What You Should Know About Drinking on Antidepressants

Antidepressants are prescribed medications that help people cope with symptoms of anxiety, depression, seasonal affective disorder, dysthymia, and several other mental health conditions. These medications attempt to balance neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for behavior and mood. Drinking on antidepressants introduces a variety of issues and can be extremely dangerous. Combining alcohol and antidepressants leads to worsened symptoms and other health risks.

How Do Antidepressants Work?

Humans tend to experience occasional sadness, which is completely normal. When sadness becomes persistent and overwhelming, it may be time to consult a doctor. Your doctor will expose you to treatments and may eventually prescribe medication that can help your specific circumstance. 

The most common prescribed antidepressant types are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications boost serotonin levels in the brain in an attempt to treat anxiety and depressive disorders. Doctors typically prescribe antidepressants to individuals who do not respond well to other treatments.

Antidepressants are not a perfect solution for everyone. They often work best alongside talk therapy. In general, doctors will try to use therapy and other treatments before prescribing medication to their patients. Many people believe using antidepressant medication will dull their personality or make them feel different, but studies show this is not always the case.

Antidepressants may cause some side effects, especially during the first few weeks of a new regimen. Mild side effects may include gastrointestinal issues and some medications may worsen depression.

Types of Antidepressants

Antidepressants are generally divided into five primary types:

SSRIs

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the most popular antidepressants. Doctors prescribe this medication for treating depression. SSRIs tend to have the fewest side effects when compared to other types of antidepressants.

SSRIs work to block the absorption of serotonin in the brain. By doing so, brain cells can more productively send and receive messages, which results in more stable moods. The first “S” in SSRI stands for selective, which is an essential distinction of the medication. “Selective” refers to the medication’s ability only to affect serotonin and not the other neurotransmitters in the brain.

Mixing Prozac and Alcohol

Prozac is a common SSRI. Combining Prozac and alcohol can lead to rapid sedation. It is recommended not to mix the two substances.

Mixing Zoloft and Alcohol

Combining Zoloft and Alcohol can increase the adverse side effects of Zoloft. This may include issues with concentration, dizziness, and drowsiness.

Mixing Lexapro and Alcohol

Along with other antidepressants, it is best not to use alcohol while taking Lexapro. Alcohol can inhibit the medication from functioning correctly, which may aggravate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

SNRIs

Serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors are most commonly used to treat major depression and mood disorders. In some cases, SNRIs are used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), menopausal symptoms, anxiety disorders, chronic neuropathic pain, and fibromyalgia.

SNRIs essentially raise levels of norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain. These neurotransmitters play a crucial role in stabilizing mood. Though SSRIs and SNRIs can be highly beneficial for some, they do have some potential side effects, including:

  • Low sodium
  • Rash
  • Dry mouth
  • Low blood sugar
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Tremor
  • Insomnia
  • Sedation
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Abnormal thinking
  • Agitation and anxiety

TCAs

Tricyclic antidepressants are used to treat depression, some types of anxiety, fibromyalgia and are sometimes used to help manage chronic pain. It’s reported that during the first few weeks of taking the medication, TCAs can affect coordination and make the user feel drowsy. Manufacturers of the medication recommend avoiding alcohol while taking TCAs. Some report it is safe to drink alcohol in small amounts while on the medication.

Side effects of taking tricyclics may include:

  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Rash
  • Anxiety
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hypertension
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Urinary retention
  • Sexual dysfunction

MAOIs

Before the introduction of SNRIs and SSRIs, MAOIs were the most commonly prescribed antidepressant. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MAOIs, inhibit a brain enzyme called monoamine oxidase, which helps break down serotonin. In theory, MAOIs help stabilize moods by allowing more serotonin to circulate through the brain.

MAOIs tend to interact with several foods and other medications. Therefore, doctors typically prescribe SSRIs more often than MAOIs. Doctors may prescribe an MAOI to their patients if other antidepressants have not worked. These medications are known to have bad reactions to certain types of alcoholic beverages. MAOIs can cause issues with blood pressure if mixed with alcohol. In general, people who take MAOIs should completely avoid drinking alcohol.

Side effects of taking MAOIs include:

  • Rash
  • Seizures
  • Adema
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fainting
  • High blood pressure
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Drowsiness or insomnia

NASSAs

drinking on antidepressants

Noradrenaline and specific serotonergic antidepressants are mainly used to treat anxiety disorders, depression, and some personality disorders. NASSAs work by antagonizing adrenergic and certain serotonin receptors in the brain. It’s reported that NASSAs are not likely to cause serious health threats when combined with alcohol. It is possible that combining the two substances can increase the effects of sedation, drowsiness, and symptoms of depression.

Side effects of taking NASSAs include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight gain
  • Sedation or drowsiness

Some severe reactions that have been reported include fainting, white blood cell reduction, seizures, and allergic reactions.

Is It Bad to Mix Alcohol and Antidepressants?

Drinking on antidepressants can worsen symptoms and also introduce potential health concerns. Since alcohol is a depressant, it depresses bodily functions when consumed in excess. Therefore, mixing alcohol and antidepressants can heighten the effects of each substance respectively.

Drinking on Antidepressants

Each type of antidepressant medication may be affected differently by alcohol. Each type affects different neurotransmitters, yielding different side effects if mixed with alcohol or other substances.

Mixing alcohol and antidepressants may lead to a series of issues, including:

Increased depression and anxiety

Consuming alcohol can limit the potential benefits of antidepressant medication, which can make depressive and anxious symptoms more difficult to treat. Alcohol may increase a person’s mood in the short term but have overall negative effects after that. In short, alcohol tends to worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Combining antidepressants, alcohol, and other substances

Some individuals take medication for a variety of disorders. For example, if someone takes antidepressants and sleep medication simultaneously, they should completely avoid alcohol. This goes the same for prescription pain medication as well. Side effects may become more prevalent, as well as other side effects unique to the different specific medicines.

Impaired cognition and alertness

Drinking on antidepressants will affect an individual’s motor skills, reaction time, judgment, and coordination more so than just alcohol alone. Depending on the type of antidepressant, the combination of alcohol and antidepressants can lead to severe drowsiness. This can make it extremely dangerous regarding a person’s ability to drive or complete other dangerous tasks.

Drowsiness

Both alcohol and antidepressants, without even being mixed, cause drowsiness. When mixing the two substances, their drowsiness effect is compounded. The effect is intensified and can present danger in many circumstances.

Alcohol Is a Depressant

For many people, alcohol consumption is a means of relaxation. However, the effects can actually induce anxiety and increase stress. Alcohol’s classification as a central nervous system depressant means it slows down brain functioning and neural activity by enhancing GABA neurotransmitters. This has been shown to impair cognition and have an effect on judgment.

Alcohol can depress the central nervous system so much that it results in impairment, like slurred speech and unsteady movement. Mentally, alcohol reduces an individual’s ability to think rationally, lessening inhibitions and distorting judgment. If too much is consumed at one time, then respiratory failure or death is possible.

Alcohol and Antidepressants

Antidepressants require consistent doses to function properly. Stopping medications in order to consume alcohol can have adverse reactions. Starting and stopping antidepressant medication can make symptoms of depression even worse. Drinking on antidepressants is not advised and often leads to negative outcomes.

If you have depression and are having trouble stopping the use of alcohol, you may need treatment for addiction.

Detoxification

Detox treatments can help rid your body of any substance-related toxins. This form of treatment is necessary when quitting the use of drugs or alcohol. At Sana Lake, we offer specialized programs that can help you or your loved one recover from addiction. Following a successful detox, many of our members enroll in our inpatient rehabilitation program.

Inpatient Rehabilitation

Residential works well for individuals with moderate to severe addictions. We offer personalized treatment that combines traditional and holistic methods. Members of our inpatient program have access to round-the-clock support and treatment. During residential treatment, our members develop skills and coping mechanisms that will help them maintain and sustain a healthy lifestyle.

Get Help at Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness Center

At Sana Lake, we believe in long-term recovery. Our evidence-based programs and therapies can help you or your loved one recover from addiction or an unhealthy lifestyle. We believe no one should fight addiction alone. If you have any questions or would like to inquire about any programs that we offer, please call us today.