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What are the Risks of Taking Antidepressants with Alcohol?

A. Pasbjerg
Updated May 17, 2024
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Taking antidepressants with alcohol is typically not recommended, as patients can experience a variety of problems if they do so. One of the risks is that the alcohol will make the medication less effective, and therefore will lead to increased depression. Antidepressants can also intensify the intoxication caused by alcohol, and using them together may even lead to blackouts. Both can lead people using them to feel drowsy, and taking both at the same time can make this effect even more pronounced. Combining alcohol with certain types of antidepressants can also potentially be fatal.

The usual reason people take antidepressants is to help control depression and anxiety, and combining antidepressants with alcohol can interfere with this. Alcohol can counteract the effects of the medication, decreasing its beneficial effects. This can cause the patient's depression to increase, defeating the purpose of the drugs.

Another risk of taking antidepressants with alcohol is increased intoxication. Antidepressants affect the same chemicals in the brain as alcohol; when they are used together, the decrease in judgment, attention, and control of the body normally associated with alcohol use becomes more pronounced. This can increase the chance of patients making poor decisions or getting into risky situations.

Blackouts can also be a problem when antidepressants are combined with alcohol. Patients may experience periods of time where they do not remember what they said or did. This is another effect of the two drugs acting on the same neurotransmitters in the brain.

Extreme drowsiness may also be a problem when using antidepressants with alcohol. Sleepiness is a common side effect when taking antidepressants, and it can also occur when using alcohol. When the two are combined, particularly if the antidepressants are the tricyclic type, this effect may be exacerbated, making it difficult if not impossible for the patient to not fall asleep. This can cause problems for people engaged in activities that require them to be alert, and may even be dangerous if they are doing things like driving.

Using antidepressants with alcohol can not only cause some unpleasant effects, it can also be fatal. This is particularly true if the patient is taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MAOIs. Combining these drugs with alcohol can cause a significant increase in blood pressure. This can in turn potentially lead to a stroke, which can have a wide range of physical impacts including death.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
A. Pasbjerg
By A. Pasbjerg
Andrea Pasbjerg, a WiseGEEK contributor, holds an MBA from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her business background helps her to create content that is both informative and practical, providing readers with valuable insights and strategies for success in the business world.

Discussion Comments

By croydon — On Sep 22, 2014

@irontoenail - I don't think most people think of alcohol as being a big deal. Unfortunately, taking antidepressants and alcohol together can be a very big deal and it happens a lot.

I started on Prozac a while ago and I decided not to drink too much while I was on it, but the doctor didn't really caution me about it. I read about it on my own.

And the thing is, many people who are depressed in the first place, are already heavy drinkers and might not realize they should cut back. Being on antidepressants might remove some of the reason for drinking if you're lucky, but if you're already addicted or even just in the habit of drinking a lot, then that's not going to really matter.

I think there should be more emphasis on the dangers of drinking while on medication by the medical establishment.

By irontoenail — On Sep 21, 2014

@bythewell - It annoys me that it is socially awkward, because there are so many reasons that people might not want to drink alcohol, most of them personal, that any host or friend should just be accepting of someone's choice to go without.

I don't understand why people have to extend pressure about this. Alcohol and depression go hand in hand even at the best of times and it's not something that should be forced on anyone.

By bythewell — On Sep 20, 2014

Even though I'm taking a kind of antidepressant that apparently is safe to have with one or two drinks, I've completely lost my taste for alcohol. I mean, it doesn't actually taste different, it just doesn't appeal at all for the effects. And the few times I have had some it has just made me very sleepy.

I was never a huge drinker, but I used to enjoy a glass or two of wine or a beer with dinner. But I don't even like doing that now.

This is a good thing overall, I suppose, but it can be a bit socially awkward having to explain why I don't want even a single drink at a party.

A. Pasbjerg

A. Pasbjerg

Andrea Pasbjerg, a WiseGEEK contributor, holds an MBA from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her business background helps her to create content that is both informative and practical, providing readers with valuable insights and strategies for success in the business world.
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