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Mixing Alcohol and Antidepressants: Can You Do It Safely?

Finally, I’ll explore what to discuss with a doctor for tips to manage antidepressant side effects. But before you drink any alcohol, you should take Lexapro long enough to know how it affects you and which side effects you have with it. Try to drink slowly and eat while you drink to tamp down alcohol’s possible effects. You may not want to skip having a drink just because you take an antidepressant.

Much like barbiturates (sedatives), alcohol is a drug that affects the central nervous system (CNS) and the brain’s functionality. Don’t stop taking an antidepressant or other medication just so that you can drink. Most antidepressants require taking a consistent, daily dose to maintain a constant level in your system and work as intended. You should only take 2 different types of antidepressants, such as an SSRI and a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA), if a doctor advises you to. This is because taking certain combinations of antidepressants can make you feel very ill and can be life-threatening. The use of illegal drugs is not recommended if you’re taking antidepressants, particularly if you’ve been prescribed a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA).

This CME/CE credit opportunity is jointly provided by the Postgraduate Institute for Medicine and NIAAA. These chemicals work in different ways addiction what it is, causes, symptoms, types and treatment to help with your mental and physical well-being. Most antidepressants work by increasing the low levels of these important neurotransmitters.

They are typically used to help treat depression, and can also be effective for other conditions like anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, certain phobias and even premenstrual dysphoric disorder. They work by increasing the levels of the brain chemical serotonin — which is thought to influence your mood and emotions, among other things — by blocking its removal after it carries messages in the brain. Mutual-help groups also can be effective elements of treatment for co-occurring AUD and depressive disorders. Patients with alcohol dependence or SUD usually suffer from treatment-resistant depression, particularly patients abusing opioids. Combined psychotherapy with anti-depressants and dependence medications can result in best patient outcomes, where SSRI use was commonly studied.

During and within two weeks after treatment with MAOIs, you must NOT consume any foods or beverages that are high in tyramine content. When MAOIs are combined with alcoholic beverages high in tyramine, serious heart-related effects, such as dangerous high blood pressure (called a hypertensive crisis), may occur. Many foods may be high in tyramine as well, like such as aged cheeses and cured meats. Alcohol use disorders may be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the combination of symptoms you’re experiencing, but drinking problems can exist regardless of a clinical diagnosis. Drinking alcohol while taking antidepressants is generally not recommended because both of these substances can make you drowsy, less alert, and uncoordinated.

  1. The potential for a harmful interaction may provide a compelling reason for patients to cut down or quit drinking when warranted (see Core articles on screening and brief intervention).
  2. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced in the ventral striatum, a brain area regulating motivation, reward, and how we experience pleasure.
  3. If you or someone you know is mixing antidepressants and alcohol, FHE can help.
  4. It has been estimated that up to 40% of patients with depression have a history of SUD or alcohol dependence during their lifetime [4].

Removing alcohol from the picture increases the opportunities for brain and body to function optimally. Alcohol is one of the most common legal, non-prescribed psychoactive substances in the U.S., with 54.9 percent of adults surveyed reporting alcohol use within the past month and 69.5 percent reporting that they drank in the past year. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 14.5 million Americans over age 12 met the criteria for AUD that year. The most common type of antidepressants prescribed are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft are the most well-known SSRIs and are taken by millions of people in the U.S. for depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, and panic disorder. More than 20 million Americans struggle with substance use, and 7.9 million people have both substance use issues and mental health diagnoses.

There is help available, in the form of detox services, medication-assisted treatment, and dual diagnosis care. As previously mentioned, MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) are another group of antidepressants that can be dangerous when mixed with alcohol. They are known as a particularly strong class of antidepressant medications, and they may not be used if other options are available and effective. Certain alcoholic beverages contain a chemical called tyramine, which can be deadly when mixed with MAOIs.

Major depressive disorder involves persistent and prolonged symptoms, but depression, in general, takes on many different forms. Depressive symptoms can result from life stressors, mental health conditions, medical conditions, and other factors. Many studies have found that alcohol dependence is closely linked to depression. When it comes to diagnosing an alcohol use disorder and a major depressive disorder, it’s important to address them simultaneously, as they can significantly impact your recovery.

An individual who suffers from alcohol addiction should first seek treatment for substance use before starting on antidepressants. A good rehab program should address both of these concerns—treating co-occurring disorders is essential towards ensuring that a person is balanced in a way that is foundational to their sobriety. If you have anxiety-related depression, you may be treated with a benzodiazepine if your mental health symptoms don’t respond to first-line medications.

How Inflammation Connects Alcohol and Depression

It has been defined as using a psychoactive agent, which results in high levels of stress and functional disabilities [2]. This disorder has been reported as a primary factor for disability globally. It is also a contributor to a wide range of psychological and physical disorders, most commonly severe depression [3]. It has been estimated that up to 40% of patients with depression have a history of SUD or alcohol dependence during their lifetime [4].

Core Resource on Alcohol

However, use of anti-depressants significantly reduced the incidence of anxiety, insomnia, and substance abuse in these patients [16]. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are a class of antidepressants typically reserved to treat depression that is not responding to other medications, but they can cause serious interactions. MAOIs are not frequently prescribed, but can be important treatments for patients who fail other treatments for depression.

Checking alcohol-medication interactions

Depression is a common and serious mood disorder, which can impact your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In the United States alone, an estimated 17.3 million adults have had at least one major depressive episode. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that 9 out of 10 adult binge drinkers don’t have a severe alcohol use disorder, but that doesn’t mean alcohol isn’t a problem for them.

As for depression co-existing with alcohol dependence, Jordans et al. [17] evaluated the use of psychotherapy combined with anti-depressants for patients with depression and alcohol dependence. They showed that psychotherapy addition would improve treatment success rates, especially when delivered by community-based counselors, after one year of follow-up. It can be tempting to drink if you’re feeling unhappy, but how to identify an alcoholic there’s a better solution out there. When treating depression and substance abuse, consult with a mental health professional and/or an addiction specialist who can provide resources and recommendations for possible treatment options. Alcohol abuse and dependence are both considered an alcohol use disorder, with studies finding that alcohol dependence is more closely tied to the persistence of depressive disorders.

We included the results of only original research articles investigating depression treatment outcomes in patients with alcohol use disorder or SUD or both. Selected trials mentioned the condition under investigation, whether it is depression with abused substance or alcohol dependence. Only studies published in English were classified as related articles, which can be further evaluated in the second step. These disorders are characterized by disrupted mood (e.g., low, numb, or irritable), along with an array of cognitive (e.g., feelings of worthlessness and difficulty concentrating) and physical (e.g., fatigue and lack of energy) symptoms.

Hundreds of research studies using neuroimaging techniques show that within a short time of drinking alcohol, most adults have twice as much dopamine in their brain as they did prior to drinking. When mixed with alcohol, antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) can create a dangerous reaction, causing a person’s blood pressure to rise to hazardous levels. If you suffer from either alcohol use or addiction, it is imperative that you inform your medical practitioner of the quantity and frequency of your drinking.

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