YANA Mental Health

Zoloft (Sertraline) and Alcohol: Side Effects & Risks

Medication is an effective way to treat a number of mental health conditions, including depression. While there are many different antidepressants on the market, one of the most commonly prescribed is Zoloft. 

Zoloft (also known as Sertraline) is an SSRI, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. SSRIs work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin into the neurons of your brain, therefore increasing its abundance and availability for use. Serotonin helps regulate mood and sleep, among other processes, and low levels of serotonin are often linked to depression.

When you take any medication, it is important to consider how it may react with other substances. Alcohol, for example, can have negative side effects when taken with antidepressant drugs, including Zoloft.

Let’s take a look at how Zoloft and alcohol interact, as well as how Zoloft interacts with other substances.

Can You Drink Alcohol While on Zoloft (Sertraline)?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that you do not drink while you take Zoloft. 

Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it inhibits neurotransmitter activity in your brain. When you drink while taking an antidepressant, you are essentially cancelling out the effects of each.

Side Effects of Drinking While on Zoloft (Sertraline)

Alcohol can increase the side effects associated with Zoloft. 

Some of the side effects that can become worsened include:

  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in appetite
  • Nervousness

Zoloft may also cause drowsiness to the point of sedation. This risk is increased if you take higher doses of Zoloft. 

Even so, there are no studies that suggest that mixing Zoloft and alcohol can produce dangerous outcomes based on the interaction alone. However, healthcare professionals will still recommend that you do not use both at the same time.

Alcohol and Depression

Drinking alcohol can make your depression worse, even with Zoloft out of the picture. Since many people with depression turn to alcohol as a form of relief, this can create a cycle that worsens and leads to a substance use disorder.

The following symptoms of depression may worsen if you drink alcohol:

  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep disturbances

Depression and Substance Use Disorders

Having depression increases your risk of developing a substance use disorder. Both of these conditions often feed into one another, leading to increasingly severe forms of each. 

Again, it is best to avoid alcohol in general if you are depressed, whether you are currently taking antidepressants or not. 

Other Drug Interactions With Zoloft (Sertraline)

Although alcohol may not necessarily become dangerous when taken with Zoloft, there are some medications that should not be taken with Zoloft for any reason. One example is monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). These can increase the levels of serotonin in your body to a toxic degree.

There is also an increased risk of serotonin syndrome if you take Zoloft with other medications that increase serotonin levels. These include other antidepressants, migraine medications (triptans), and some pain medications. Serotonin syndrome often causes dizziness or nausea.

Zoloft may also increase the effects of blood thinning medications, which enhances the risk of bleeding. It is not recommended that you take Zoloft while also taking ibuprofen or aspirin.

What If I’ve Already Had a Drink?

If you’ve already had a drink while taking Zoloft, don’t panic.The potential side effects are just that — potential, and though interactions are possible, they are not guaranteed for everyone.  

Plus, Zoloft does not seem to produce dangerous side effects when taken with alcohol. Not to mention, most side effects are temporary and often subside within a few hours.

Within the next 24 hours, you should monitor yourself for severe symptoms that may be caused by combining Zoloft and alcohol. 

If you experience any of the following, seek emergency care:

  • Tremors or seizing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Loss of cognition

How To Take Zoloft (Sertraline)

Sertraline is taken orally, usually once a day. It can be taken with or without food, typically at a dose anywhere between 50 mg and 200 mg. Your doctor will give you the proper dosage specific to you.

It’s likely that your dose will start low and gradually increase over several weeks. It may take some time for the medication to adjust to your body’s chemistry, so you might not notice a difference for as long as a few months. 

During this time, it is imperative to avoid alcohol so that you have full awareness over the effectiveness of the medication on your body.

In Conclusion

Zoloft (Sertraline) is an antidepressant medication that is often prescribed for major depressive disorder. It can have negative interactions when taken with alcohol and other prescription or OTC drugs.

Mainly, alcohol can worsen the side effects of Zoloft. Moreover, it may lead to enhanced drowsiness or sedation, especially if you take higher doses of Zoloft. You also should not take other medications such as MAOIs or certain blood thinners while on Zoloft.

If you’ve already had a drink, don’t panic. Most side effects subside in just a few hours. With that said, if you experience any serious side effects, contact emergency care immediately.

Depression and substance use disorder are serious mental health conditions. If you need help overcoming either, please know that you are not alone. YANA Mental Health can get you on the path to recovery by pairing you with a doctor who will develop a personalized treatment plan just for you. If prescribed, medication will be sent straight to your door — quickly and discreetly. It’s quality mental health care on your terms, at your own pace.

To get started with YANA, click here

Sources:

Zoloft & Alcohol: Is it Safe to Mix? | American Addiction Centers

Depression and Addiction: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment | Dual Diagnosis

Serotonin syndrome – Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic 

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