How Does Alcohol Interact with SSRIs?

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are often prescribed to people struggling with anxiety or depression.  These medications work by blocking the brain’s reabsorption of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and induce feelings of wellbeing.  There is currently a need for more research regarding the relationship between alcohol and SSRIs, but people taking SSRIs are generally advised against drinking alcohol due to the potential for negative interactions.  For people struggling with substance use disorders, effectively managing depression with SSRIs may only be an option after seeking treatment for addiction. 

Research has shown that drinking while on antidepressants may increase the side effects of the drug, even for those who otherwise experience no side effects.  SSRIs may intensify the least desirable effects of alcohol as well, potentially causing memory loss, limiting cognitive ability, and slowing down motor function.  One study found that drinking while on SSRIs increases the potential for addiction. These interactions may depend on many factors, including age, gender, and additional medications.    

Even without the introduction of antidepressants, alcohol and depression already have a complex, cyclical relationship.  Depression often leads to alcohol use, and alcohol worsens depression. Many people with depression who seek help for their mental illness may also be struggling with an undiagnosed alcohol use disorder.  In addition to the likelihood of negative interactions, alcohol may not be a good idea for those on SSRIs simply because it increases depressive symptoms, counteracting any good that might be done by the antidepressant. SSRIs should always be taken as directed under the care of an informed provider.  This may mean disclosing alcohol abuse so that you can treat the addiction and mental health issues simultaneously.  

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental illness, now is the time to reach out for help.  At Arbor Behavioral Healthcare, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  The Arbor uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, and at The Arbor you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 844-413-2690.