Why is it bad to mix antidepressants and alcohol?

Answer From Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D.

It's best to avoid combining antidepressants and alcohol. It may worsen your symptoms, and it can be dangerous. If you mix antidepressants and alcohol:

  • You may feel more depressed or anxious. Drinking can counteract the benefits of your antidepressant medication, making your symptoms more difficult to treat. Alcohol may seem to improve your mood in the short term, but its overall effect increases symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Side effects may be worse if you also take another medication. Many medications can cause problems when taken with alcohol — including anti-anxiety medications, sleep medications and prescription pain medications. Side effects may worsen if you drink alcohol and take one of these drugs along with an antidepressant.
  • You may be at risk of a dangerous reaction if you take MAOIs. When combined with certain types of alcoholic beverages and foods, antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) can cause a dangerous spike in blood pressure. If you take an MAOI, be sure you know what's safe to eat and drink, and which alcoholic beverages are likely to cause a reaction.
  • Your thinking and alertness may be impaired. The combination of antidepressants and alcohol will affect your judgment, coordination, motor skills and reaction time more than alcohol alone. Some combinations may make you sleepy. This can impair your ability to drive or do other tasks that require focus and attention.
  • You may become sedated or feel drowsy. A few antidepressants cause sedation and drowsiness, and so does alcohol. When taken together, the combined effect can be intensified.

Don't stop taking an antidepressant or other medication just so that you can drink. Most antidepressants require taking a consistent, daily dose to maintain a constant level in your system and work as intended. Stopping and starting your medications can make your depression worse.

While it's generally best not to drink at all if you're depressed, ask your doctor. If you have depression:

  • You may be at risk of alcohol abuse. People with depression are at increased risk of substance abuse and addiction. If you have trouble controlling your alcohol use, you may need treatment for alcohol dependence before your depression improves.
  • You may have trouble sleeping. Some people who are depressed have trouble sleeping. Using alcohol to help you sleep may let you fall asleep quickly, but you tend to wake up more in the middle of the night.

If you're concerned about your alcohol use, you may benefit from substance abuse counseling and treatment programs that can help you overcome your misuse of alcohol. Joining a support group or a 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous may help.

If you're at low risk of addiction to alcohol, it may be OK to have an occasional drink, depending on your particular situation, but talk with your doctor.

Also, tell your doctor about any other health conditions you might have and any other medications you take, including over-the-counter medications or supplements. Keeping your doctor informed is important because:

  • Some liquid medications, such as cough syrups, can contain alcohol
  • As you age, your body processes medication differently and levels of medication in your body may need to be adjusted
  • Adding a new medication may change the level of another medication in your body and how it reacts to alcohol
June 09, 2017 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. MIND diet may cut Alzheimer's risk
  2. Addison's disease
  3. Adjustment disorders
  4. Adrenal fatigue: What causes it?
  5. After a flood, are food and medicines safe to use?
  6. Alzheimer's: New treatments
  7. Alzheimer's 101
  8. Caregiver depression
  9. Understanding the difference between dementia types
  10. Alzheimer's: Can a head injury increase my risk?
  11. Mediterranean diet
  12. Alzheimer's disease
  13. Alzheimer's disease: Can exercise prevent memory loss?
  14. Alzheimer's drugs
  15. Alzheimer's genes
  16. Alzheimer's nose spray: New Alzheimer's treatment?
  17. Alzheimer's or depression: Could it be both?
  18. Alzheimer's prevention: Does it exist?
  19. Alzheimer's stages
  20. Alzheimer's test: Detection at the earliest stages
  21. Ambien: Is dependence a concern?
  22. Antidepressant withdrawal: Is there such a thing?
  23. Antidepressants and weight gain: What causes it?
  24. Antidepressants: Can they stop working?
  25. Antidepressants: Side effects
  26. Antidepressants: Selecting one that's right for you
  27. Antidepressants: Which cause the fewest sexual side effects?
  28. Antiphospholipid syndrome
  29. Antidepressants and pregnancy
  30. Atypical antidepressants
  31. Atypical depression
  32. Axona: Medical food to treat Alzheimer's
  33. Back pain
  34. Bedtime routines: Not just for babies
  35. Benefits of being bilingual
  36. Binge-eating disorder
  37. Blood Basics
  38. Borderline personality disorder
  39. Breast-feeding and medications
  40. Dr. Wallace Video
  41. Parathyroid
  42. Caffeine and depression: Is there a link?
  43. The role of diet and exercise in preventing Alzheimer's disease
  44. Can music help someone with Alzheimer's?
  45. Can zinc supplements help treat hidradenitis suppurativa?
  46. Can't sleep? Try daytime exercise
  47. Hidradenitis suppurativa wound care
  48. Celiac disease
  49. Celiac disease: Can gluten be absorbed through the skin?
  50. Celiac disease diet: How do I get enough grains?
  51. Chase away the winter blues
  52. Child abuse
  53. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
  54. CJD - Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
  55. Clinical depression: What does that mean?
  56. Clinical trials for hidradenitis suppurativa
  57. Coconut oil: Can it cure hypothyroidism?
  58. Coffee after dinner? Make it decaf
  59. Complete blood count (CBC)
  60. Complicated grief
  61. Compulsive sexual behavior
  62. Concussion
  63. Concussion in children
  64. Concussion Recovery
  65. Concussion Telemedicine
  66. Coping with the stress of hidradenitis suppurativa
  67. Coping with the emotional ups and downs of psoriatic arthritis
  68. COVID-19 and your mental health
  69. Creating a hidradenitis suppurativa care team
  70. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  71. Cupping therapy: Can it relieve fibromyalgia pain?
  72. Cushing syndrome
  73. Cyclothymia (cyclothymic disorder)
  74. Delirium
  75. Depression and anxiety: Can I have both?
  76. Depression, anxiety and exercise
  77. Depression: Diagnosis is key
  78. Depression during pregnancy
  79. Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap
  80. Depression (major depressive disorder)
  81. Depression: Provide support, encouragement
  82. Depression: Supporting a family member or friend
  83. Diabetes and depression: Coping with the two conditions
  84. Diagnosing Alzheimer's
  85. Dissociative disorders
  86. Vitamin C and mood
  87. Drug addiction (substance use disorder)
  88. Alzheimer's elder care
  89. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  90. Empty nest syndrome
  91. Fatigue
  92. Fibromyalgia
  93. Fibromyalgia or not?
  94. Fibromyalgia and acupuncture
  95. Fibromyalgia: Does exercise help or hurt?
  96. Fibromyalgia: Linked to other health problems?
  97. Fibromyalgia pain: Options for coping
  98. Fibromyalgia: Self-care tips
  99. Fibromyalgia and Neurontin
  100. Fish oil and depression
  101. Folic acid supplements: Can they slow cognitive decline?
  102. Foods and sleep
  103. Ginkgo biloba: Can it prevent memory loss?
  104. Global Bridges
  105. HABIT program orientation
  106. Hangover prevention: Do lighter colored drinks help?
  107. Hangovers
  108. Hashimoto's disease
  109. Headache
  110. Hidradenitis suppurativa
  111. Hidradenitis suppurativa and biologics: Get the facts
  112. Hidradenitis suppurativa and diet: What's recommended?
  113. Hidradenitis suppurativa: Tips for weight-loss success
  114. Hidradenitis suppurativa: What is it?
  115. Hidradenitis suppurativa: When does it appear?
  116. How opioid addiction occurs
  117. How to tell if a loved one is abusing opioids
  118. How to use opioids safely
  119. Huperzine A: Can it treat Alzheimer's?
  120. Hyperparathyroidism
  121. Hypoparathyroidism
  122. Hypothyroidism: Can calcium supplements interfere with treatment?
  123. Hypothyroidism diet
  124. Hypothyroidism and joint pain?
  125. Hypothyroidism: Should I take iodine supplements?
  126. Hypothyroidism symptoms: Can hypothyroidism cause eye problems?
  127. Hypothyroidism
  128. Insomnia
  129. Insomnia: How do I stay asleep?
  130. Insomnia treatment: Cognitive behavioral therapy instead of sleeping pills
  131. Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction
  132. Is depression a factor in rheumatoid arthritis?
  133. Is fibromyalgia hereditary?
  134. Is the definition of Alzheimer's disease changing?
  135. Depression and diet
  136. Kratom for opioid withdrawal
  137. Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
  138. Lexapro side effects: Is breast tenderness common?
  139. Living better with hidradenitis suppurativa
  140. Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  141. Male depression: Understanding the issues
  142. Managing depression in MS
  143. Managing Headaches
  144. Managing hidradenitis suppurativa: Early treatment is crucial
  145. Hidradenitis suppurativa-related health risks
  146. MAOIs and diet: Is it necessary to restrict tyramine?
  147. Marijuana and depression
  148. Mayo Clinic Minute: 3 tips to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease
  149. Mayo Clinic Minute: Alzheimer's disease risk and lifestyle
  150. Mayo Clinic Minute New definition of Alzheimer's changes
  151. Mayo Clinic Minute: Prevent migraines with magnetic stimulation
  152. Mayo Clinic Minute Weathering migraines
  153. Mayo Clinic Minute: Women and Alzheimer's Disease
  154. Medication overuse headaches
  155. Meditation
  156. Mediterranean diet recipes
  157. Memory loss: When to seek help
  158. Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness
  159. Mental health providers: Tips on finding one
  160. Mental health
  161. Mental illness
  162. Migraine
  163. Migraine medications and antidepressants
  164. Migraine treatment: Can antidepressants help?
  165. Infographic: Migraine Treatments: Botox & Nerve Blocking
  166. Migraines and gastrointestinal problems: Is there a link?
  167. Migraines and Vertigo
  168. Migraines: Are they triggered by weather changes?
  169. Alleviating migraine pain
  170. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
  171. Mild depression: Are antidepressants effective?
  172. Mindfulness exercises
  173. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  174. Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective?
  175. Nervous breakdown: What does it mean?
  176. New Alzheimers Research
  177. Nicotine dependence
  178. Not tired? Don't go to bed
  179. Occipital nerve stimulation: Effective migraine treatment?
  180. Ocular migraine: When to seek help
  181. Opioids and other drugs: What to watch for
  182. Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  183. Pain and depression: Is there a link?
  184. Pancreatic cancer
  185. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancer: Minimally Invasive Surgery
  186. Pancreatic Cancer Survivor
  187. Pancreatic cancer treatment: Why is it so challenging?
  188. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancers-Whipple
  189. Perimenopause
  190. Perimenopause birth control options
  191. Pet therapy
  192. Phosphatidylserine supplements: Can they improve memory?
  193. Pituitary tumors
  194. Polymyalgia rheumatica
  195. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  196. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  197. Prescription drug abuse
  198. Prescription sleeping pills: What's right for you?
  199. Progressive supranuclear palsy
  200. Psychotherapy
  201. Rapidly progressing Alzheimer's: Something else?
  202. Reducing the discomfort of hidradenitis suppurativa: Self-care tips
  203. Salt craving: A symptom of Addison's disease?
  204. Savella may help fatigue
  205. Schizoaffective disorder
  206. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  207. Choosing a light box
  208. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  209. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  210. Skip booze for better sleep
  211. Sleep disorders
  212. Sleep tips
  213. Smoking and rheumatoid arthritis: What's the risk?
  214. Soy: Does it worsen hypothyroidism?
  215. Staying active with hidradenitis suppurativa
  216. Stop your next migraine before it starts
  217. Stress symptoms
  218. Sundowning: Late-day confusion
  219. Support groups
  220. Surgery for hidradenitis suppurativa
  221. Symptom Checker
  222. Tapering off opioids: When and how
  223. Tinnitus and antidepressants
  224. Transcranial magnetic stimulation
  225. Traumatic brain injury
  226. Treating hidradenitis suppurativa: Explore your options
  227. Treating hidradenitis suppurativa with antibiotics and hormones
  228. Treating pain: When is an opioid the right choice?
  229. Treatment-resistant depression
  230. Tricyclic antidepressants and tetracyclic antidepressants
  231. Unexplained weight loss
  232. Vagus nerve stimulation
  233. Valerian: A safe and effective herbal sleep aid?
  234. Vascular dementia
  235. Video: Alzheimer's drug shows early promise
  236. Video: Vagus nerve stimulation
  237. Vitamin B-12 and depression
  238. Vitamin B-12 and Alzheimer's
  239. Vitamin D: Can it prevent Alzheimer's & dementia?
  240. What are opioids and why are they dangerous?
  241. What are the signs and symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa?
  242. What is reflexology?
  243. Wilson's disease
  244. Wilson's syndrome: An accepted medical diagnosis?
  245. Young-onset Alzheimer's