Lexapro (Escitalopram) and Alcohol: Side Effects & Risks
Major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States. It’s also one of the most highly treatable, especially with medication.
Lexapro (also known as Escitalopram) is often prescribed for depression because it’s an SSRI, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. This means that it blocks the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain, making it more available for use. Since serotonin is important for regulating mood, it is important to have sufficient amounts of this neurotransmitter available in the brain.
While Lexapro is one of the most effective antidepressant medications available, it can be potentially dangerous when mixed with other substances. In particular, mixing alcohol and antidepressants may lead to some unwanted side effects.
Let’s take a look at some of the possible ways that alcohol and Lexapro can interact. Additionally, we’ll discuss how Lexapro interacts with other medications.
Can I Take Lexapro (Escitalopram) With Alcohol?
Clinical trials have not yet shown that drinking alcohol while taking Lexapro increases any of its effects. With that said, it doesn’t mean that it is safe to combine — it just means that there isn’t enough research yet to conclude one way or the other.
When you first start taking Lexapro, it can take some time for the medication to adjust your body’s chemistry. This means you might not notice a difference for as long as a month or two. During this time, it is important to avoid alcohol so you are fully aware of the effects of Lexapro on your mind and body.
Side Effects of Alcohol and Lexapro (Escitalopram)
Not everyone will experience side effects from combining alcohol and Lexapro, but it is important to understand that there are some potential complications when the two are mixed.
Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it slows down the communication between neurons in the brain — that’s why drinking can impair your judgement. This means that alcohol can worsen the symptoms of depression, which might then counteract how effective Lexapro can be.
Other possible side effects of drinking while taking Lexapro include:
- Increased anxiety
- Liver problems
- Spikes in blood pressure
Alcohol can potentially render Lexapro ineffective. What occurs is a temporary relief from depression or anxiety before the alcohol wears off and the depressive symptoms are worsened.
When you need to rely on both Lexapro and alcohol to ease depressive symptoms, it can lead to a substance use disorder that can become life-threatening if not properly treated.
Alcohol and Depression
Even if you’re unmedicated, drinking alcohol can make your depression worse. Since many people with depression turn to alcohol as a form of relief, this can create a cycle that worsens and can lead to substance use disorder.
If you have depression, your doctor will likely recommend that you avoid alcohol regardless if you take Lexapro.
The following symptoms of depression may worsen if you drink alcohol:
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Weight fluctuation
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep disturbances
Lexapro (Escitalopram) Drug Interactions
Like many antidepressants, you should not take Lexapro alongside MAOIs, or monoamine oxidase inhibitors. This can increase levels of serotonin in your body to a point of toxicity.
Additionally, you want to avoid taking Lexapro with other medications that increase serotonin, such as other antidepressants, migraine medications (triptans), and some pain medications. Although rare, this can lead to a serotonin syndrome, marked by symptoms such as dizziness and nausea, among others.
You also want to avoid taking Lexapro with medications that thin the blood or cause bleeding, such as ibuprofen, warfarin, or aspirin.
As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t take any medication alongside Lexapro without speaking to your doctor first.
What If I Already Had a Drink?
If you’ve already had a drink while taking Lexapro, don’t panic. Remember that the side effects are possible, but not guaranteed. Additionally, most symptoms are temporary and will subside within a few hours as the alcohol is metabolized.
Monitor yourself over the next 24 hours for any severe side effects. If you experience any of the following, seek emergency care as soon as possible:
- Tremors or seizing
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Loss of cognition
Be sure you do not try to operate a vehicle. Contact 911 in the case of a medical emergency, or have a family member take you to the nearest urgent care facility if you need assistance.
Lexapro (Escitalopram) is an antidepressant medication prescribed for major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety. Though it’s an effective medication for most people, its efficacy may be decreased when mixed with alcohol.
While there are no known studies that suggest mixing Lexapro and alcohol is dangerous, alcohol can negate Lexapro’s positive effects. This may lead to a substance use disorder if you become dependent on using alcohol and Lexapro concurrently. Alcohol may also worsen some of the existing side effects of Lexapro, including irritability, fatigue, anxiety, or lethargy.
Alcohol is never recommended for individuals with depression, regardless of medication.
There are also some medications that should not be taken with Lexapro, including MAOIs, blood thinners, and serotonin-increasing drugs.
If you’ve already had a drink, you don’t need to worry. Monitor your symptoms for 24 hours, and if you experience severe side effects like seizures or tremors, seek emergency assistance.
Depression and substance use disorder are serious mental health conditions. If you need help overcoming either, know you are not alone. YANA Mental Health can help kickstart your recovery by pairing you with a doctor who will develop a personalized treatment plan and prescribe medication like Lexapro if needed. The medication will be sent straight to your door – quickly and discreetly.
It’s quality mental health care on your terms, at your own pace.