Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are a common form of medication used in the treatment of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Drinking alcohol while on these medications can result in a number of side effects and interactions that can be dangerous to a person’s health and mental wellbeing. Avoiding alcohol while taking an SSRI is the best way to prevent the harmful effects that may arise as a result of combining these two substances.

What Are SSRIs?

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the most common type of medication used in the treatment of depression. SSRIs can help alleviate symptoms of mild to severe depression and typically have fewer side effects and interactions than other types of antidepressants.

SSRIs work by increasing the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter responsible for positive emotions such as happiness and well-being. SSRIs block the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain, making more of this chemical available. As a result, individuals may feel increased happiness and other positive feelings as well as reduced symptoms of depression.

Common SSRIs include:

  • sertraline (Zoloft)
  • fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • citalopram (Celexa)
  • paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
  • vilazodone (Viibryd)
  • escitalopram (Lexapro)

SSRIs can be incredibly helpful in the treatment of depression. However, these drugs can have interactions with other substances like alcohol. Drinking alcohol while on an SSRI can have a number of adverse side effects and potential interactions.

Potential Interactions Between Alcohol And SSRIs

Consuming alcohol when taking an SSRI can potentially result in negative interactions. This is especially true for individuals who abuse or are addicted to alcohol. The more alcohol a person consumes while on an SSRI, the more likely he or she is to experience adverse interactions.

Potential interactions between alcohol and SSRIs include:

  • worsened symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • increased risk of negative side effects from other drugs taken
  • slowed motor skills or cognitive abilities
  • sudden personality changes or memory loss

While the exact relationship between alcohol and SSRIs is unknown, individuals who take these medications are typically warned against consuming alcohol while on them. A person’s gender as well as how much alcohol he or she consumes can impact the interactions between SSRIs and alcohol consumption.

Side Effects Of Mixing Alcohol And SSRIs

Alcohol and SSRIs share a number of potential side effects. As a result, mixing these two substances can cause the side effects of each to be heightened. Additionally, alcohol can interfere with an SSRI’s ability to manage depression symptoms. This means that a person can continue to experience depression or even experience worsened depression if alcohol is consumed while taking an SSRI.

Additional side effects of combining alcohol and SSRIs may include:

  • increased risk of blackouts
  • exessive drowsiness or sedation
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • impaired thinking and alertness
  • slowed reaction time
  • trouble sleeping
  • increased risk of alcohol abuse and/or addiction

While combining alcohol and SSRIs is potentially harmful, it’s important that a person doesn’t stop taking his or her medication in order to drink. Abruptly stopping an SSRI or taking it sporadically can negatively impact a person’s mental health and can also result in withdrawal symptoms from the medication. SSRI withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and make it difficult to function normally.

Speaking with your doctor before drinking while on an SSRI is important to prevent interactions and negative side effects. Some physicians may indicate that moderate alcohol consumption is fine while taking an antidepressant. However, every person is different, so discussing this with your doctor first is important.

Getting Help For Alcohol Abuse And Addiction

If you are taking an SSRI and are struggling to moderate or control your drinking, it may beneficial to consider seeking treatment for alcohol abuse or addiction. There are several different programs available for helping individuals overcome an alcohol use disorder, including those offered by Vertava Health. Our treatment programs offer customized plans for recovery to suit the needs of each patient. Our facilities also specialize in dual diagnosis treatment, which means that you can receive help for both depression and alcohol addiction.

To learn more about the dangers of mixing SSRIs and alcohol, contact an Vertava Health treatment specialist today.