Why You Shouldn't Mix Alcohol And Antidepressants

Alcohol and antidepressants are two substances that many people are familiar with. But should they go together? Depression is still quite a mystery to doctors, though it's believed to be an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine (via WebMD). Antidepressant medications are believed to affect how the neurotransmitters in the brain behave and allow the chemicals to communicate more easily. There are many different kinds of antidepressants. Commonly prescribed types are reuptake inhibitors, which work by preventing the brain from reabsorbing neurotransmitters after they do their job, keeping the chemical levels higher, and increasing communication between nerve cells.

On the other hand, alcohol disrupts the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, which causes loss of inhibition and affects judgment (via Mental Health Foundation). While this can allow us to feel more relaxed and less stressed, it can lead to more negative feelings like anger and depression.

The side effects and risks of combining alcohol with antidepressants

Alcohol may give temporary relief to the symptoms of depression, but if you're on an antidepressant, it's generally recommended to stay away from alcohol (via Mayo Clinic). Combining an antidepressant with alcohol may increase depression symptoms. Additionally, if you take other medications and antidepressants, drinking alcohol can increase side effects. Common side effects include drowsiness and difficulty concentrating, leading to an impaired ability to perform certain activities like driving.

According to Mayo Clinic, while some antidepressants may not pose as much of a risk when combined with alcohol, others can be riskier. For instance, an antidepressant called a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) can cause a dangerous increase in blood pressure when taken with alcohol. However, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, some doctors generally maintain that it's okay to consume alcohol moderately while on antidepressants. Moderate drinking means one drink per day for women and two for men. This should only be permitted once you understand how your body is affected by your antidepressant, though.