Should Patients Avoid Alcohol While on Antidepressants?
According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control, more than 10 percent of Americans are on antidepressants. Physicians and pharmacists routinely warn patients taking antidepressants to avoid consuming alcohol. However, many patients are not able to give up drinking completely.
Alcohol abuse is common among patients suffering from depression. They often use alcohol as a tool to self-medicate when they are feeling down. Other people just want to drink socially or occasionally to feel less stressed. They wonder if they should stop drinking alcohol altogether while on antidepressants.
Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, is a certified psychiatrist, addiction counselor and former medical professor. Hall-Flavin states that patients should generally avoid alcohol consumption while taking antidepressants. However, he also says they should consult with their physician. Your doctor will assess the nature of your depression, the medication you are taking and any other health problems you are suffering from. They may decide that it is safe for you to try drinking alcohol, in careful moderation.
Here are some of the things you should take into consideration.
Understand How the Medication Affects You
Antidepressants can affect you in a number of ways. They can impair your coordination, which will make it more difficult to drive or operate machinery safely. Antidepressants can also lead to fatigue, insomnia or restlessness. Consuming alcohol can amplify these side effects.
Make sure you understand how the medication is going to affect you before drinking alcohol. If you are suffering from any of these side effects, you may want to reconsider drinking.
Monitor Your Depression
Depression is highly correlated with alcohol use. Although people suffering from depression often attempt to cope with alcohol, alcohol has been shown to cause or exacerbate depression symptoms in some patients. The exact effect is not known per se, but there are several theories as to how it can contribute to depression symptoms:
- Inhibiting serotonin levels
- Disturbing REM cycles or causing insomnia
- Effecting appetite
Always inform your doctor if your depression worsens. If the alcohol is a contributor, you need to stop taking it.
Monitor Your Alcohol Use
It is never a bad idea to keep track of how much you drink. There is a fine line between casual or social drinking and alcoholism. However, most people have a difficult time seeing when they’ve crossed that line if they aren’t looking at it objectively.
People suffering from depression are at an increased risk of developing an alcohol abuse problem. Make sure you are keeping track of how much alcohol you consume. Excessive alcohol consumption is unhealthy for anybody. However, drinking excessively while taking antidepressants can be life-threatening.
If you feel you are at risk of developing a substance abuse problem, you may need to seek the assistance of a substance abuse counselor.
Let Your Doctor Know About Your Other Medications
Taking other medications can also make your side effects worse. Mixing anti-depressants, alcohol and other medications can be risky or downright dangerous. Patients on antidepressants are commonly prescribed other antipsychotic, anti-anxiety or other drugs as well. You may also be taking medications for any physical ailments you may be suffering from.
Your various medications may be prescribed by various medical professionals. Make sure they are aware of all the drugs you are taking so they can give you an informed opinion.
Never Prioritize Your Alcohol Over Your Mental Health
Depressive symptoms can increase substantially if you stop taking antidepressants. Always speak with your health care provider before you go off any antidepressant. There is no doctor that would recommend stopping an antidepressant just so that you can start drinking again.
Combining antidepressants and alcohol can be a dangerous combination: make sure that you always speak with your doctor before taking anything together.
Kalen Smith writes about strategies for fighting drug and alcohol abuse. He has studied substance abuse in a number of arenas and recommends reading the article “How Prevalent is Drug Abuse in the Workplace.”