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Is Mixing Alcohol and Zoloft Dangerous?

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Before you begin taking any prescription medication, it is extremely important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about potential side effects and possible interactions with other substances. If you drink alcohol or use any other recreational drugs, it is essential to understand what risks you may be exposing yourself to if you continue these behaviors while taking medication. For example, if you combine alcohol and Zoloft, are you endangering your health?

What Is Zoloft?

Zoloft is the brand name of a prescription medication that contains sertraline hydrochloride (which is typically referred to solely as sertraline). It is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).   

Other common SSRIs include Prozac (fluoxetine), Lexapro (escitalopram), and Paxil (paroxetine). 

While these medications are probably best known as antidepressants, Zoloft’s usefulness is not limited to people who have a depressive disorder. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also approved sertraline to treat patients who have the following conditions:

  • Panic disorder 
  • Social anxiety disorder 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) 

Many physicians also prescribe Zoloft on an off-label basis to help patients with a variety of other mental and behavioral health concerns, such as:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Binge-eating disorder
  • Bulimia nervosa 
  • Body dysmorphic disorder

Zoloft’s ability to alleviate symptoms of so many disorders has made it an extremely popular medication. This popularity is one of the reasons why questions about alcohol and Zoloft are so important – because the answers can affect millions of people.

Is it Dangerous to Mix Alcohol and Zoloft?

When we mentioned that millions of people can be impacted by guidance about alcohol and Zoloft, we weren’t exaggerating:

  • In 2021, pharmacies in the United States filled more than 39.2 million Zoloft/sertraline prescriptions for more than 8.4 million patients. The annual number of prescriptions for Zoloft or sertraline in the U.S. has not been below 30 million since 2011.
  • According to the 2022 edition of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 137 million Americans (or 48.7% of the population ages 12 and older) consumed alcohol in the previous 30 days.

With such widespread implications, what do the professionals say about mixing alcohol and Zoloft? They say you shouldn’t do it. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Alcohol can undermine Zoloft’s effectiveness. Regardless of which condition you are using the medication for, drinking while taking Zoloft can prevent the drug from doing what it’s supposed to.
  • Alcohol can also exacerbate some of Zoloft’s potential side effects. Possible outcomes of drinking alcohol while taking Zoloft include impaired balance and coordination as well as persistent drowsiness or exhaustion.
  • Research indicates that combining alcohol and Zoloft may increase your risk for problems such as poor impulse control, memory impairments, and aggressiveness.
  • Alcohol and Zoloft both produce elevated serotonin levels. Someone who drinks heavily while taking this medication could develop serotonin syndrome. In severe cases, serotonin syndrome can be fatal.

How Does Alcohol Affect Depression?

While the possible negative interactions that we listed in the previous section should be reason enough to avoid combining alcohol and Zoloft, there’s another reason why you shouldn’t drink while you’re taking this medication: Alcohol can make your symptoms worse.

There is a well-established connection between alcohol abuse and depression. For example, a January 2012 study from Nairobi, Kenya, reported the following:

  • There was “a statistically significant association” between the amount of a person’s alcohol use and their likelihood of also having depression.
  • 63.8% of study participants who were addicted to alcohol had also experienced symptoms of major depression. For purposes of comparison, the past-year prevalence of major depressive disorder in the United States is about 8.3%.
  • After study participants went through detox and completed a rehab program, the prevalence of depression fell from 63.8% to 30.2%.

Sometimes, people who have been living with symptoms of depression turn to alcohol in a misguided attempt to self-medicate. Unfortunately, instead of being a source of relief, alcohol often only leads to greater distress.

This underscores the importance of finding a treatment program that can address the full scope of a person’s needs, including their struggles with both depression and alcoholism. Attempting to treat one of these concerns while neglecting the other can have a profound negative impact on the patient’s ability to achieve improved mental health and maintain their recovery.

Treatment for alcohol addiction and co-occurring depression, which is commonly referred to as dual diagnosis, often involves both medication and therapy. The therapeutic component of treatment can help patients in many ways, such as:

  • Developing more effective stress management and conflict resolution skills.
  • Identifying triggers, which are circumstances that could prompt the onset of a depressive episode or push the individual back into active alcohol abuse
  • Learning how to avoid triggers or respond to them in a healthy manner
  • Discovering the power of shared support with others who may have had similar challenges or who are working toward similar goals
  • Beginning to rebuild relationships that were damaged by alcohol abuse or disrupted by the individual’s struggles with untreated depression 
  • Connecting with community-based resources and peer groups that can provide ongoing support after the individual has completed treatment

Optimal treatment for dual diagnosis can look very different from one person to the next. This is why it is so important to find a provider that can develop a customized treatment plan that reflects your history, needs, and goals.

Find Addiction Treatment in Atlanta

Peachtree Recovery Solutions is a premier source of personalized outpatient treatment for adults who have become addicted to alcohol and other drugs. Our addiction treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia, also serves individuals who have been living with anxiety, depression, and certain other co-occurring mental health concerns.

In addition to detox, we offer a partial hospitalization program (PHP), an intensive outpatient program (IOP) with both day and evening options, traditional outpatient programming, and gender-specific services for both men and women. In every program, patients work with a team of dedicated professionals in a safe, respectful, and highly supportive environment.

To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.