Mixing Alcohol and Antidepressants?

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Combining alcohol with antidepressants can have serious consequences due to potential interactions and intensified side effects. To understand the implications of mixing these substances, it is crucial to understand what antidepressants are, their different types, and their mechanisms of action in the body.

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What Are Antidepressants?

Antidepressants are medications that are prescribed to help people who are experiencing depression. Depression is a mental health condition that can make you feel sad, and hopeless, and lose interest in things you used to enjoy. It can also affect your appetite, sleep, and energy levels.

Antidepressants work in your body by affecting chemicals called neurotransmitters, which are responsible for sending messages between nerve cells in your brain. These medications help to balance these neurotransmitters, particularly one called serotonin, which is important for regulating your mood.

Types of Antidepressants

There are different types of antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Each type works uniquely to target specific neurotransmitters in the brain.

  • SSRIs increase the availability of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation and well-being.
  • SNRIs raise levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine, providing dual effects on mood enhancement.
  • TCAs block serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake, prolonging their activity in the brain.
  • MAOIs inhibit the breakdown of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, allowing them to remain active for longer periods.

Side Effects Commonly Caused by Antidepressant Use

While antidepressants can be beneficial in managing depressive symptoms, they may also produce side effects. Common side effects associated with antidepressant use include:

  • Gastrointestinal Disturbances: Nausea, diarrhea, and stomach upset are frequently reported side effects.
  • Sexual Dysfunction: Antidepressants can interfere with sexual desire, arousal, and performance.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Both insomnia and excessive sleepiness can occur due to antidepressant use.
  • Weight Fluctuations: You may experience weight gain or weight loss while taking antidepressants.
  • Dry Mouth: Antidepressants can cause a decrease in saliva production, resulting in a dry mouth.

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Can You Safely Drink Alcohol While Taking Antidepressants?

Mixing alcohol and antidepressants is generally considered unsafe due to potential interactions and adverse effects. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system intensifying the sedating effects of certain antidepressant medications. Other dangers of combining alcohol and antidepressants include:

  • Increased Central Nervous System Depression: Both alcohol and certain antidepressants depress the central nervous system. Combining them can lead to heightened sedation, impaired coordination, drowsiness, and an increased risk of accidents.
  • Exacerbated Side Effects: Alcohol can amplify the side effects of antidepressants, such as dizziness, drowsiness, and impaired cognitive function. These effects can negatively impact daily functioning and overall well-being.
  • Reduced Medication Efficacy: Alcohol can interfere with the effectiveness of antidepressant medications, potentially decreasing their therapeutic benefits. This interference may impede the management of depressive symptoms and delay recovery.
  • Increased Risk of Suicidal Thoughts: Alcohol can exacerbate depressive symptoms and increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Does Mixing Antidepressants & Alcohol Cause Adverse Side Effects?

Mixing alcohol and antidepressants can result in severe adverse effects. The combined use of these substances can:

Intensify Sedation and Impairment: Alcohol magnifies the sedating effects of antidepressants, leading to increased drowsiness, impaired judgment, and compromised motor coordination causing falls or accidents.

Heighten Risk of Serotonin Syndrome: Serotonin syndrome is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by excessive serotonin levels. Mixing certain antidepressants, particularly MAOIs, with alcohol can increase the risk of serotonin syndrome, whose symptoms include confusion, agitation, rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and fever.

Worsen Depressive Symptoms: Alcohol is a depressant that can make symptoms of depression worse. It can induce emotional instability, intensify sadness and hopelessness, and contribute to impulsive behavior.

Can Alcohol Make Depression Symptoms Worse?

While alcohol may temporarily provide relief or distraction from depression symptoms, it ultimately makes the condition worse.

Alcohol disrupts the delicate balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin. This disruption can intensify depressive symptoms and hinder the effectiveness of antidepressant medications.

Alcohol also upsets sleep patterns, leading to poor-quality sleep or insomnia. Adequate sleep is crucial for managing depression, and disturbances can worsen symptoms.

The depression qualities of alcohol also intensify feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety. It impairs judgment, exacerbates negative thoughts, and contributes to impulsive behavior.

How Long Should You Wait to Drink After Taking Antidepressants

The specific time an individual should wait before consuming alcohol after taking antidepressants depends on various factors, including the specific medication, individual tolerance, and the guidance of a healthcare professional. As a general guideline, it is recommended to refrain from drinking alcohol while taking antidepressants to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the medication.

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No matter the substance, the best way to overcome addiction is with the help of experienced, trusted professionals like those at Guardian Recovery. We provide comprehensive treatment, including medically-assisted detox, therapy, specialty programs, and reintegration support. Our caring and skilled administrative, medical, and clinical teams will guide you through every step of your recovery process from the first time you call and work with you to develop an individualized and effective program to help you recover from addiction and get you on the road to long-term recovery. We provide a complimentary assessment and a free insurance benefits check and help coordinate local travel to our facility. All you have to do is ask; we will take care of the rest. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options in your area.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/antidepressants/art-20046273
  3. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Antidepressants
  4. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/harmful-interactions-mixing-alcohol-with-medicines

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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