Keppra (levetiracetam is an antiepileptic or anticonvulsant drug.) Keppra comes in both an immediate-release form (Keppra) and an extended-release form (Keppra XR). Its primary use is to treat seizures in adults and children who have various types of epilepsy. There are different doses of Keppra to treat those with varying levels of severity of epilepsy. The drug is most often taken orally in pill form.
The understanding of how Keppra works is not very well described. It is believed to inhibit calcium release in neurons, and this action results in it modulating the firing of neurons in the central nervous system. Because epilepsy is a disease where neurons in the brain fire uncontrollably, causing seizures, Keppra is believed to slow down this uncontrollable firing in neurons and thus impede seizures. Although a prescription is required to purchase Keppra, the drug is not a controlled substance and not monitored by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Side Effects of Keppra
Like all drugs, there are some side effects that occur with use of Keppra. The most common of these include:
- Decreased energy, appetite loss, and sleepiness
- Dizziness, headaches, and problems with motor coordination
- Mood swings
A very small number of people experience some more pronounced emotional or psychological symptoms that can include:
- Agitation, hostility, and aggressiveness
- Apathy, depression, and extreme emotional changes
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Suicidal thoughts
In some individuals, the use of Keppra leaves them feeling “spaced out.” These feelings of lightheadedness, dizziness, decreased concentration, etc., may be similar to the type of feeling that occurs when people become intoxicated, but it is not a pleasant feeling. These individuals typically stop using the drug, and the symptoms resolve; however, this results in increased severity of their seizure problem.
Because seizures can be potentially fatal, physicians encourage their patients to report any side effects and then try to address them. The use of vitamin B6 may reduce some of the unpleasant symptoms associated with Keppra use in some cases.
In a very few cases, very severe skin disorders can occur with Keppra use, such as Stevens–Johnson syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis, but these are very rare. Most often, the drug is discontinued by the prescribing physician in these cases.
The side effect profile that occurs with the use of anticonvulsant medications like Keppra often results in individuals discontinuing the medication. Physicians are then challenged with finding an anticonvulsant medication that fits the person’s needs and does not produce side effects that will result in the person not taking the medication.
The Epilepsy Foundation presents numerous discussions of Keppra and other drugs, and how individuals cope with their side effects. In many instances, individuals who use Keppra and suffer untoward side effects report they feel as if they are “high or drunk.” However, the use of Keppra is not associated with the type of psychoactive effects sought out by most drug abusers. Individuals who have seizure disorders often have cognitive impairments that interact with a tendency to abuse drugs. These individuals may abuse Keppra in conjunction with other drugs, such as alcohol.
Anticonvulsant drugs are not major drugs of abuse. While some individuals who take Keppra for medicinal purposes (e.g., seizure control) have developed substance use disorders for other reasons, these individuals do not become addicted to Keppra. In addition, Keppra is not a drug that is highly sought after by drug abusers. There are some scattered reports on the Internet of people reporting abuse of anticonvulsant drugs in conjunction with other drugs of abuse, and the side effects of these anticonvulsant drugs, such as dizziness, sedation, etc., may be enhanced by combining them with alcohol; however, taking large amounts of Keppra alone is not a common practice even among the most hardcore substance abusers.
There is no formal protocol for the treatment of Keppra abuse; the DEA does not list it as a controlled substance; and it is not even listed as a drug of concern by organizations like the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the DEA. Keppra should only be discontinued by the doctor who prescribed the drug, and an individual who wishes to stop using their Keppra should consult with their physician. Discontinuing use of Keppra that is prescribed for seizure control can result in the dangerous reoccurrence of person’s seizures.
People who do not have seizure disorders and use Keppra in conjunction with other drugs should be evaluated for abuse and addiction issues. They should then receive treatment in a comprehensive substance use disorder treatment program that addresses all of their issues.