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How Effective Is Diazepam for Seizures?

By S. Berger
Updated May 17, 2024
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Benzodiazepines, a class of drugs that includes diazepam, are the most common first-line treatment for seizures due to epilepsy, chemical toxicity, and withdrawal from alcohol. Doctors and other medical professionals often use diazepam for seizures due to its wide availability and proven efficacy. While there are other benzodiazepines that are used in the maintenance of long-term epilepsy or for acute seizures, diazepam has remained one of the most popular anti-seizure medications.

Oral diazepam takes some time to absorb into the body, so it is not the most commonly prescribed drug for acute seizures. Intravenously, however, diazepam is used in hospital and ambulance settings since it is absorbed just as quickly as other drugs administered through this route. One study of people that were being taken to the hospital for seizures found that 43% of patients given diazepam had their seizures stop before they reached the emergency room, compared to just 21% of patients given a placebo.

A related drug, lorazepam, has higher rates of success of stopping acute seizures, so it is used more often than diazepam for seizures occurring suddenly. For patients with medical conditions like epilepsy that cause frequent seizures, diazepam is even more useful. The long half-life of diazepam means that it is an ideal medication for preventing seizures before they begin. Its efficacy in preventing epileptic seizures may be as high as 83%, according to some studies.

Over time, patients grow a tolerance to the seizure-preventing of activities. Doctors generally only prescribe diazepam for seizures related to chronic conditions like epilepsy for six to twelve months, for this reason, and patients are switched over to other medications afterward. Patients that do not respond to other medications may be placed back on diazepam, however, since it can continue to be effective at higher doses. In severe hospital cases, a continuous administration of diazepam for seizures resulting from epilepsy may sometimes be used effectively.

Some of the seizures most effectively controlled by diazepam are short-term conditions, where doctors do not have to be concerned with patients developing a tolerance to the medication. Medical professionals often prescribe diazepam for seizures related to conditions like alcohol withdrawal. This drug affects similar brain cells, called neurons, that are affected by alcohol, making it a more effective drug for controlling these seizures than non-benzodiazepine anti-seizure medications. Seizures caused by exposure to toxins like sarin and chloroquine can be controlled by diazepam, and this medication does not produce dangerous interactions with these poisons.

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