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Antidepressants and Alcohol

Antidepressants and Alcohol

It is an extremely bad idea to combine antidepressants with alcohol. This WellnessKeen article explains how this combination could prove fatal.
Ashwini Kulkarni Sule
Antidepressants are the medications that are prescribed as a depression and anxiety cure. It is often recommended to avoid alcohol, while you are on antidepressants. The reason is that, alcohol and antidepressants act on the same chemicals in the brain. Naturally, alcohol is likely to counteract the effects of antidepressants. In turn, antidepressants can aggravate the intoxication ability of alcohol. Here are some reasons why antidepressants and alcohol consumption should not be mixed with each other.
Antidepressants and Alcoholism
Increased Depression
Alcohol interferes with the working mechanism of the antidepressants, and reduces their effect. As a result, the antidepressants cannot efficiently cure anxiety. This results in increased symptoms of depression. Consequently, the person may be tempted to stop the antidepressants entirely, and indulge in alcoholism.
Increased Intoxication
As mentioned above, alcohol and antidepressants act on the same set of chemical stimulants in the brain. Thus, antidepressants are likely to elevate the levels of intoxication in the body. Interaction of antidepressants and alcohol is particularly risky, as it directly impairs the control of the brain over the body. This might make it impossible to carry out tasks, such as driving, which require judgment and attention. Like alcohol, many antidepressants cause drowsiness. So, if both are taken together, the effect would be intensified.
Side Effects
Antidepressants are known to induce certain side effects such as drowsiness, sleepiness, etc. These side effects are often aggravated, when you combine alcohol with antidepressants. This can be detrimental on some occasions where you are required to stay awake and alert. This is particularly true when you mix tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) with alcohol. The severity of side effects is more during the first few weeks of starting antidepressants.
Lethal Combination
Antidepressants, particularly from the class monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), when combined with certain foods and drinks can cause fatal effects. MAOIs such as isocarboxazid, phenelzine, and tranylcypromine can substantially elevate the blood pressure, and may even cause stroke. Thus, when you are on antidepressants, it is imperative to know what foods can be safely consumed, and which alcoholic beverages can induce lethal reactions.
When is Alcohol Safe with Antidepressants
Many people are wary of the fact that if they start antidepressants, they won't be able to drink alcohol. Though, this is true in many cases, alcohol can be safely consumed under certain circumstances. This is when the type of antidepressants are fluoxetine, sertraline, paroxetime, or citalopram, which have insignificant effects when combined with alcohol. SSRIs are much less sedating than the TCAs. However, it is better to consult your doctor if you have been prescribed fluvoxamine, which has a potential to induce some side effects when mixed with alcohol.
Often, your doctor may allow you to drink alcohol in moderation, while on antidepressants. However, when you have been asked to drink alcohol in moderation, it is not wise to exceed the limit beyond two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women. One drink is measured in terms of ounces and the proportion is as follows:
  • One drink = 12 ounces of beer
  • One drink = 5 ounces of wine
  • One drink = 1 ounce of 80-proof whiskey or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits
Sometimes, with recurrent use of even small amounts of alcohol (one drink per day), the person may not be able to reap full benefits of antidepressants. All drug manufacturers, in fact, discourage alcohol consumption while taking antidepressants.
Antidepressants and alcohol, is definitely not a great combination. However, you might seek permission from your doctor who will be able to advise you, depending upon the type of antidepressants you are using. Also, it is better to confirm it beforehand, what are the types of foods that can be safely consumed, while on antidepressants.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.