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Many people don’t realize how dangerous it can be to take antidepressants and drink alcohol at the same time. Most do know and understand that alcohol is a depressant. However, alcohol consumption is so common in our culture that some don’t take the time to think about the complications that can arise from drinking when one is prescribed antidepressants for depression.
Antidepressants and alcohol should not be mixed. Even though people are warned about this fact by their doctors when beginning to take antidepressants, it’s not uncommon for people to ignore these warnings.
It’s no secret that there are lots of people who enjoy drinking alcohol; even if someone does not have an addictive issue with alcohol, its use is habitual for some in certain settings and on specific occasions. Some people may not think twice about ordering an alcoholic beverage at dinner or at a party, nor about cracking open a beer after work even if their doctors have warned them about the contraindications of combining alcohol with the new antidepressants that they have been prescribed.
However, any doctor will tell us that people who are taking antidepressants should stop drinking alcohol. Not only will its use hinder the efficacy of this drug, but the combination can actually be hazardous to one’s health in both the short and long term. Read on to learn more.
Differentiating Between Antidepressants and Alcohol
You probably learned back in school that alcohol is a depressant. This may seem counterintuitive at first because so many people become loud and lively when drunk, but the fact of the matter is that alcohol slows down the central nervous system just like other depressants do, and it slows down the speed of communication between the brain and body. Depressants also induce sleep and relieve anxiety; alcohol has these effects as well. In fact, many people drink alcohol for these reasons.
Antidepressants are prescribed to people who struggle with depression. The way that these drugs work is that they help to balance the chemicals in one’s brain called neurotransmitters, and thereby help to regular the individual’s mood and emotions. People who do not struggle with depression are able to regulate these things naturally, but those who are diagnosed with depression can benefit greatly from the assistance of antidepressants since their bodies don’t regulate emotions and moods properly without support.
Types of Antidepressants and Their Potential Interactions With Alcohol
However, combining antidepressants and alcohol is problematic. No matter what type of antidepressants a person is prescribed, mixing alcohol and antidepressants will hinder the efficacy of the antidepressants.
There are many different types of drugs that are prescribed for depression. Some people take just one; others take several together. Here are some of the most common drugs that doctors prescribe for depression:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – These have few side effects and are often the first type of antidepressant that doctors try. SSRIs include drugs like Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, and Lexapro.
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) – Drugs like Cymbalta, Effexor XR, Pristiq, and Fetzima fall under this category.
- Tricyclic antidepressants – These drugs may cause side effects, so they are usually prescribed only after other drugs haven’t worked. They include drugs like Norpramin and Pamelor.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) – These, too, can have serious side effects and are not prescribed unless all else has failed. Some MAOIs require people to adhere to a strict diet because they can be deadly when mixed with certain foods and beverages like pickles, cheese, and wine.
- Other medications – Sometimes, other medications other than those listed above are prescribed to people struggling with depressants as well. Atypical antidepressants like Wellbutrin, Remeron, Villbrryd, and others fall under this category, as well as other medications intended to counteract the side effects of some of the drugs listed above.
The Potential Risks of Mixing Antidepressants and Alcohol
So, can you drink alcohol while on antidepressants? The answer is no – you shouldn’t. No matter what type of antidepressant you are prescribed, it’s not wise to drink alcohol when taking them. In most cases, alcohol mixed with depressants is a bad idea simply because it makes depression more difficult to treat. When an individual is taking antidepressants to help balance the jobs of neurotransmitters in the brain, adding more depressants, like alcohol, into one’s system will clearly make the job of the antidepressants much harder and in many cases, will render them ineffective.
However, in some cases, the problems one might face are much more serious than that. Combining alcohol with MAOIs can result in death. Foods and beverages that contain tyramine, like some wines, can kill someone if they decide to drink alcohol while also on the antidepressant drug.
No matter what kind of antidepressants you are on, drinking alcohol on antidepressants is not wise.
Side Effects of Combining the Two Substances
As you can see, mixing antidepressants and alcohol is a bad idea if you wish to use antidepressants to find relief from depression. At the very least, it will keep the antidepressants from working as they should. At worst, this dangerous combination can lead to death.
Who is Most at Risk From Mixing Alcohol and Antidepressants
Anyone who drinks alcohol on antidepressants is at risk of side effects. The solution is simple: don’t drink alcohol when taking antidepressants. Even though not all antidepressants mixed with alcohol are deadly like MAOIs, it’s pointless to even bother taking antidepressants if one continues to drink alcohol.
If someone’s goal is to feel better and overcome the symptoms of depression, then drinking alcohol is a losing battle and is self-defeating. Why bother even taking antidepressants if one plans to continue drinking? There’s no point since antidepressants will not be able to help solve one’s problems if alcohol is also consumed.
Why it’s Important to be Careful When Drinking While Taking Antidepressants
Anyone who takes antidepressants needs to be careful when drinking alcohol. The combination of these two substances can be dangerous or even deadly.
Of course, many people struggle with an addiction to alcohol. It’s crucial that anyone who struggles with alcohol dependency be honest with his or her doctor when discussing depression. In many cases, the type and amount of antidepressant drugs that a doctor will prescribe someone struggling with depression will vary based on one’s alcohol consumption.
If you’re someone who struggles with depression, it’s best to quit drinking alcohol altogether so you, your doctor, and your therapist can focus on the treatment of the depression without the influence of alcohol. If quitting drinking is challenging for you, you may need to seek treatment to quit.
Once you’ve successfully stopped drinking alcohol, then great strides can be made to help you overcome depression as well.
Professional Help for Substance Abuse or Addiction
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