Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Zoloft?
Here’s the short answer: No, it is not safe to mix Zoloft (Sertraline) with alcohol.
Consuming alcohol and Zoloft in combination with each other can intensify the effects on the nervous system, leading to severe dizziness, drowsiness, and alertness. Although alcohol and Zoloft are different drugs, one is a sedative while the other acts as an antidepressant, both are designed to alter a person’s brain chemistry. Because of this any prescribing doctor, as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, strongly recommends not drinking alcohol while you take Zoloft.
Doctors and researchers say that a Zoloft/alcohol cocktail can spark insane changes in your brain. In some studies, researchers uncovered a link between homicide and drug mixing.
We’ll uncover all of that research here.
Chemical Attributes of Zoloft and Alcohol
How much do you know about the substances you put in your body? Most of us don’t move past the label. We know how to categorize what we eat and drink, but we don’t know how these substances work at the cellular level. That ignorance could be deadly.
Consider alcohol. It’s one of the oldest intoxicants we know about, and it’s been present at millions of family dinners, weddings, and summer picnics. When we’re looking for an adult drink, we reach for alcohol. But the chemical makeup of alcohol actually works as a sedative in a person’s system.
The “buzz” felt from alcohol, is actually the leading edge of sedation. Alcohol slows electrical activity in the brain, and it makes you breathe slower too. Drink too much, and you’ll slide right into a deep sleep.
Zoloft is different.
Similar to Trazodone, Zoloft is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI. Doctors prescribe medication in this class of drugs to alter the chemical signals in the brain. Your brain cells use a multitude of chemicals to communicate messages throughout your body, one of these is serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for mood control, incorrect levels of serotonin can lead to depression. Zoloft doesn’t make your body create serotonin, it simply keeps your cells from digesting and discarding it. This leaves much more of this chemical floating through your brain when you’re using Zoloft.
The doctors at the Mayo Clinic say SSRIs cause relatively few side effects when compared to other antidepressant drugs. They seem safe, and they’re easy to use. But when researchers dug into interactions between alcohol and SSRIs, they found something disturbing.
Interactions Between Zoloft and Alcohol: What We Know
Years ago, doctors said it was safe to mix alcohol and Zoloft. The website for the National Health Service still contains this information. But as new research has come to light some unusual — and downright terrifying — consequences of downing Zoloft with alcohol have been discovered. The more you read about them, the less likely you’ll want to mix Zoloft with alcohol.
Research suggests that mixing the two can lead to:
- Lowered alcohol tolerance. Imagine that you’re an experienced drinker. You know how much you can take in before you feel sick or out of control. Zoloft can change all that. You could feel really drunk after drinking what seems like a small amount.
- Memory loss. Drink too much alcohol, and you’ll have a blackout. Zoloft compounds this issue. Mix the two, and you could have memory loss that persists for days.
- Homicidal tendencies. In a frightening 2014 study, researchers said 100 of 201 people experienced severe disinhibition while mixing SSRIs and alcohol. Eight of these people killed other people, and some killed more than once. Overall, 12 people died.
You won’t see any warning on your medication label about killing people when your doctor prescribes you Zoloft. But clearly, this isn’t a random, one-time thing. Many people have killed others while mixing alcohol and SSRIs. Others have done things they wouldn’t while sober, and they may not remember what happened.
Mixing Zoloft and Alcohol Means Enhancing Existing Risks
Most people don’t carry around murderous feelings. You might get angry about the guy who cuts you off in traffic, for example, but you don’t actively plot to kill that person. So Zoloft and alcohol can make some impossible things seem possible. But the drug can also augment the risks you already face.
Consider addiction. Alcohol can change the way your brain works, and sometimes, those shifts are permanent. You might be dealing with an addiction if you:
- Can’t stop drinking once you start.
- Arrange your daily life around the presence of alcohol.
- Have tried to stop but can’t.
- Have said or done things due to alcohol that you regret.
Anyone can develop alcoholism, but researchers say that serotonin may play a role. That same brain chemical that builds up due to Zoloft has been associated with:
- Drinking too much.
- Developing alcoholism early in life.
- Developing alcohol dependence.
Your Zoloft pills make any alcohol consumption just a little more dangerous, even if you don’t take them at the same time.
If you’re taking SSRIs to deal with depression, you have even more risks. Experts say that people with depression have twice the alcoholism risk as those who don’t. Every sip you take could put you closer to alcoholism. And since SSRIs could make each drink more powerful and rewarding, the process could start sooner. It’s important to discuss these risks with a doctor when beginning the use of Zoloft or any other prescription medication.
Why Take the Risk?
If you’re using SSRIs, you’re treating a very serious mental health issue that could cost you your life. Why put that at risk by sipping alcohol?
And if you’re tempted to swill alcohol because you can’t figure out how to stop drinking, know that you could have an alcohol problem. Treatment could help you get control over your daily habits. Contact us today at our confidential hotline (888) 492-1633 to take the first step toward a healthier life.
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