Last Updated on October 16, 2023 by Dr. Alberto Solà

Serious mental health conditions may require medication as part of the course of treatment. One of the most well-known of these medications is Prozac®, which is the popular brand of the generic drug fluoxetine. While there are other brands of fluoxetine on the market, such as Rapiflux® and Sarafem®, Prozac® is typically prescribed for people who struggle with depression, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and some eating disorders.

Like all medications aimed at mental health treatment, Prozac® has to be taken exactly as directed while under a doctor’s care to prevent harmful side effects. It’s also crucial to not mix Prozac® and alcohol, which can pose severe risks to a user’s health and well-being.

What are the Side Effects of Prozac?

Prozac® is considered a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) because it works by changing the chemistry of the brain, specifically increasing the serotonin levels needed for mental health equilibrium. This SSRI category of drugs also includes escitalopram (Lexapro®), citalopram (Celexa®), paroxetine (Paxil®, Pexeva®), and sertraline (Zoloft®). SSRIs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat depression.

Prozac®, and other SSRIs, boost the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, the chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells in the brain. Low serotonin levels may indicate a mood disorder such as anxiety or depression, which is why SSRIs, by boosting serotonin levels, are the most commonly used prescription antidepressants. They may help alleviate feelings of low self-esteem, loss of energy or interest in normal activities, problems with brain function, abnormal sleep and eating patterns, nervousness, and suicidal thoughts.

As with any prescription medication, there can be some long-term effects of Prozac.® All kinds of SSRIs can cause potential side effects, which can depend on how well an individual tolerates and metabolizes the drug. Some of those Prozac® symptoms can include insomnia, feeling anxious or nervous, dry mouth, headaches, diarrhea, nausea, heartburn, uncontrollable yawning or tremors in a certain part of the body, decreased appetite and subsequent weight loss, sweating, sexual dysfunction, confusion, and fuzziness in the brain that leads to memory problems and the inability to focus. There can also be problematic interactions with other medications or supplements. Serious side effects of Prozac® can include itchy skin, hives or blisters, skin rash, joint pain, fever, difficulty breathing, hallucinations, confusion or agitation, rapid or erratic heartbeat, muscle stiffness, dizziness, seizures, heavy bleeding or bruising, and swelling in the face, throat, tongue, hands, feet, legs, or ankles.

Depending on the prescription, Prozac® can be taken once or twice a day, and it is available in capsules, tablets, or liquid. It’s common for doctors to start patients on a low dosage of the medication and then increase it gradually if needed. It generally takes about four to five weeks for Prozac® to reach its full effectiveness.

It’s important for people with Prozac® prescriptions not to stop taking the drug on their own, without a doctor’s permission and clear instructions on how to taper off the medication gradually. That can trigger withdrawal from Prozac® symptoms that may be difficult for someone to handle on their own. These effects include dizziness, mood swings, irritability, dizziness, anxiety, confusion, headaches, sweating, fatigue, disrupted sleep, and a tingling or numb sensation in the hands or feet. The medication label also warns that children and young adults under age 24 may have an increased suicide risk while taking Prozac®. Children and adults alike may also experience a shift in their mental health while on the medication; warning signs include feelings of depression, suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, insomnia, intense worrying, aggression, extreme restlessness, rash behavior, and bursts of undue excitement. With all of these short- and long-term effects of Prozac®, people should have a serious discussion about the pros and cons of the medication with their physician before embarking on this particular treatment plan.

Prozac and Alcohol Interactions

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that, like any other SSRI antidepressant, Prozac® and alcohol are a bad combination.

The main reason why the answer to, “Can you drink on Prozac®?” is an emphatic no is that alcohol acts as a depressant—and that’s not good for people who take Prozac® for symptoms of depression. While most people consider drinking a social activity at parties, clubs, and bars, there is an association between alcohol abuse and depression. It’s unknown if one causes the other, but people who have problems with alcohol also may be experiencing depression, and vice versa. These are known as co-occurring disorders.

Alcohol can also decrease an antidepressant’s effectiveness. Mixing Prozac® and alcohol can disrupt the brain’s delicate chemical balance. Prozac® affects the serotonin neurotransmitters, while alcohol can affect neurological pathways; in extreme cases of alcohol use disorder, such as alcoholism, chronic consumption can actually change the brain’s structure. Habitual heavy drinkers can also have lower than normal serotonin levels in the brain. Alcohol can also affect the dopamine, GABA, and glutamate neurotransmitters and it may be responsible for shrinkage in the hippocampus portion of the brain.

Compounding the problem is that some Prozac® symptoms are echoed in the side effects of alcohol. Alcohol can also cause stomach distress, diarrhea, fatigue, and sexual dysfunction, so combining alcohol with Prozac® increases those risks exponentially. Alcohol also may worsen certain Prozac® side effects—a loss in appetite caused by Prozac® can be exacerbated by alcohol, which can block nutrient absorption in the body and potentially lead to malnutrition. Alcohol may also heighten mood swings triggered by Prozac®, which may make a person feel like they are spinning out of control.

If someone is still thinking, can you drink on Prozac®, the risks are too numerous and not worth the potentially dangerous impact it would have on a person’s health and well-being.

Treatment for Prozac and Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol use disorder can be detrimental to your mental and physical health, and adding Prozac® to the mix only makes things worse. If you are experiencing the negative effects of this unhealthy combination, you need to seek professional help in order to have the best chance of a successful recovery. Our ibogaine treatment center helps clients safely and effectively detox from alcohol under the close supervision of our team of medical professionals. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you overcome the toxic effects of Prozac® and alcohol abuse.