Recovery Center Blog

Is it Bad to Drink Alcohol While Taking Antidepressants?

Written By Recovery Centers - May 27th, 2022
Is it Bad to Drink Alcohol While Taking Antidepressants?

Millions of people in the United States take medication to treat depression. Depression is a common–and treatable–form of mental illness that can last for months or even years. People who are being treated for depression may drink alcohol while also taking antidepressants. According to the CDC, between 2015–2018, 13.2% of Americans aged 18 and over reported taking antidepressant medication in the past 30 days.[1]

Because antidepressants are so common, many people don’t think twice about drinking alcohol while taking them, but some may wonder if mixing antidepressants and alcohol is safe.

Alcohol is prevalent in our culture. People in the United States use alcohol to celebrate and socialize. Alcohol is often present at happy hours, weddings, parties, sporting events, and many other occasions. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 85.6 percent of people ages 18 and older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime.[2] So, do people need to stop drinking while taking antidepressants?

The answer is complicated. Generally, medical professionals advise against mixing antidepressants and alcohol. Some of the side effects of drinking on antidepressants can be serious. Understanding how antidepressants and alcohol work and the risks of mixing them can help you make informed choices about your health.

When taking any medication, you must talk with your doctor about the risks of drinking alcohol at the same time. Your doctor will advise you on how to take the medication and discuss the potential dangers of combining it with other drugs or substances.

Is it Safe to Mix Alcohol and Antidepressants?

There are several types of antidepressant medications. Some pose little risk of a bad interaction with alcohol, and others can have serious, sometimes life-threatening side effects. You must ask your doctor about the potential dangers of mixing your antidepressants and alcohol.

Generally, medical professionals do not advise people to mix antidepressants and alcohol. Alcohol can prevent antidepressants from working as they should.[3] Some people who mix alcohol and antidepressants experience worsening depression symptoms.

Alcohol abuse can also impair your judgment. People who drink alcohol are at increased risk of accidents and injuries. It is especially important to avoid mixing alcohol and antidepressants if you will be driving or operating machinery.

If you take other medications, alcohol can worsen the side effects they cause. Your doctor may tell you to stop drinking alcohol while taking your antidepressant or advise you to drink only in moderation. According to the CDC, moderate drinking means one drink per day for women and two for men.[4]

Before mixing alcohol and antidepressants, check with your doctor to understand the potential risks and side effects.

Understanding the Most Severe Risks of Drinking on Antidepressants

Alcohol can change how an antidepressant medication works and make it less effective. This puts people at risk of worsening depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. You must ask your doctor about the potential risks of mixing alcohol and antidepressants.

There are several types of antidepressant medications. Some, called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), can have life-threatening side effects when combined with alcohol. People who mix alcohol and MAOI antidepressants can suddenly experience a severe increase in their blood pressure.[5] Without medical attention, this can be life-threatening.

Mixing alcohol and antidepressants is also hard on your liver. If someone is drinking on antidepressants, their liver may not be able to remove all the toxins from the body effectively. When this happens, the liver can suffer severe damage.

Is Mixing Antidepressants and Alcohol a Sign of a More Serious Problem?

In some cases, mixing antidepressants and alcohol may be a sign that you have a substance use disorder. If your doctor has advised you to abstain from alcohol while taking the medication and you cannot do so, you may have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol or an addiction to it.

Some people may continue to drink to get more relief from their depression symptoms. This may be a sign that your medication is not working well or your depression is more severe than before.

Talk to your doctor if you are mixing alcohol and antidepressants to get advice on how to stop.

What Should I Do if I am Drinking on Antidepressants?

If you are mixing antidepressants and alcohol, you must talk to your doctor about how to stop. In some cases, your doctor may want to evaluate you for a substance use disorder. They may advise you to seek addiction treatment to stop using alcohol.

Addiction treatment is offered in various settings and several levels of care. The level of care you need and the time you will spend in treatment depends on the severity of your substance use disorder.

Generally, people in treatment participate in evidence-based and holistic therapies that help them identify the cause of their addiction and learn the skills to avoid relapse in the future. These may include individual therapy, education, group counseling, medications, and holistic treatments like nutrition counseling, exercise, and mindfulness practice.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you love needs substance abuse treatment, reach out to the specialists at Recovery Centers. Our team will connect you to the programs and professionals you need to start your journey in recovery.

References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db377.htm
  2. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
  3. https://www.nami.org/FAQ/Mental-Health-Medication-FAQ/Can-I-drink-alcohol-while-taking-antidepressants
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4942263/