Antidepressants and Alcohol: Can You Drink on Antidepressants?

Society’s treatment for mental illnesses has significantly improved over the centuries. Gone are the days when depressed individuals are forced to be locked in asylums and suffer from bloodletting, beating, and other brutal attempts to cure them of the condition.

With communities worldwide advocating for mental health care, it seems that people suffering from mental illnesses have more opportunities for safe and effective healing. Individuals suffering from depression, in particular, have benefitted from the positive changes in mental health care. 

Thanks to different treatments, such as psychotherapy and antidepressants, overcoming depression can be within arm’s reach!

Mixing Alcohol and Antidepressants

For your depression treatment to be effective, you have to do your part in practicing a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating a balanced diet and avoiding substances that may affect the effectiveness of your medication, such as alcohol. 

When taking antidepressants, you can never be too safe! Unfortunately, if you regularly drink alcohol before getting treatment, you’ll have to make a sacrifice and avoid alcoholic beverages for a while. You never know what may happen to you if you combine alcohol with antidepressants—you may get exposed to dangers and become harmed.

Since alcohol is a hypnotic sedative, it depresses essential bodily functions when consumed in excess. When you mix alcohol with antidepressants, the medication can worsen the alcohol’s effects and vice versa.

If you dare to combine alcohol with your antidepressant medication, you may experience the following side effects and even have to enroll yourself in an alcohol and drug rehab program:

A More Depressed or Anxious Feeling

Drinking alcohol can counteract the benefits of the antidepressants you’re taking and make your symptoms more difficult to treat. Even if alcohol seems like it will improve your mood, this only lasts for a short time. Due to the properties of alcohol, your symptoms of depression and anxiety may further increase.

Worsened Side Effects

Antidepressants on their own already cause a multitude of side effects, but they may become unmanageable when taken with alcohol. Make sure to avoid drinking alcohol so that you don’t suffer in the process of trying to get better.

Impaired thinking and Alertness

The combination of antidepressants and alcohol can result in poor cognitive functions. If you take antidepressant medications with alcohol, you may experience an adverse change in your judgment, coordination, and reaction time. As a result, performing everyday tasks like driving will become challenging and even impossible.

Signs of Antidepressant Abuse

Antidepressants aren’t known to get people “high” or cause cravings, unlike other mood-enhancing prescription medications, as they work slowly to lift the user’s mood. Although antidepressant medications aren’t addictive like alcohol or heroin, people can still develop a physical dependence.

Most antidepressant abuse involves increasing the prescribed dose when it seems like the drug isn’t working as fast as they want it to. Still, others combine their medication with alcohol to amplify the antidepressant’s effects.

Since people suffering from depression are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, they may use substances other than their antidepressant medication.

can you overdose on antidepressants
Mixing Alcohol and Antidepressants

Some of the warning signs of substance abuse include:

  • Diminished appearance
  • Financial difficulties
  • Slurred speech
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in appetite

Medication for Depression

Extensive research and advancements in medicine have led to treatments involving exercise, diet, and drugs for people suffering from depression to overcome their mental illness.

Aside from psychotherapy, antidepressants are perhaps the most significant contribution to the curing of depression. Although opinions and effects vary from person to person, antidepressants, in general, have proven to relieve the symptoms of depression.

Including antidepressants in your treatment plan can help you with your condition by manipulating the chemical balance in your brain. As the antidepressants interact with the neurotransmitters in the brain, you may experience an improvement in your mood, an increase in appetite, have a better quality of sleep, and fewer suicidal thoughts, among others.

Types of Antidepressants

More people than ever are being prescribed and taking antidepressants, their usage steadily rising since 2015. In fact, more than 37 million Americans take some form of antidepressant for their condition. 

Millions of people in the country are prescribed antidepressants. Still, it’s important to note that not everyone takes the same medication because not everyone has the same type of depression. As such, a different kind of antidepressant medication may be more effective for someone but causes side effects for you.

Since every person is different, trying out different kinds of antidepressants may be essential to find one that can help you manage your mental health. Although all antidepressants affect neurotransmitters associated with depression, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, each type affects them in slightly different ways.

The most common antidepressants include:

  1. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

This is the most commonly prescribed type of antidepressant, as doctors often start by prescribing this medication. This type of antidepressant usually causes fewer side effects and is less likely to cause complications at higher therapeutic doses than other antidepressants.

SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), and escitalopram (Lexapro).

  1. Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)

Unlike SSRIs, tricyclic antidepressants tend to cause more side effects than newer medications since they were developed more than 50 years ago. Don’t expect your provider to prescribe you TCAs unless you’ve experienced no improvement with other types of antidepressants. 

TCAs include medications such as amitriptyline (Elavil), amoxapine (Asendin); desipramine (Norpramin); doxepin (Sinequan); imipramine (Tofranil); nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor); protriptyline (Vivactil); and trimipramine (Surmontil).

  1. Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

SNRIs work similarly to SSRIs. This antidepressant stops the brain from cleaning up the serotonin and norepinephrine naturally released. They create a surplus of norepinephrine to enhance awareness and focus, combating the fuzzy, distant feelings of depression.

Duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor XR), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), and levomilnacipran (Fetzima) are included in this class of antidepressants.

Side Effects of Antidepressants

Antidepressants have had a significant impact on the treatment for depression, but this doesn’t mean that these medications aren’t free from risks. Although most antidepressants are generally safe, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still requires all of them to carry black box warnings, which are the strictest warnings for prescriptions.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that antidepressants aren’t a cure for mental illness—no one will feel immediately better just by popping a pill in their mouth. Even though antidepressants can help relieve the symptoms of depression, there’s a reason why they come with black box warnings.

Antidepressants aren’t free from side effects. In fact, children, teenagers, and adults under 25 years of age experience an increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior after taking antidepressants. Aside from the risk of suicide, anyone taking an antidepressant must be watched closely to determine whether they experience these other side effects:

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Headache
  • Shaking
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Blurred vision
  • Irritability

Antidepressants have certainly played a significant role in helping patients suffering from depression with their healing. However, it’s crucial to be aware of its side effects when taken alone and mixed with other substances, such as alcohol. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse due to the combination of alcohol and antidepressants, make sure to reach out to an addiction center near you.