Zoloft is the brand name for a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used to treat mental health disorders such as depression.
Drinking alcohol on Zoloft is not recommended, but do you know why?
Understanding the dangers of a Zoloft-alcohol interaction could dissuade you from giving in to the temptation of having an occasional drink. If you have a problem with alcohol dependence, continuing to use Zoloft without medical supervision puts you at greater risk for severe side effects.
Serotonin is a hormone that helps to maintain mood naturally. All SSRIs react with the neurotransmitters in your brain that are responsible for producing and delivering serotonin. Zoloft, also known by the generic name sertraline, works to increase serotonin production in people who don’t make enough on their own.
To work effectively, Zoloft must be taken every day as directed. Skipping medication to indulge in a cocktail or glass of wine may reduce the effectiveness of your antidepressant. And mixing Zoloft and alcohol may result in serious unwanted side effects. Either way, the best answer to the question “can you drink alcohol on Zoloft?” is “No. It is not safe.”
How Does Zoloft (Sertraline) Relieve Symptoms of Depression?
Serotonin is sometimes referred to as a “happy hormone.” Your brain naturally produces it, but some people don’t make enough to regulate their mood without the help of medication. A shortage of serotonin can lead to depression and other mood disorders.
Like other drugs in its category like Prozac, Lexapro, and Paxil—Zoloft can help alleviate the symptoms of several different mental health disorders, not just depression. Your doctor may recommend Zoloft to treat:
● Panic disorder and panic attacks
● Major depressive disorder (MDD)
● Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
● Social anxiety disorder
● Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
● Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
While Zoloft works to increase levels of serotonin, alcohol depletes it. This reaction could cause your medication to be less effective and allow symptoms to remain.
Side Effects of Zoloft
All SSRIs come with a long list of side effects. Most are mild and go away once your body becomes used to the medication, but some are severe and potentially dangerous. Common side effects may include:
● Abnormal sexual function, changes in libido
● Stomach upsets
● Loss of appetite
● Dry mouth
● Muscle cramps or weakness
● Easily bruised
If any of the above effects persist or get worse with time, contact your doctor or talk to your pharmacist.
Other more concerning side effects include:
● Black or bloody stools
● Pain or swelling in the eyes
● Widened pupils
● Changes in vision
● Vomit that resembles coffee grounds
These side effects are rare but can occur. Seek immediate medical help if you experience any of these side effects.
Serotonin syndrome is another rare but severe side effect of Zoloft. It can cause hallucinations, rapid heartbeat, severe nausea, and other extreme symptoms. Get medical help right away if you suspect you have serotonin syndrome.
Drinking alcohol on Zoloft may increase any of the above side effects and endanger your health.
Risks Associated with a Zoloft-Alcohol Interaction
When doctors prescribe more than one medication, they ensure the two drugs are safe to mix together. Alcohol and Zoloft are both drugs, and your doctor already knows these two substances are not compatible.
There are two main risks involved with mixing alcohol with Zoloft. First, it can weaken your mental health by lowering serotonin production. Second, mixing Zoloft and alcohol can increase the risk and severity of all the Zoloft side effects listed above.
Warning signs of interaction include:
● Respiratory distress (slowed breathing)
● Extreme sedation
● Suicidal thoughts
Not everyone who uses these two substances together has a dangerous interaction. The risk is lower if only small amounts of alcohol are ingested. However, it is still advised not to be alone if you take your prescribed dosage after having one or more drinks. Ask a loved one to keep an eye on you. Seek medical help if you experience any of the above symptoms of a drug interaction.
If you are using an SSRI and have indulged in heavy drinking, get emergency medical assistance immediately. You may experience severe side effects or have suicidal thoughts.
Medical intervention is necessary even if you are not in immediate distress since your ability to assess your own condition and determine whether you need help under the influence of alcohol and Zoloft is impaired.
No amount of alcohol should be considered “safe” when you are taking Zoloft.
Treatment Programs for Alcohol Abuse
If you find it difficult to avoid alcohol while taking prescribed medication, it may indicate that you have alcohol use disorder. One sign of addiction is continuing to use a substance even when it threatens your health or causes problems in your life. If done on a regular basis, mixing alcohol and Zoloft qualifies as a warning sign of addiction.
You may have what is known as a co-occurring disorder if you are being treated for a mental health issue and you abuse alcohol. Some recovery treatments programs specialize in helping people with co-occurring disorders. Providing medical supervision during addiction treatment ensures that your mental and physical health will be properly diagnosed and monitored.
For your safety, it is crucial you are honest with your doctor about all the medications you’re taking. For example, you should never mix oral Antabuse (a medication used to treat alcohol addiction) with Zoloft or other SSRIs.
Zoloft, Alcohol, and Suicide Risks
Having both an alcohol use disorder and using an antidepressant automatically puts you at greater risk for suicide no matter what your age. If you or a loved one is threatening self-harm or having suicidal thoughts, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Suicidal ideation is life-threatening and should be taken seriously.
Reach Out to the Recovery Team for Help with Alcohol or Substance Use Disorders
If you are struggling with alcohol abuse and any type of mental health disorder, it is impossible to treat one without treating the other.
The Recovery Team offers a range of services specifically for helping individuals struggling with co-occurring disorders. Contact us today at (800) 817-1247 for more information about our drug rehab program options and medically supervised detox program.