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Mixing Alcohol and Lexapro (Escitalopram)

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It is generally not recommended to drink alcohol while taking Lexapro, as it can increase the risk of side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired coordination. Additionally, alcohol may worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety, which can counteract the benefits of the medication. Finally, regular alcohol use can lead to dependence, which can also worsen mental health issues and lead to many adverse health effects and other consequences.

Fortunately, if you or a loved one are struggling to control or stop your drinking while taking Lexapro or other antidepressants, recovery is possible. Using various clinically proven treatments, our integrated treatment programs at Guardian Recovery are designed to address psychiatric conditions, such as depression, simultaneously with co-occurring substance use disorders. Contact us today to speak to a skilled Treatment Advisor and learn more about our personalized plans and commitment to effective care.

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What Is Lexapro & What Does It Treat?

Lexapro is a prescription medication that belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). (1) It is commonly used to treat depression and anxiety disorders, as well as other conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you or a loved one are struggling with any of these conditions, our team of addiction specialists at Guardian Recovery can help you find the right treatment options.

Common Side Effects of Lexapro

While Lexapro is generally well tolerated by most people, like any medication, it has the potential for side effects. However, not everyone will experience these side effects, and they may vary in duration and severity.

Common Side Effects of Lexapro Include:

  • Nausea.
  • Headache.
  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances.
  • Drowsiness and fatigue.
  • Dizziness.
  • Sexual side effects, including decreased libido.
  • Sweating.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Constipation.
  • Weight changes.

Drinking alcohol with Lexapro may increase the risk of side effects or worsen their severity, especially drowsiness, dizziness, and sleep disturbances.

Does Alcohol Block the Effects of Antidepressants?

It is generally recommended to avoid alcohol when taking antidepressants such as Lexapro, as it can block the medication’s effects and undermine its effectiveness.

Ways Alcohol Blocks the Effects of Antidepressants Include:

  • Reduced Effectiveness—Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and it can counteract the desired effects of antidepressants, which are used to regulate and balance brain chemistry. Moreover, it can disrupt the delicate balance of brain chemicals, such as serotonin, that regulate mood and emotions. This can potentially diminish the medication’s effectiveness and make it more difficult to experience its therapeutic benefits.
  • Reduced Absorption of Lexapro—Alcohol can irritate the gastrointestinal tract, potentially affecting the absorption of medications, including Lexapro. Although the impact may not be significant, it has the potential to lead to altered blood levels and, as a result, reduced effectiveness.
  • Increased Side Effects—Both substances can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired coordination. When used in combination, these effects may be amplified.
  • Worsening of Depressive Symptoms—Alcohol is known to exacerbate anxiety and depressive symptoms in many people, including low mood, disinterest in activities, and feelings of sadness, worry, and irritability. (2)
  • Individual Factors—Responses to both alcohol and antidepressant medications can vary. Some individuals may experience more pronounced effects or unpredictable reactions.

Increased Risk of Addiction—Drinking alcohol can increase the risk of developing alcohol dependence or worsen existing substance use issues.

Can Alcohol & Lexapro Have Dangerous Interactions?

In addition to interfering with the effectiveness of Lexapro, combining it with alcohol can have several dangerous interactions in the body.

Dangerous Interactions Include:

  • Central Nervous System Effects—Alcohol and Lexapro’s combined effects on the CNS can impair cognitive function, reduce the ability to concentrate, perform tasks that require alertness, and increase the risk of accidents or injuries.
  • Interference with Drug Metabolism—Alcohol can interfere with the metabolism of Lexapro, affecting its clearance from the body and potentially increasing the risk of toxicity.
  • Serotonin Syndrome—Both alcohol and Lexapro can affect serotonin levels, potentially resulting in an uncommon but potentially life-threatening condition known as serotonin syndrome. This is marked by symptoms such as confusion, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, fever, and seizures and is considered a medical emergency. (3)

Liver Damage—Alcohol misuse or excessive alcohol consumption can damage the liver and affect its ability to metabolize medications properly, potentially leading to increased levels of Lexapro and an increased risk of adverse interactions.

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Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol While Taking Lexapro?

While moderate alcohol use might not pose significant risks for everyone taking Lexapro, it is generally recommended to avoid alcohol as much as possible. Alcohol can interfere with Lexapro’s effectiveness and diminish its therapeutic effects, making it less effective in managing symptoms and possibly worsening them. For those suffering from depression, this can be dangerous if severe depressive symptoms return, potentially leading to suicidal thoughts or actions. There is also an increased risk of experiencing serotonin syndrome or liver damage.

Should Alcohol Be Avoided While Taking Any Antidepressants?

Most antidepressants have similar interactions with alcohol as Lexapro. These include an increased risk of adverse effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, impaired coordination, and reduced cognitive function. They can also worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression and reduce the medication’s effectiveness. Drinking alcohol while on antidepressants can also undermine treatment goals and make it challenging to manage mental health issues.

There are also unique factors and responses that can vary depending on the individual. Factors such as overall health, specific medication, dosage, and tolerance to alcohol can influence how the body reacts to the combination of alcohol and antidepressants. (4)

Can Having Depression Increase the Risk of Alcohol Use?

Yes, there is a well-established relationship between depression and an increased risk of alcohol use. The connection between depression and alcohol use can be complex and bidirectional, with each condition influencing the other.

Factors That May Increase Alcohol Use Include:

  • Self-Medication—Some people with depression may turn to alcohol as a method of self-medication in an attempt to temporarily relieve their symptoms, such as feelings of sadness, anxiety, or low mood.
  • Increased Vulnerability—Depression can make certain individuals more susceptible to developing alcohol dependence. Likewise, depression can adversely impact decision-making and impulse regulation, increasing the risk of engaging in unhealthy alcohol use.

Biological Factors—Biological factors can contribute to both depression and alcohol use, and genetic factors may play a role in the shared risk between the two substances.

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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.

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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:

Cayla Clark

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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