Combining antidepressants and alcohol can be dangerous, and if you’re taking prescription medication to manage your depression, you need to be very careful about consuming even a little bit of alcohol. Alcohol itself is a drug, and it’s a depressant that has an impact on your central nervous system. If you’re taking antidepressants, the purpose is to affect your nervous system and your brain in the exact opposite way. Antidepressants and alcohol will mix to create an altered brain chemistry that can be harmful and counter-productive.
Antidepressants, Alcohol and Sedation
One of the risks of combining antidepressants and alcohol is that your body and your brain will become overly sedated. Tricyclic antidepressants are especially prone to causing increased sedation, and the combination of alcohol with those drugs is dangerous. In addition to slowing you down, you run the risk of having convulsions and heart problems, especially if you drink moderately or heavily while taking those drugs.
Antidepressants, Alcohol and Physical Health
Your blood pressure can rise to unhealthy levels when you combine antidepressants and alcohol, especially if you are taking an MAO Inhibitor to treat your symptoms. Beer and red wine have especially high levels of tyramine, which is a protein. That ingredient combined with your antidepressant can elevate your blood pressure to a dangerously high level.
There’s also a risk to your liver. Consuming excessive alcohol on its own contributes to a higher risk of liver disease, but adding antidepressants will put an additional strain on your liver. This is the organ that metabolizes all of your alcohol as well as the depression drugs you are taking.
Side Effects of Antidepressants and Alcohol
While going out for a drink or two might seem like a harmless activity, when you’re on antidepressants, there can be unintended side effects. For example, you could find yourself having seizures, feeling dizzy or fainting. You could also find yourself experiencing a deeper state of depression, either while you’re drinking or after you have sobered up. Drinking alcohol lowers your serotonin levels, and that’s exactly what you want to be raising when you’re battling depression. There can be instances of severe mood swings and some people can even become manic when drinking while taking antidepressants. In extreme cases, people have died because they combined antidepressants and alcohol. If you’re taking any other drugs in addition to the alcohol and the prescribed medication, you could have a bad reaction.
People are told not to drink and drive because alcohol impairs judgment, motor skills and the ability to think and see clearly. When you add antidepressants to the mix, the impairment of cognition only increases. Your reaction time will slow down dramatically, and you won’t be able to react quickly or exercise good judgment. The speed with which you process conversations and situations will slow down considerably when you mix antidepressants and alcohol. Don’t put yourself in that position.
Alcohol and Inhibitions
Another reason not to mix antidepressants and alcohol is the way alcohol can diminish your inhibitions. As someone who suffers from depression, you may have occasionally considered suicide or other unhealthy behaviors. Drinking alcohol while you’re under treatment for depression can cause you to become self destructive or even suicidal. Over half of the people who commit suicide are found to be under the influence of alcohol. That statistic alone should keep you from mixing your medication with alcohol. You don’t want to create a situation in your head where ending your life or doing something irreversible seems to make sense. It will set back the progress you are trying to make in treating your depression.
Taking antidepressants and alcohol at the same time can potentially lead to a drinking problem. While the enhanced sedation you feel while under the influence of alcohol may seem like a pleasant state of mind, it doesn’t last. You will sober up and you might find that you crave that extra sedation. People who are treated for depression are already at a great risk for developing a substance abuse problem of some kind. Don’t invite the problem into your mind and body. Antidepressants and alcohol will not create the permanent state in which you want to exist. Even if you feel good after you’ve had a few drinks, you know that feeling won’t last forever. It’s going to create a need for more alcohol, and that will make your depression harder to treat.
Nearly every prescription drug manufacturer advises against mixing antidepressants and alcohol. Even a small amount of drinking can have a negative effect on the work the antidepressants are doing for your illness. Protect yourself and your treatment plan by staying away from alcohol and situations in which alcohol will be a temptation. If you think you have a problem, make sure you seek treatment for both alcohol dependency as well as depression.