Are There Risks To Mixing Alcohol And SNRIs?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, mental health disorders are widespread in the U.S. In any given year, an estimated one in five American adults (or approximately 57.8 million people) experiences some form of mental illness. The World Health Organization defines mental illness as "a clinically significant disturbance in an individual's cognition, emotional regulation, or behavior." Common disorders include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and eating disorders. People with mental health conditions like anxiety and depression may be prescribed medications such as SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) as part of a treatment regimen.

Some well-known SNRIs include duloxetine (Cymbalta, Irenka), levomilnacipran (Fetzima), desvenlafaxine (Khedezla, Pristiq), and venlafaxine (like Effexor XR). Many of these drugs are commonly used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. They work by blocking the reabsorption (reuptake) of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain, which can help to increase the levels of these neurotransmitters available to the brain, according to Medical News Today. If you have been prescribed SNRIs, though, you may wonder if it's risky to consume alcohol while you're on the medication. Continue reading as we delve into the details.

What are the risks of mixing alcohol and SNRIs?

According to the Addiction Center, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which can slow down the activity of the central nervous system and lead to a decrease in brain function. Alcohol also releases dopamine, which can contribute to feelings of relaxation. When concerning SNRIs like duloxetine, alcohol increases the sedating effects of the drug, meaning it can make you feel drowsier than normal, per the NHS. The source advises against drinking alcohol when starting the medication to understand its effects.

Another concern with mixing alcohol and SNRIs is the increased risk of liver damage. Both alcohol and some SNRIs can cause liver damage. According to a 2018 article published on LiverTox, duloxetine was associated with acute liver damage. Likewise, drinking large amounts of alcohol puts you at risk of developing alcoholic fatty liver disease, the first stage of alcohol-related liver disease, says the NHS.

It's best to see a doctor

Mental health disorders can significantly impact the quality of life and interfere with daily activities, work, and relationships. In some cases, they can also lead to physical health problems or other complications, like headaches and digestive problems, explains the Mental Health Foundation. If you are concerned about your mental health or that of a loved one, it is important to seek help — you can lead a fulfilling and productive life with proper treatment and support.

A therapist can support and guide you in managing symptoms and help you develop healthy coping mechanisms. Physical activity, for example, has been shown to have a number of positive effects on mental health. Regular exercise can help increase endorphins in the brain and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, says the Mayo Clinic.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.