Antidepressants And Alcohol. Can One Drink On Them?

Last Updated: June 10, 2020

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Reviewed by Daniel Hochman, MD

It is very common to be on an antidepressant, and many of those people want to know if it is safe to use with alcohol. In this article we will review some of those factors behind whether it is safe to combine or not.

Learn About Antidepressants And Alcohol Interaction:

Drinking And Depression

For individuals battling depression, alcohol is often a way to self-medicate. In fact, using alcohol as a way to deal is so common that 64 percent of alcoholics also have depression. As a result, many individuals in treatment for depression will likely suffer from alcoholism as well.

People who have depression will often withdraw and isolate themselves from society. Once they learn how to get on antidepressants and start to feel their effects, they might want to become more social. This then puts them in a difficult position where drinking might be a part of positive social interaction, but at the same time present a new risk.

 

drinking on antidepressants is unsafe

Alcohol And Antidepressants Side Effects

Antidepressants and alcohol side effects are numerous and wide-ranging, including everything from nausea to death. Users should carefully consider all possible outcomes when thinking about mixing alcohol and antidepressants.

Side effects of drinking while on antidepressants include:

  • Increased symptoms of depression, such as low mood, feelings of worthlessness, and lack of motivation
  • A greater tendency towards suicidal thoughts and actions due to the increased symptoms of depression and lowered inhibitions from alcohol
  • A lack of coordination that is similar to being drunk, but amplified and likely to emerge even with limited alcohol consumption
  • Feelings of severe drowsiness, making it harder for the individual to remain awake
  • A sharp spike in blood pressure which can put the user at risk of various health conditions, including heart attack
  • Difficulties with thinking, leaving the individual at risk of being victimized by others
  • Struggles with sleeping, including causing insomnia
  • An inability to perform sexually

Can One Drink On Antidepressants?

There isn’t a global answer to this question. There are several classes of antidepressants with different mechanisms of action, and each of those classes interacts differently with alcohol.

For example, SSRI antidepressants are considered to be a relatively low risk when combined with alcoholic beverages consumed in moderation. However, if the user is battling alcoholism, doing so is dangerous.

Additionally, drinking on antidepressants can make side effects worse. Antidepressants and memory loss can become magnified when drinking. Those experiencing SSRI antidepressant sexual side effects may find them significantly worse.

Tricyclic depression medications (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are two other classes of antidepressants, and those are both considered to be contraindicated for alcohol consumption. In the case of TCAs, this is because their side effects are easily made worse by alcohol. As for MAOIs, this is due to the fact that tyramine, which is found in many alcoholic drinks, can interact with the medications and cause dangerous blood pressure changes.

Medications have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. However, opting not to drink on any depression medication will always be the safest choice.

Mixing Alcohol And Antidepressants: Can It Be Fully Safe?

While mixing antidepressants with alcohol is safer with some medications than others, it still generally not recommended. Even though most people are on SSRIs and unlikely to feel any adverse reactions, chronic alcohol use is likely to cause depression or worsen it. For that reason alone, it is recommended not to drink heavily even if there is no interaction with an antidepressant.

Ultimately, there are steps people can take to make combining drinking and antidepressants safer, but there is no way to ensure that alcohol is fully safe to consume while on the medications.

 

depressed state in woman after drinking on antidepressants

Getting Help With Problematic Antidepressant Use

If someone is misusing alcohol or antidepressants, they need professional help. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers can help users identify the root cause of their addiction and develop strategies that prevent them from using it in the future. With centers all across the country, the right treatment option can always be found.


Page Sources

  1. Kuria MW, Ndetei DM, Obot IS, et al. The Association between Alcohol Dependence and Depression before and after Treatment for Alcohol Dependence. International Scholarly Research Notices: Psychiatry. 2012; 2012: 482802. doi:10.5402/2012/482802. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3658562/.
  2. UNDERAGE DRINKING. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services National Institutes of Health National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 2006. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AA67/AA67.pdf.

Published on: October 15th, 2019

Updated on: June 10th, 2020

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.

Medically Reviewed by

Daniel Hochman, MD

Dr. Daniel Hochman is a board certified Psychiatrist and leader in the field of addiction. He is the creator of a revolutionary online addiction recovery program, selfrecovery.org. Dr. Hochman advocates for using strategies proven through hard science, and describes them in ways that are easy to understand and incorporate into one’s life. His treatment approach focuses on the underlying emotional causes of addiction to achieve a deep, lasting life change.

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