Substance use disorders and mood disorders are both serious mental health conditions. When they are experienced together, they can disrupt normal functioning and pose a serious risk to health.

Antidepressant medications are a typical treatment strategy for managing depression or even some types of anxiety. While they can be lifesaving for many people, there can be some risks associated with taking them.

Drinking alcohol while taking antidepressants can be dangerous, whether a social drink or serious alcohol abuse. Mixing antidepressants and alcohol can have serious side effects and many people may not know the risks involved. Learning the interaction between antidepressants and alcohol can help reduce the risks of combining these substances.

RELATED: Connecting Alcohol Use with Anxiety

Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Antidepressants

Many people may not be sure what happens when you take antidepressants and drink alcohol at the same time. In fact, mixing alcohol and antidepressants can have serious side effects. The combination of these substances can sometimes cause a negative reaction. For example, both alcohol and antidepressants have sedative effects and can enhance the effects of the other.

There are other side effects of mixing alcohol and antidepressants that can be unpleasant or even dangerous. The side effects of antidepressants and alcohol taken together can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Enhance effects or ‘drunkenness’ after drinking alcohol
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with coordination or motor skills
  • Memory problems

These effects can cause a person to feel disoriented or unsafe, and can result in risk of injury or harm.

Risks of Alcohol Use While On Antidepressants

Because using antidepressants and alcohol can increase the effects of drinking, using them together can increase the risk of alcoholism in some people. Feeling intoxicated quicker and with less alcohol can encourage alcohol abuse and increases the chances of an alcohol overdose.

Although they are less commonly prescribed, a type of antidepressant known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors can have a serious interaction with alcohol. This can result in an increased heart rate or high blood pressure that can have serious consequences. Although more common antidepressants might not have the same severe interaction, combining them is still dangerous.

One of the riskiest things about using alcohol and antidepressants together is that it can be hard to tell when you’ve had too much to drink, and the effects can come on very suddenly. Many antidepressant medications recommend avoiding alcohol while on the medication.

It’s important to consider that for those who have problems with drinking alcohol, taking antidepressants can make drinking problems worse. Similarly, drinking heavily while depressed can also worsen symptoms of depression.

Alcohol Use and Depression

Comorbid depression and alcohol dependence are both considered mental health problems, and they share some common underlying risk factors. The co-occurrence of these disorders is not uncommon, but it can worsen health and overall functioning.

Alcohol abuse and depression are both disorders that can improve from appropriate treatment. It’s important that a treatment strategy addresses both alcohol use and depression, as well as the underlying factors that may be related to both. Treatment for dual diagnosis is often more complex but is essential for symptom improvement and recovery.

Guidelines for Alcohol Use While On Antidepressants

In general, the guidelines for alcohol consumption while on antidepressants are that alcohol should be avoided. However, there is some debate as to whether alcohol use may be safe while taking some medications. Examples of common types of antidepressants include:

  • Tricyclics, like Norpramin or Anafranil
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, like Lexapro, Prozac or Zoloft
  • Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors, like Cymbalta or Pristiq
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors, like Nardil or Marplan

Alcohol and antidepressants can affect people differently, and the safest option is to discuss alcohol and antidepressant use with your doctor. This can be an important alcoholism prevention strategy, ultimately reducing the risk of any dangerous side effects while taking medication.

Treatment for Depression and Alcoholism

Seeking help for alcoholism and depression is an important first step in recovery from addiction and improvement in mood symptoms. Treatment can help a patient to understand reasons for drinking, address addictive behaviors and develop new coping strategies to support sobriety. Receiving dual diagnosis treatment can also ensure that depression symptoms are managed, and can also help a patient to understand the relationship between depression and drinking behaviors.

Dual diagnosis treatment for alcoholism and depression may begin with medical detox to ensure that alcohol is no longer in the system. Following medical detox, treatment may include therapy in an inpatient or outpatient setting. There are many different treatment options available that can be tailored to meet your needs and ensure that you feel safe and comfortable in your recovery.

If you or someone you care about is suffering from an alcohol addiction related to depression, contact The Recovery Village Columbus to discuss treatment options today.


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Agabio, Roberta et al. “Antidepressants for the treatment of peo[…] alcohol dependence.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 2018. Accessed August 30, 2019.

Brière, Frédéric N et al. “Comorbidity between major depression and[…]scence to adulthood.” Comprehensive psychiatry, 2014. Accessed August 30, 2019.

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.