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Mixing Prozac and Alcohol

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People who struggle with substance misuse often suffer from co-existing psychiatric conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders. Those who experience these conditions often use alcohol or drugs to numb distressing feelings and escape their emotional pain. Furthermore, many of the same risk factors associated with addiction also commonly underlie mental health issues, such as childhood trauma, biological predisposition, and heredity.

Alcohol misuse comes with many increased risks and is dangerous all of its own. In addition, taking mood-altering medications, such as Prozac, while actively drinking can exacerbate these issues or produce new ones. Polysubstance misuse often requires professional treatment, and when a person takes an antidepressant, this suggests they have a mood disorder that might also need addressing.

If you are struggling with an alcohol use disorder that interferes with your antidepressant medication and causes other adverse consequences, contact Guardian Recovery. Learn more about our integrated recovery programs, customized treatment plans, and how we can provide you with more adaptive ways to manage your mental health without using drugs or alcohol.

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What Is Prozac?

Prozac (fluoxetine) is an antidepressant in a class of prescription drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). (1)(2) It is believed to be relatively safe for use and does not have a significant risk of misuse.

Prozac effectively treats mood disorders and emotional issues with fewer side effects than other antidepressants. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves Prozac for various mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. (3)

FDA-Approved Prozac Medical Applications Include:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD).
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.
  • Panic disorder.
  • Premenstrual dysmorphic disorder.
  • Acute depressive episodes related to bipolar I disorder (with olanzapine).
  • Treatment-resistant depression (with olanzapine).

Common off-label uses for Prozac include other psychiatric conditions such as social anxiety, borderline personality, and adult post-traumatic stress disorder.

Prozac (fluoxetine) side effects often include nausea, insomnia, nervousness, and sexual dysfunction that tends to subside over time. Severe side effects are rare but include serotonin syndrome and suicidal ideations. (4)

Alcohol Misuse Emotional Side Effects

Alcohol misuse has been associated with several acute- and long-term emotional problems. (5) It is important to be aware of this because Prozac is prescribed to treat many mental health conditions characterized by similar issues, such as depression.

Mental Health Symptoms Related to Alcohol Misuse Include: (5)

  • Memory impairment and loss.
  • Difficulty concentrating and learning.
  • Personality changes.
  • Mood swings.
  • Brain fog.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Suicidal ideations.
  • Irritability and anger.
  • Agitation.

Adverse Effects of Prozac & Alcohol

Research suggests severe alcohol use can undermine the efficacy of antidepressants, offset their desired benefits, and increase certain depressive symptoms. (6)

Other Potential Adverse Effects of Prozac & Alcohol Include:

Increased symptoms of anxiety and depression: Acute alcohol misuse can result in decreased anxiety and depression because drinking is associated with brain chemicals, such as dopamine and GABA, that promote feelings of pleasure and reward. (7) Over time, however, these positive effects are overtaken by both short- and long-term emotional instability and worsening mental health issues. 

Reduced attentiveness and response time: Both Prozac and alcohol can impair attention, alertness, motor skills, and coordination. These effects can lead to problems related to everyday responsibilities, such as childcare, job performance, and driving.

Drowsiness: Drinking alcohol without using other depressants can cause extreme sedation or sleepiness. Because Prozac is also a depressant, lethargic effects may be more amplified than when the two substances are taken independently.

Decreased efficacy of Prozac: Prozac’s effectiveness can be reduced significantly by alcohol consumption, which is associated with decreased levels of tryptophan, and depression can result when levels of this chemical are low. (8) 

Amplified effects of alcohol: Some research has revealed antidepressants can intensify alcohol’s effects and may lead some to increase their alcohol intake and become dependent. (9)

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Depression Can Lead to Alcohol Misuse

Alcohol misuse is a common, albeit dysfunctional, method people with depression use to cope with negative emotions. For many, the euphoric and relaxing effects that alcohol induces can serve as self-medication that distracts from persistent sadness and emotional turmoil. Additionally, research has suggested that distressing circumstances, such as loneliness, combined with “a neurotic personality,” can increase the likelihood of a person using alcohol to relieve stress. (10) Such a personality is described as having tendencies toward negativity, anxiety, and self-doubt.

Alcohol Misuse Contributes to Depression

As noted, alcohol can temporarily relieve some depressive symptoms but may also exacerbate the condition when consumed chronically. According to research noted above, “drinking can have a deleterious effect on depression and depressive symptoms and may dampen the impact of treatment for depression.” (11)

Another study found that “alcohol-dependent individuals were 3.7 times more likely to have major depression than those without alcohol dependence.” In addition, for individuals seeking treatment with an active alcohol use disorder, “40.7% had at least one current independent mood disorder.” (12)

Finally, its common knowledge that alcohol misuse can tremendously impact nearly all aspects of a person’s life and result in social, financial, and legal issues. These unfortunate consequences can cause symptoms of depression to worsen significantly.

The Downward Spiral of Depression & Addiction

Alcohol misuse can trigger the onset of depression or worsen a pre-existing condition, which can contribute to more drinking. This suggests that these two disorders may be intricately tied up in a reciprocating causal relationship that is difficult to break. According to a 2012 study, individuals with alcoholism or depression double their risk of experiencing the other disorder. (13) 

Experts also believe some people have genetic dispositions that can make them more vulnerable to both depression and alcohol misuse. (14) As a result, it may not matter whether depression leads to heavy drinking or the other way around. The mere existence of identical genetic risks can be the major contributor to both disorders before an ever-increasing cycle of self-medication even begins.

What Is Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome?

Heavy drinkers who experience severe depression may come to believe that Prozac is not helping their condition. While this may be true in some cases, it’s more likely that alcohol misuse has interfered with their medication and prevented it from working as effectively as possible. For this reason, some individuals decide to quit taking Prozac instead of curbing their alcohol use.

Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome can occur following sudden cessation of Prozac used for six weeks or longer. Flu-like symptoms, insomnia, sensory disturbances, and hyperarousal can arise. (15) When a person experiences this, it can be quite unexpected and lead to more alcohol use. As noted, this, in turn, can worsen mental issues, and the person will continue experiencing a downward spiral of deep depression and intensifying alcohol addiction.

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We Offer Individualized Treatment Programs for Alcohol Misuse

If you have been prescribed Prozac or another antidepressant and have found it difficult to control your alcohol use, you are urged to seek professional treatment as soon as possible. At Guardian Recovery, your call is free and confidential, and you can take advantage of a complimentary assessment and no-obligation health benefits check. We offer comprehensive addiction treatment programs featuring evidence-based approaches to recovery, including medical detox, behavioral therapy, counseling, holistic practices, aftercare planning, and more. 

Contact us today to speak with an experienced treatment advisor who can introduce you to our streamlined admissions process and help you decide the level of care most appropriate for your specific circumstances. We are committed to helping individuals achieve their recovery goals and promote long-lasting happiness and wellness.

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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.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459223/ (2)(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554406/ (4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3865832/

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

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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