Zoloft (a brand name for sertraline) is a prescription medication used to help treat depression and other mental health disorders. It is in a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Like other SSRIs, Zoloft affects the way brain cells react with the neurotransmitter called serotonin. If you take this medication, your prescribing doctor likely warned you against mixing Zoloft and alcohol.
What happens if you do? After all, you need to take your antidepressant medication every day. Does that mean you can’t enjoy an occasional glass of wine with dinner or a sip of champagne on New Year’s Eve?
The concern about mixing alcohol with an SSRI is that both substances affect your brain function. Alcohol decreases the neurotransmitter exchange, and Zoloft enhances neurotransmitter activity.
How Does Zoloft (Sertraline) Improve Mental Health?
Zoloft is one of many FDA-approved medications used to treat the symptoms of depression and anxiety. SSRIs like Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, and Lexapro may be prescribed for a variety of mental health disorders, including:
● Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
● Panic disorder and panic attacks
● Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
● Social anxiety disorder
● Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
● Major depressive disorder (MDD)
This group of medications works by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is sometimes referred to as a “happy hormone.” The brain naturally produces it, but some people don’t generate enough serotonin to regulate their mood without medication. This can lead to depression and other mood disorders.
SSRIs increase serotonin levels. More serotonin boosts mood and helps relieve the symptoms associated with the disorders listed above.
The most common side effects of Zoloft include stomach upsets, appetite loss, dizziness, and sexual dysfunction. Serious side effects are rare but include serotonin syndrome, heart rhythm abnormalities, and low sodium levels.
Zoloft can also cause sleepiness and slow reaction time, affecting your ability to make clear decisions. Drinking alcohol on Zoloft may increase these side effects and endanger your health.
The Dangers of a Zoloft-Alcohol Interaction
Both Zoloft and alcohol are drugs. Anytime you take two drugs together, there is a risk of negative interactions. That’s especially true when one of the drugs has not been prescribed (in this case, alcohol). There is already a list of possible side effects from Zoloft alone. Not only does the risk for typical Zoloft side effects increase when you mix the drug with alcohol, but the interaction can also affect your mental health.
Warning signs of a Zoloft-alcohol interaction include:
● Respiratory distress (slowed breathing)
● Extreme sedation
● Suicidal thoughts
Not everyone experiences side effects from mixing Zoloft and alcohol, especially if you drink alcohol in small quantities. However, if you took your prescribed dosage of sertraline after having one or more drinks, ask a friend or family member to monitor you.
If you have indulged in heavy drinking on Zoloft, seek emergency medical assistance. You may experience severe side effects or have suicidal thoughts. Medical intervention is advised even if you are not in immediate distress. Your ability to make good decisions or evaluate your physical or mental condition will be impaired.
Drinking Alcohol on Zoloft: Is It Ever Okay?
Can you drink alcohol while taking Zoloft? Ever? The short answer is no. If you need an SSRI medication to treat a mental health disorder, you should avoid alcohol for two reasons. First, alcohol may interact with your medication. And second, alcohol increases feelings of anxiety, sadness, low self-esteem, and depression.
Some people turn to alcohol to help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. This may feel helpful in the short term. The immediate effects of alcohol can be uplifting, even energizing. Initially, alcohol causes a release of serotonin, creating a euphoric mood. But alcohol is a sedative. A crash follows the initial feelings of happiness in serotonin levels and significant serotonin depletion. In the long term, alcohol only makes the symptoms of depression worse.
Due to the possible interactions and the harmful effect alcohol has on mood, mixing Zoloft and alcohol is always a bad idea. If you have a substance abuse problem, the situation may not be easy, but it is critical for your mental and other health conditions.
Seeking Help for Alcohol Abuse
If you’re having difficulty avoiding alcohol while taking Zoloft, you may have an alcohol use disorder. One indicator of addiction is continuing to use a substance even when it risks your mental or physical health. Regularly drinking alcohol if you take an SSRI falls into that category.
There is a strong link between depression and alcohol use disorder. Increased alcohol use increases your risk of depression. Living with both a mental health disorder and an alcohol use disorder is known as a dual diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder.
The most effective way to treat co-occurring conditions is through a medically supervised addiction treatment program. Medical supervision ensures both your mental and physical health undergo full professional evaluation and monitoring as you move through the recovery process.
It is important to note that if you are already taking Antabuse to help treat alcohol use disorder, it is not safe to take Zoloft oral solution. Zoloft in this form contains 12% alcohol. Make certain your doctor is aware of all of the medications you are taking.
Zoloft, Alcohol, and Suicide
Every antidepressant medication comes with a warning of increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behavior. Having an alcohol dependence problem and using an SSRI makes the risk for suicidal thoughts and behavior even higher for people of all ages. Can you drink alcohol on Zoloft? It is beyond “not recommended,” and it can be a fatal combination.
If you or someone you love is harming themselves, threatening harm, or having suicidal thoughts, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Do not ignore suicidal ideation in yourself or anyone else.
Reach Out to Indiana Recovery for Help with Alcohol or Substance Use Disorders
You can’t successfully treat depression while continuing to abuse alcohol or other drugs. The spectrum of services at Indiana Center for Recovery is designed to help you fight addiction and improve your mental health. Contact us today at 844-650-0064 for more information about treating co-occurring disorders.