Lexapro belongs to a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Serotonin is a chemical messenger or neurotransmitter that affects mood. SSRIs help to restore the natural balance of serotonin in the brain.
In this article, we look at the risks of drinking alcohol while taking Lexapro or other antidepressants, including how alcohol may worsen their side effects.
Can you drink alcohol while taking Lexapro?
Doctors advise against drinking alcohol while taking Lexapro.
Doctors usually do not recommend drinking alcohol while taking Lexapro or any other antidepressant. This guidance is because alcohol can make depression worse and can counteract the benefits of a person taking antidepressants.
People who drink alcohol while taking Lexapro may feel more depressed or anxious, and these symptoms may then become more challenging to treat.
This worsening scenario is potentially dangerous as it can lead to some people having an increase in suicidal thoughts.
Drinking alcohol may also worsen some of the side effects of Lexapro or other antidepressants, including drowsiness and dizziness. This is because alcohol can also cause these side effects.
Doctors also strongly recommend that people do not stop taking Lexapro or any other antidepressant to drink alcohol. Antidepressants require steady daily doses to work and stopping abruptly can cause withdrawal issues, such as:
- flu-like symptoms
- pins and needles
- nausea and vomiting
Is any amount of alcohol safe while taking Lexapro?
Alcohol can negatively impact the treatment of depression even when someone consumes it in moderation.
For people who are taking an SSRI antidepressant, such as Lexapro, and who are at low risk of alcohol use disorder, it may be safe to have a small amount of alcohol occasionally.
However, a person should always talk to their doctor before having any alcohol if they are also taking Lexapro or any other medicines.
In general, doctors consider drinking in moderation to be no more than:
- one alcoholic drink per day for women
- two alcoholic drinks per day for men
Guidelines in the United States consider one drink to be:
- 12 ounces (oz) of 5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) beer
- 5 oz of a 12 percent ABV wine
- 1.5 oz of a 40 percent ABV whiskey
Doctors recommend that people who wish to drink alcohol while taking antidepressants should drink slowly and have the alcohol with food.
Alcohol can also interfere with other any other drugs a person may be taking, including many other-the-counter (OTC) medications. Some OTC treatments, such as cough syrups, also contain small amounts of alcohol. A person should always inform their doctor of all the medications they are taking.
General effects of alcohol on mental health issues
Drinking alcohol can worsen the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Alcohol can affect the body in many ways. While it can temporarily relax a person and improve their mood, it can have serious effects on mental health in the longer-term and can worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Alcohol can disrupt the natural chemical balance of the brain and can interfere with the central nervous system. Excessive alcohol consumption can:
- increase the risk of accidents and injuries
- make a person violent or aggressive
- cause mood swings
- affect memory and concentration
- cause slurred speech
- impair coordination and reaction time
- lead to respiratory difficulties
In the longer-term, alcohol can cause depression and anxiety and increase the risk of self-harm and suicide.
Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to alcohol use disorder. People with depression are at greater risk than others of developing alcohol use disorder.
Developing alcohol use disorder can affect a person’s relationships and cause social problems, such as unemployment, divorce, and homelessness.
Long-term alcohol use can also increase the risk of chronic health conditions, including:
Lexapro is a safe and effective treatment for depression and anxiety. However, doctors strongly recommend that people avoid drinking while taking antidepressants. Alcohol can worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety and can increase the side effects of antidepressants.
Anyone who wishes to drink alcohol while taking Lexapro or any other medication should speak to their doctor first.