What Happens When Antidepressants and Alcohol Mix?
Possible Side Effects to Consider:
Facts About this Dangerous Combination
If you’re considering mixing antidepressants and alcohol, you should think twice. Combining antidepressants and alcohol can lead to a number of troublesome side effects, including the worsening of your depression, drowsiness, dizziness, and other symptoms. What happens when antidepressants and alcohol mix? Here are seven of the most likely effects of drinking alcohol while on antidepressants:
1. Increased Depression
Combining alcohol with antidepressants can actually have the effect of making you more depressed. While alcohol can temporarily improve mood short-term, the overall effect ultimately increases the condition of depression and its symptoms. Because alcohol is a sedative that slows the nervous system, it can also prevent the antidepressant action from actually working. In turn, alcohol can have a neutralizing effect on the helpful compounds within antidepressant medications, causing symptoms to become exacerbated and harder to treat.
For instance, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are one of the most common classes of antidepressants that improve the overall function of nerve cells in the brain to “reuptake” neurotransmitters. When alcohol is mixed with SSRIs, they disrupt the flow of serotonin in the brain, which block the antidepressant action and worsen depression.
Whether anxiety was already a symptom for you or not, combining antidepressant with alcohol can lead to increased anxiety in addition to worsened depression. Again, while drinking alcohol might make you feel better in the short term, there is a price to pay with other symptoms, including higher anxiety. This symptom of anxiety stems from the fact that alcohol prevents antidepressants from actually doing their job in the brain efficiently.
3. Increased Medication Side Effects
Another unforeseen development can increase SSRI side effects. Many medications lead to known issues when they are taken with alcohol, including antidepressants as well as anti-anxiety medications, prescription pain medications and sleep medications. Existing side effects can worsen when an SSRI is in your system and you drink alcohol, and if you had no side effects before, you could begin to develop them.
4. Impaired Alertness
Combining antidepressants with alcohol can also cause you to feel sedated, drowsy and downright sleepy. Both antidepressants and alcohol can cause these symptoms on their own, and when taken together, this effect is often intensified. This effect is especially true for tricyclic inhibitors (TCAs) mixed with alcohol.
TCAs are used to treat depression, because they work to block serotonin and noradrenaline transmitters, which keep higher levels in the brain. Because alcohol is a sedative, it slows the overall central nervous system and can inhibit the antidepressant action of TCAs, increasing overall drowsiness and contributing to sustained depression.
5. Impaired Judgment and Motor Skills
Your ability to think clearly and stay alert may also be impaired by mixing any type of antidepressant with alcohol. The combination tends to affect judgment, coordination and reaction time even more than just drinking alcohol. Your ability to drive or do basic tasks requiring attention, focus and dexterity can all be affected adversely.
6. MAOIs and Blood Pressure
MAOI stands for monoamine-oxidase inhibitor, a class of antidepressants that inhibits monoamine oxidase family that is involved in removing serotonin and dopamine from the brain. This type of antidepressant can lead to a dangerous reaction when combined with alcohol as well as certain kinds of foods such as strong cheeses and cured meats – all of which are rich in a substance called tyramine. Mixing food and drink rich in tyramine with MAOIs can result in a dangerous spike in blood pressure, which can lead to unforeseen health problems. If taking an MAOI type of antidepressant, be sure to check with your provider about what is safe to eat and drink. Some alcoholic beverages can be more harmful than others when taking this drug, namely wine and beer.
7. Sleep Disruption
People who have issues with both depression and alcohol abuse may have insomnia or other sleep issues. Taking both can exacerbate these effects and lead to disrupted sleep patterns. Drinking alcohol to get to sleep may work initially, but you’ll be more prone to waking up throughout the night.
The Dangers of Stopping and Starting SSRIs
The fear of these seven side effects can cause some persons to consider not taking their antidepressant medication so that they can drink. Never stop taking an antidepressant or any other medication you’ve been prescribed for this or any other reason. You were prescribed it for a reason, and most antidepressants require a regular dosage on a daily basis so that you can maintain a consistent level of the medication in your system. Some take up to two weeks to get to the level required to have relief
Stopping and starting can impair the SSRI’s ability to work as intended, and ultimately cause your depression to become worse. As a general rule, it’s best not to drink any alcohol when depressed, but you should definitely check with your doctor with any questions about this matter.
Depression and Addiction
People who live with depression tend to be at a higher risk of abusing alcohol as well as other substances. Left unchecked or untreated, substance abuse can lead to addiction. Persons who have a hard time controlling their alcohol consumption may require treatment for their issues with addiction in addition to treatment for their depression.