Combining medications or drugs with alcohol is never a good idea. Both prescription and illegal drugs can work in conjunction with alcohol to increase their effect on the body. Taking these substances together with alcohol can also increase the severity of withdrawal symptoms, as well as make recovery more challenging. It can even worsen the original, underlying mental health condition that warranted the medication in the first place.
Antidepressants And Alcohol: What’s The Concern?
In general, mixing antidepressants and alcohol can cause more health complications than either substance on their own. The effects of combining the two substances can become more dangerous when you take into account the type of antidepressants being taken.
MAOIs are particularly dangerous when combined with alcohol. Alcoholic drinks, and even certain foods, can cause a dangerous spike in a patient’s blood pressure if they are taking an MAOI. It’s important to talk to a medical professional about your medication and diet. A doctor should be able to provide you with a list of foods and beverages to avoid, or only consume in moderation, while on MAOIs.
Consuming alcohol can also work against the effects of your antidepressant medication. The result is people begin to feel more anxious and depressed than they did before taking their medication. When alcohol is working against your medication it may become more difficult for your doctor to treat your symptoms.
People turn to alcohol because they may see it as “fun”. They also experience a positive change in mood early on. However, alcohol is a depressant. That means, over time, patients will end up experiencing more enhanced feelings of depression and anxiety.
Most medications can cause unintended mental and physical side effects when taken. Some of these can be mild, while some can be rather severe. Regardless of how intense these side effects are, consuming alcohol simultaneously will only make them worse. This is especially true if you are taking another medication in addition to your antidepressants. Adding a third substance into the mix, along with antidepressants and alcohol, can make even the most common side effects much more dangerous.
Mixing alcohol with antidepressant medication can also have a negative effect on cognitive function. This is your ability to think and focus. Cognitive function is essentially the day-to-day functioning of your brain.
When alcohol and antidepressants your thinking, focus, and alertness may be negatively affected. It can also affect judgement, motor function, coordination, and reaction time. Alcohol can affect these things on its own, but the effects are enhanced when alcohol and antidepressants are both consumed. In addition to the impairment to brain function, combining these substances can also make you feel drowsy and sedated.
When used properly, antidepressant medication can be very effective. They can be instrumental in helping someone suffering from depression or anxiety go on to live a normal, everyday life. In order for them to work properly, however, the instructions given to you by your medical professional need to be followed exactly.
Many people try to avoid the dangers of mixing alcohol and antidepressants by simply stopping their medication so they can have a drink. It’s important that you don’t do this.
Antidepressant medications need to be taken consistently in order to have the desired effect. Consistent doses help to keep a stable level of the medication in your system at all times. If you stop and start the medication the levels in your bloodstream will fluctuate, and it may even worsen your depression symptoms.
Added Risks of Combining Alcohol And Antidepressants
The best course of action when on antidepressants is to not drink at all. If you feel like you must drink, it’s best to consult your doctor.
In addition to increasing the negative side effects, or causing difficulty treating symptoms, combining alcohol and antidepressants has some added health risks.
If you are already suffering from depression, and are consuming alcohol, it could result in an increased risk of alcohol abuse. If you find yourself struggling to control your alcohol use, you should seek help immediately. You may be developing an alcohol dependence. If left untreated, this could escalate into alcohol addiction. It’s important to catch the alcohol dependence before it reaches that point. You will need to receive treatment for your alcohol dependence before your depression can be addressed.
Another natural symptom of depression is trouble sleeping. This can be made worse by the consumption of alcohol. People suffering from depression sometimes turn to alcohol to help them fall asleep. While this may work in the short-term, they may wind up waking up constantly throughout the night.
If you’re unlikely to become addicted to alcohol, it may be ok to have an occasional drink while taking antidepressants. It’s important to discuss with your doctor to see exactly what is and isn’t acceptable.
You will also want to tell your doctor about any other medications, health problems, over-the-counter medications, and supplements. Some medications have small amounts of alcohol in them, and they may react negatively with your antidepressant medication.
An example of this is cough syrup. Cough syrup is a seemingly innocent over-the-counter medication that is used pretty regularly. These, as well as other liquid medications, may contain alcohol and should be taken with caution when on antidepressant medication.
Alcohol and antidepressants combined can make your road to recovery much more challenging. Both substances can be habit-forming and eventually result in addiction if they are misused. If this occurs, each addiction needs to be treated separately.
Patients who are given a dual diagnosis will have to receive detox and rehab treatment for each individual disorder. This can be challenging, because each disorder has its own side effects and treatment methods that are most effective. It can also present a problem because alcohol and antidepressants can work against each other and cover up symptoms of either disorder.
When dealing with dual diagnosis, it’s best to seek professional treatment from a medically assisted rehab facility. The complex nature of dealing with two addictions at once requires the attention of medical professionals and counselors. Having the rehab center’s staff nearby at all times can help you manage symptoms of detox or withdrawal and decrease the risk of relapse.