form of party drug or street drug  
  • Amphetamine salts or Adderall and any other types of medications to treat ADHD  
  • Medicines, such as Benzodiazepines, which doctors recommend in promoting relaxation and treating anxiety  
  • Drugs that have the same content as SSRI, including SSNRIs or selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors  

Again, no studies have been conducted to investigate the possible reasons behind the occurrence of brain zaps.

Although, professionals believe in one theory saying that this withdrawal symptom occurs when there are changes in the brain's serotonin levels.  

In connection to that, both SSNRI and SSRI medicines block the brain from transferring and producing higher serotonin levels.

Aside from that, these two medications also improve GABA activity. GABA activity refers to the chemicals in the brain that makes a person calmer.

On the other hand, the decrease in the brain's serotonin level is not considered the main reason behind brain zaps.

This is because studies concluded that individuals who already have a low level of serotonin did not experience any brain zaps during and after taking the medication.  

Some professionals believe that brain zaps occur because of the decreasing GABA levels after they found out that Adderall, ecstasy, benzodiazepines, SSRIs, and any other medications linked to brain zaps are known to improve the brain's GABA levels.

When GABA level declines, a person may experience a wide array of withdrawal symptoms. For instance, if a person has a low level of GABA in his brain, he may experience seizures.

That's why brain zaps have been considered to be a form of localized and mild seizure.

What are the Possible Ways to Prevent and Treat Brain Zaps Naturally?

There are a few ways a person can do to prevent or treat brain zaps. Some of them are the following:  

Control Stress and Anxiety Effectively  

Even though some individuals might suffer from brain zaps without notable reason, medical professionals concluded that this condition usually occurs among people dealing with stress and anxiety.

Individuals with brain zaps concluded that the frequency of their condition elevates when they are stressed or anxious.  

If a person suffers from stress and it has been chronic, he is more likely to experience the worse effects of brain zaps for several months or even years.

That is why to prevent or treat brain zaps; it is recommended to manage stress and to allow one's body to recover after dealing with activities that made them anxious and exhausted.

People suffering from an anxiety disorder or depression are recommended to work with a knowledgeable therapist, coach, or counsellor who could help them control their stress and manage symptoms of brain zaps for many years.  

Aside from that, performing activities that could relieve stress, such as journaling, reading, being a part of a community group, prayer, visit nature, meditation, exercise, and yoga, are also helpful in preventing and treating brain zaps.


Refrain From Using Drugs and Drinking Alcohol  

Even though alcohol is not the direct reason for a person to experience brain zaps, professionals recommend refraining from using drugs and drinking alcoholic beverages to prevent this kind of condition.

This step is also beneficial to keep one's body healthy.

Taper Medications Slowly  

During this time, professionals are conducting thorough studies about the possible ways to treat antidepressant withdrawals effectively.

One of the effective ways to minimize the effects or occurrence of various withdrawal symptoms, including brain zaps, detaching yourself from medications is essential instead of stopping it in a snap.

This applies to those individuals who are using high-dosage of drugs for several weeks or months.  

A person is less susceptible to experience brain zaps if he will stop taking drugs slowly. But, professionals cannot guarantee that this approach will 100 per cent work.

Unfortunately, studies concluded that even a person slowly detaches himself from using the drug, most medications live in one's body for a longer time.

This means that a person can still develop withdrawal symptoms. This is the reason a lot of people are retaking their drugs and stuck in them. 

Drink Supplement to Improve Overall Health  

Health supplements are not meant to provide a person with a quick solution to treat depression, anxiety and eliminate brain zaps.

On the other hand, many people find taking health supplements helpful in minimizing the effects of withdrawal symptoms and keeping themselves healthy and active.

The following are the different supplements that could improve a person's mental and overall health.  

Vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 aids the production of GABA and treats other withdrawal symptoms, such as brain fog, weakness, and fatigue.

Fish oil supplements or those that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This kind of supplement is meant to provide one's body with anti-inflammatory benefits.

Supplements rich in magnesium, which helps a person to fight restlessness and have a good night's sleep. Aside from that, it also treats stress and its symptoms as well as muscle tension.

Vitamin D3 that can be in the form of supplement or proper exposure to sunlight during the morning. It helps in keeping one's vitamin D level sufficient.

Using essential oils that are meant to keep one's brain and body calmer. These include those that contain chamomile oil, Ylang Ylang and lavender.

Herbs, such as
Rhodiola, ashwagandha, and valerian root, are known to provide loads of benefits to one's nervous system.

Supplements containing L-arginine and L-glutamine, together with GABA, help a person have an increased number of hormones.

If a person is currently taking medicines for his health concerns, it would be best to visit a professional before indulging in supplements like those mentioned above.  

Final Thoughts  

To answer the question, "can alcohol cause brain zaps?" Well, it cannot, but it can trigger its effects.

Brain zaps refer to the sensations as if something is tingling or electrifying one's head. Aside from alcohol, stress and anxiety can also trigger this condition.  

To sum it up, brain zaps usually occur if a person suddenly stops taking his drug, which includes ADHD medications, benzodiazepines, and SSRIs.

It is believed that a person may experience this condition together with ringing in the ears, headaches, numbness, vertigo, loss of appetite, nausea, dizziness, and other withdrawal symptoms.  

Until now, professionals still don't know the possible treatments they can do to aid a person with brain zaps. This is because a lot of research is still needed in terms of managing antidepressant drug withdrawal.  

Fortunately, people with brain zaps may try natural remedies to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms, including dizziness, nausea, and brain zaps.

Natural remedies a person may try include tapering drug use slowly, effectively managing anxiety and stress, and refraining from drinking alcoholic beverages.

Aside from that, it would also be better to take supplements intended to improve a person's cognitive and overall health. 

To learn more about our natural remedies for brain zaps, you may visit our clinics located in Scotland or Gloucester. Similarly, you can contact our local number 01603 513 091.

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About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Pete has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. To read more about Pete visit his LinkedIn profile.