Zoloft and Alcohol

Zoloft and Alcohol

Zoloft And Alcohol Side Effects, Effects on Depression, Risks & Treatment

Zoloft and Alcohol: What is Zoloft?

Zoloft is one of the most popular antidepressants in the United States. It is the brand name for sertraline, a drug that alleviates depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic and anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Zoloft and alcohol are both drugs that interact with the brain, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends not drinking alcohol while you take Zoloft. [1]  Alcohol can increase the nervous system side effects of Zoloft, including dizziness, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating. [2]

In addition, doctors sometimes prescribe Zoloft off-label to treat eating disorders and insomnia as well. Zoloft withdrawal treatment will be able to help you in case you have developed a Zoloft dependency. [3] This drug is known for making people develop a dependency on it, for this reason when the person tries to stop using it may experience withdrawal effects. 

Zoloft And Alcohol
Zoloft and alcohol are both drugs that interact with the brain, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends not drinking alcohol while you take Zoloft.

According to the scientific piece ‘Orthostatic hypotension induced by sertraline withdrawal’, this medicine may also lead to hypertension problems as an effect of withdrawal. This research showed that “A patient receiving sertraline for depression developed dizziness and orthostatic hypotension on repeated attempts to discontinue the drug. All other organic factors were ruled out. The hypotension was proved to be secondary to sertraline by repeated rechallenges. After a variety of attempted treatments, the agent was discontinued successfully through an extended titration period.” [4]

Zoloft is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), a medication that stabilizes serotonin in the brain.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates and balances emotions, so many low serotonin levels suffer from depression and other mental disorders.  SSRIs work by blocking the brain’s neurons from absorbing serotonin.  As a result, more serotonin is available to facilitate connections between neurons, relieving conditions that arise from a shortage of the neurotransmitter. As a result, people with healthy serotonin levels experience better emotions, sleep more efficiently, and enjoy more incredible energy and interest in life. [3]

Zoloft is a prescription drug that exists in the form of a pill, tablet, or liquid.  In most cases, a person who uses the medication properly will take it only once a day.  Zoloft is generally safe, and research has proven that it can be an effective source of treatment.  However, Zoloft also carries risks for misuse, dependence, withdrawal, and overdose. [3]

Zoloft and Alcohol: Zoloft Dependence 

Since Zoloft is a long-term medication, there is no inherent danger in taking it for months or even years. However, since it’s a mind-altering drug, it can cause dependence. When a person becomes unable to feel normal or get through the day without taking Zoloft, they’ve become dependent on the medication. There is a debate about whether Zoloft is actually addictive because there is no evidence that people who take Zoloft ever have cravings for it. Nevertheless, people who stop taking Zoloft can experience withdrawal.

To avoid withdrawal, some people may continue to use Zoloft even though they believe they no longer need it. In some cases, they might “doctor shop” for more Zoloft prescriptions or buy the medication illegally, all to keep away withdrawal symptoms. This cycle of withdrawal and relapse is characteristic of an addiction disorder. Fortunately, addiction to any prescription drug can be cured with medically supervised detox and therapy at a rehab facility.

Zoloft and Alcohol: Zoloft Side Effects

Like all medications, Zoloft may cause some side effects. The most common side effects of Zoloft are not long-lasting or life-threatening, but there are cases where the medication can cause more serious problems. The most common side effects of Zoloft include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Headache
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite and libido
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nervousness and restlessness
  • Stomach pain
  • Sweating
  • Tremors

The FDA has issued a black box warning for Zoloft. A black box warning is a notification about a dangerous potential effect of a prescription drug. According to the FDA, Zoloft can provoke or aggravate suicidal thoughts in children and young adults. For this reason, the FDA has not approved Zoloft to treat depression in children.

It is unusual for someone to suffer an allergic reaction to Zoloft, but if someone does have an allergic reaction to the medication it’s important that they receive medical attention. The symptoms of an allergic reaction to Zoloft are trouble breathing, swelling, and hives. Additionally, health care professionals recommend avoiding alcohol or illegal drugs while taking Zoloft. They also warn that pregnant women who take Zoloft risk giving birth to children with hypertension and neonatal withdrawal.

Zoloft and Alcohol: Zoloft Withdrawal

Zoloft withdrawal is a form of SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome. This condition will affect about 20% of people who use an SSRI.  Since Zoloft has a short half-life (the length of time a drug stays in the bloodstream before it leaves the body), when someone decides to stop taking Zoloft, its effects quickly wear off.  For this reason, if a person suddenly stops taking Zoloft, their serotonin levels will abruptly decline.  That’s why health care professionals often wean their clients off the medication by gradually reducing the amount they take until they completely stop, a method sometimes called a “tapering strategy.”

The brain will adjust to post-Zoloft serotonin levels, but the body may react adversely to lower amounts of serotonin in the nervous system until it does.  The symptoms of SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome usually last for one to three weeks.  The severity of the withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on how long a person has taken Zoloft.  In many cases, people will experience rebound depression or anxiety when they stop taking the medication. 

Zoloft and Alcohol: Symptoms Of Zoloft Withdrawal

  • Lack of Concentration
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Chills
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Tingling Sensations in the skin
  • Vertigo

Zoloft and Alcohol: Zoloft Withdrawal Timeline & Symptom Durations

Withdrawal symptoms from sertraline can vary in severity and duration based on the time span of use, dosage, individual physiology, and the length of time taken to taper off. Gradually tapering off Zoloft under a doctor’s supervision can reduce or avoid the symptoms altogether. Usually, sertraline’s dose is gradually reduced over around four weeks. A sample taper schedule is reducing the dose by 50 mg every 5–7 days to a final dose of 25–50 mg before the drug is stopped.

Zoloft and Alcohol: Is it safe to mix these two?

Studies on Zoloft and alcohol have shown little data. But this doesn’t mean that mixing the two substances is safe. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends avoiding alcohol while you take Zoloft. [1]

This is because Zoloft and alcohol both affect your brain. Zoloft works specifically on your neurotransmitters. It enhances your brain’s message exchange system. Alcohol is a neurological suppressant, meaning it inhibits the neurotransmitter exchanges in your brain. This explains why some people have trouble thinking and doing other tasks when they drink. Drinking alcohol can have these effects on your brain whether you take medication or not. But when you take medications that also affect how the brain works, such as Zoloft, drinking can complicate the effects. These complications are called interactions.

Zoloft and Alcohol
Avoid alcohol completely while you take Zoloft. Even a single drink can interact with your medication and cause unwanted side effects.

Avoid alcohol completely while you take Zoloft. Even a single drink can interact with your medication and cause unwanted side effects. The combination of alcohol and Zoloft can cause side effects, and drinking alcohol can make your depression worse. In fact, if you have depression, your doctor will likely tell you not to drink alcohol even if you don’t take Zoloft.

You should also never skip doses of your medication to drink alcohol. Doing this can make your condition worse, and the drug will also likely still be in your body. That means you could still have a dangerous reaction.

Interactions between Zoloft and alcohol

Zoloft and alcohol are both drugs. Taking more than one drug at a time can increase your risk of negative interactions. In this case, alcohol can make the side effects of Zoloft worse.

These increased effects can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness

A case study reported that people who took Zoloft could experience drowsiness and sedation from the drug. The risk of drowsiness is higher if you take larger doses of Zoloft, such as 100 milligrams (mg). However, Zoloft can cause drowsiness at any dosage. Alcohol can also cause sedation and may enhance these effects from Zoloft. That means if you mix alcohol and Zoloft, you may experience drowsiness more quickly than someone who drinks the same amount of alcohol but doesn’t take Zoloft.

Zoloft and Alcohol: Effects of alcohol on depression

Drinking alcohol isn’t recommended if you have depression. This is because alcohol suppresses neurological signals that can alter your ability to think and reason, so drinking can make your condition worse. Heavy drinking can even send you in a downward spiral in terms of your mental health. Remember, depression is more than just sadness.

Alcohol can make all of the following symptoms of depression worse:

  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tiredness or insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep)
  • Restlessness
  • Weight gain or weight loss

Even if you take Zoloft for a condition other than depression, it still may not be safe for you to drink alcohol. You may still have the risk of increased depression from alcohol. This is because depression is a common symptom of other related health problems, such as OCD and PTSD, that Zoloft treats.

Treatment Options for Zoloft and Alcohol

Please remember that mixing Zoloft and alcohol puts you at risk for dangerous interactions between these two drugs. Protect yourself by avoiding the consumption of alcohol if you are taking Zoloft. To learn more about how Zoloft may interact with alcohol, talk to your pharmacist or you can always call the We Level Up Treatment Center for any information you want. 

You may benefit from substance abuse counseling and personalized treatment programs designed to help you overcome your abuse of alcohol. You should strongly consider rehab centers that offer dual diagnosis programs for the simultaneous treatment of alcohol abuse and depression, such as We Level Up. These specialized programs take an integrated approach to provide ongoing evaluation and effective treatment for these co-occurring disorders.

zoloft and alcohol
Please remember that mixing Zoloft and alcohol puts you at risk for dangerous interactions between these two drugs.

Reclaim Your Life From Zoloft and Alcohol

Mixing Zoloft and Alcohol is a serious condition that can cause severe health, social and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up Treatment Center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from this with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.

Sources

[1] U.S. Food and Drink Administration –  Zoloft (sertraline hydrochloride) (www.accessdata.fda.gov)

[2] National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – Harmful interactions: Mixing alcohol with medicines (www.niaaa.nih.gov)

[3] We Level Up Treatment Center – ‘Zoloft Withdrawal Treatment’

[4] Amsden GW, Georgian F. Orthostatic hypotension induced by sertraline withdrawal. Pharmacotherapy. 1996 Jul-Aug;16(4):684-6. PMID: 8840377. – National Library of Medicine (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)