Alcohol and Antidepressants: Should one be conscious of alcohol consumption while on antidepressants
According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 85.6 percent of people aged 18 and older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime. 69.5 percent of survey participants reported that they drank in the past year, and 54.9 percent reported that they drank in the past month. Thus, it is known that alcohol is the most abundant legal and non-prescribed psychoactive substance in the U.S., and this abundance can be applied to other countries with varying statistics.
The World Health Organization states that there are approximately 280 million people in the world who have depression (2021). One of the most common ways to treat major depressive disorder is by prescribing antidepressants alongside persistent therapy. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, antidepressants are one of the most commonly prescribed psychoactive substances in the U.S..
11 percent of people aged 12 and older take antidepressants, the 3rd most commonly used drug among adults (2011). Seeing the use of antidepressants and alcohol, it should not be surprising that these two may intervene with each other in some cases. A positive relationship between depression and alcohol consumption has been found (Graham and Massak 2007). This may be due to selecting alcohol consumption as a coping mechanism and other external factors. However, what may happen when these two substances are simultaneously in a person’s system is not commonly known. It is significant to note some little things while getting medication help for maximum efficiency, and here are some insights into this topic.
Alcohol is a depressant that depresses the brain's neural activity, thus, your whole body. This is why the effect of it may be described as relaxing, calming and distracting. While this characteristic of alcohol may seem tempting for many people, including the depressed population, alcohol seems to compete for the same systems in the body. This is because both antidepressants and alcohol aim to depress metabolic functions. The National Health Center states that drinking alcohol with antidepressants can worsen your symptoms. Alcohol may seem to improve your mood in the short term, but in the long term, it increases symptoms of depression and anxiety. Intake of alcohol and antidepressants simultaneously may cause a “crowdedness” in your metabolic functions with multiple foreign substances trying to achieve the same goal. Moreover, if alcohol is taken with types of antidepressants called tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), one may become drowsy and dizzy. Some examples of these antidepressants are Anafranil, Elavil, etc. It has also been observed that persistent use of alcohol can also cause some antidepressants to be metabolized more and decrease their clinical efficacy. The effectiveness of the antidepressants prescribed is important for clinical examination and the patient's well-being. The therapy process and the side effects of such drugs may be hard to manage. In addition to this, when the effectiveness of the drug is being inhibited by alcohol or some other external substance, one may not be aware of it and think they are simply not making “progress”, which can lead to them thinking that the medication is not “working” for them.
With the simultaneous use of depressants and alcohol, your thinking skills and alertness levels can be impaired too. The usage of antidepressants along with alcohol will affect your judgment, coordination, motor skills and reaction time more than alcohol alone (Mayo Clinic).
In addition to this, most depressed people have trouble sleeping, and alcohol may also cause sleep problems in the long run. In general, as mentioned, if you are diagnosed with major depressive disorders, you are at increased risk of substance abuse and even addiction. These factors simultaneously trigger each other and may trigger one under these influences. This situation creates a positive feedback loop.
The process of therapy and getting help is dynamic and requires effort. The required therapy can vary from client-centred to behaviour therapy and may be accompanied by medications. The most commonly prescribed medication, antidepressants, may intervene with the consumption of alcohol, as mentioned. Even though the extent of the damage may not be so harmful, it is the right thing to do to be mindful of our consumption of alcohol when we take any drugs. Whether it is antidepressants or painkillers, too many chemicals at the same time in our systems may outwork and exhaust us, leading to a decrease in quality of life. We tend to overlook the symptoms and the cautions while taking medication if our doctor does not warn us precisely and firmly that we should be mindful. Even so, we may sometimes ask for a stretch of the rules. Even though it is hard to continue taking medication and be mindful of everything persistently, we need to prioritize ourselves a bit more by putting in our maximum effort to get the most out of the healing process.
Edited by: Bilge Öztürk
"Antidepressants and alcohol: What's the concern?" Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/antidepressants-and-alcohol/faq-20058231#:~:text=Drinking can counteract the benefits,you also take another medication.
"Cautions - Antidepressants." National Health Center, www.nhs.uk/mental-health/talking-therapies-medicine-treatments/medicines-and-psychiatry/antidepressants/considerations/#:~:text=You should be wary of,can make your symptoms worse.
"Depression." World Health Organization, 13 Sept. 2021, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression.
Graham, Kathryn, and Agnes Massak. "Alcohol consumption and the use of antidepressants." Canadian Medical Association Journal. National Library of Medicine, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1800314/.
"Should You Drink While Taking Antidepressants?" Psychology Today, 16 Jan. 2023, www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/equipping-women/202301/should-you-drink-while-taking-antidepressants.