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Mixing Alcohol and Zoloft (Sertraline)

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Is it safe to mix alcohol with an antidepressant like Zoloft? Zoloft is the brand name for the medication sertraline. It and similar antidepressants are used by over 13% (1) of the United States population. They are prescribed to treat symptoms for depression, panic attacks, and other related mental conditions. As effective as they may be for some users, they can offer a host of potentially dangerous side effects when mixed with alcohol.

Combining multiple substances can be a symptom of a substance use disorder. If you or someone you love feel like they need help to overcome addictive cycles, help is available. Guardian Recovery is a nationwide network of substance use treatment facilities committed to the recovery of each of our clients. We know how difficult life can be with a substance use disorder, but we also know the hope and joy that can come from a life of recovery. Call today to speak with a treatment advisor about your treatment options. Your journey to a lifestyle of recovery can start today.

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What Is Zoloft & Why Is it Prescribed?

Zoloft is the brand name for the substance sertraline (2). Often prescribed for treating depressive symptoms, it is classified as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). SSRIs are the most common form of antidepressants available. They cause the brain to release high levels of a chemical called serotonin. This chemical is responsible for a host of functions throughout the body including mood stabilization. As the serotonin is released it is then blocked from reabsorbing back into the brain and body potentially causing users to have decreased depressive symptoms.

Common Side Effects of Zoloft & Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Though it is considered safe when used as prescribed, SSRIs like Zoloft may have some potential side effects. While some may be mild, others can pose serious health concerns. These side effects may include:

  • Nausea
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight changes
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Headache
  • Decreased sex drive

Alcohol Use Can Increase Side Effects or Influence Effectiveness of Medications

Though some physicians allow for mild alcohol consumption while taking SSRIs, most are against it initially. Many of the side effects of these medications can increase or become dangerous when compounded by alcohol consumption. Symptoms like nausea and generally  “upset” stomach are commonly related to excess alcohol consumption. When medications are causing the same side effects, the effects can increase in severity.

Does Alcohol Counteract the Effects of SSRIs?

Alcohol (3) falls into the category of substances known as depressants. They are responsible for slowing down the body’s central nervous system. Along with this effect, they are known to cause sedation and increase depressive symptoms.

SSRIs like Zoloft are prescribed at a dosage related to the presenting symptoms. If alcohol is introduced, these symptoms may increase. This can cause issues related to proper dosage as well as the effectiveness of the medication. It is for this and other reasons that most physicians will recommend staying away from alcohol while using SSRIs.

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What Happens if You Drink Alcohol While Taking Zoloft?

When alcohol is introduced into the body alongside an SSRI like Zoloft, it can increase the likelihood and severity of negative side effects. Common side effects of alcohol consumption are nausea and overall “upset stomach.” Similar side effects have been reported to be associated with SSRIs like Zoloft. When taken together, these substances may interact causing an increase in symptoms or their severity.

How Does Zoloft & Alcohol Interact in the Brain & Body?

Zoloft is classified as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). These medications carry this label because of their function within the brain. They are responsible for causing the brain to release high amounts of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This chemical is responsible for a multitude of functions throughout the brain and body including mood stabilization. As an SSRI is taken it causes the release of serotonin while simultaneously blocking the reabsorption of these chemicals. This process is known as reuptake and it is temporarily blocked. This causes the body to feel the full effect of all of the available serotonin (4). The intended purpose is to stabilize the user’s mood,

Alcohol is a classification of depressants known as sedative-hypnotics. It is responsible for slowing the central nervous system and causing sedation. In large quantities, this can limit normal brain and body function causing the feeling of being drunk.

Can Drinking Alcohol While Taking Zoloft Cause Adverse Symptoms?

Many of the side effects associated with alcohol are similar to those associated with Zoloft. (5) These symptoms center around distress within the digestive system and can include nausea and generally “upset” stomach. When taken together, these symptoms may be compounded causing the user to feel an increased sense of intestinal distress. This can simply be an unpleasant sensation but can also be a sign of a more severe health issue.

Can Mixing Alcohol With Zoloft & Antidepressants Be Dangerous?

Alcohol is classified as a central nervous system depressant. A potential side effect for those who use alcohol is increased symptoms of depression. This can be dangerous for someone who may already show these symptoms. Depressive symptoms can lead thoughts of self harm or suicide if left untreated or compounded. It is for this reason that combining SSRIs like Zoloft and alcohol can become potentially dangerous.

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If you or someone you love has found themselves in addictive cycles of substance use, treatment may be required. Guardian Recovery is here to help. Our nationwide network of substance use treatment facilities is ready to help you take your life back. Call today to speak with one of our treatment advisors about your options. They will be able to answer any questions you may have about the treatment process. You do not have to fight this battle alone. Let Guardian Recovery help you begin your new life of recovery.


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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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