prozac and alcohol

The Dangers of Mixing Prozac and Alcohol

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Prozac and alcohol interactions can be dangerous. There are also adverse mental health effects that can stem from alcohol. These effects can worsen the symptoms of the condition you’re using Prozac to treat.

It’s important if you take any antidepressant medications to speak with your health care providers about any interactions or adverse effects it may have, including with alcohol consumption. 

What is Prozac?

Prozac is a brand-name antidepressant medicine. The generic name is fluoxetine. Prozac is for the treatment of the major depressive disorder. The medication also has the approval to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and off-label treats other mental health conditions such as anxiety.

Fluoxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor or SSRI. Around 1 in 4 women in their 40s and 50s in the United States take an SSRI medication. Approximately 1 in 10 Americans overall take one.

Prozac was approved in the late 1980s and became one of the most frequently prescribed antidepressants. Now, more commonly prescribed are newer SSRIs such as citalopram and sertraline.

While it’s a safe medicine when prescribed, there are rare possible side effects.

First, the FDA requires Prozac to have a black box warning about the risk of suicide in people younger than 25. Taking an SSRI can lead to suicidal thoughts in children and young people. 

Other common potential side effects can include:

  • Sexual dysfunction 
  • Decreased libido and other sexual side effects 
  • Increases in nervousness or anxiety
  • Strange dreams
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rash
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Insomnia
  • Drowsiness
  • Sinusitis
  • Painful digestion (dyspepsia)
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Widening of the blood vessels (vasodilation)

People should not take certain medicines with Prozac. These include MAOIs, drugs metabolized by CYP2D6, and tricyclic antidepressants.

While you can technically use them together, people taking this antidepressant should be careful about combining it with drugs affecting the central nervous system. Benzodiazepines like Xanax are an example.

You shouldn’t take this SSRI with antipsychotics, other SSRIs, lithium, or herbal remedies like St. John’s Worth. Someone susceptible to mania or bipolar disorder may also be adversely affected by Prozac and similar antidepressant drugs. 

If someone takes an SSRI for some time and suddenly stops without tapering their dose, they may experience withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms of this prescription drug and others like it can include:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Loss of appetite 

When someone takes this medication, it works by blocking the absorption of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter. The regulation of serotonin helps brain cells communicate with one another. This communication among brain cells promotes a better mood.

Alcohol and Depression

If you’re taking Prozac, you likely have depression or another mental health disorder. Alcohol can negatively affect mental disorders like depression.

  • When you drink, it can make depression worse. Sometimes, people who drink heavily may experience symptoms of depression even when they aren’t diagnosed with the condition.
  • Symptoms of depression include sadness, feelings of worthlessness, and loss of interest.
  • There is a relationship between alcohol and substance abuse and depression that can go in both directions.
  • Many times people with an alcohol use disorder also have feelings of depression. Each disorder increases the risk of the other, and each can worsen the other.
  • Some people susceptible to alcohol abuse problems are also vulnerable to depression.
  • Dealing with depression can lead other people to try and self-medicate with alcohol. Over time, this cycle of self-medication can turn into an addiction. 
  • Even without a diagnosable alcohol use disorder, self-medication is associated with increased psychiatric problems, higher levels of stress, and lower quality of life.

A depressed patient who is a heavy drinker is likely to have worse outcomes from their treatment. Even small amounts of alcohol, according to researchers, seems to worsen depression.

Co-Occurring Alcohol Use Disorder and Depressive Symptoms

If someone is drinking while they’re on Prozac, they’re not following the instructions for the medication’s use. This can be a sign of an addiction or alcohol use disorder. Major symptoms of addiction include continual use of the substance even though you know there are harmful consequences.

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re using alcohol in risky ways and have depression, you may need treatment for a co-occurring disorder. A co-occurring disorder means that you have two disorders that are happening simultaneously.

You may need specialized treatment to deal with both conditions and their relationship to one another.

Co-occurring disorder treatment usually begins with detox. During detox, you can go through withdrawal symptoms in a safe, medically-managed environment. You can be more comfortable. Your treatment team might also adjust your medication levels to help even out your mood during this time.

From there, you may begin a rehab program.

Most rehab programs for a co-occurring diagnosis focus on behavioral therapies and medication management. These approaches can help you get your depression under control so that it’s well-managed, which will be helpful as you also work toward ending your alcohol use.

Can You Take Prozac and Drink Alcohol?

If you take Prozac and have alcoholic beverages, there can be adverse interactions between the two. Some of the negative effects may be temporary. For example, a Prozac and alcohol hangover can be more uncomfortable. Sometimes, the results of a Prozac and alcohol interaction can be more serious.

  • When you drink, it slows your body’s functions, including the ones controlled by your central nervous system.
  • Alcohol can lead to impaired judgment, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. You may also experience problems seeing or hearing and reductions in motor skills.
  • With that in mind, Prozac can cause drowsiness. Prozac can also have the same effects as alcohol, such as reducing alertness and coordination. If you combine the two, you’re more likely to experience profound sedation or extreme drowsiness.
  • You’re more likely to have heightened side effects of both substances when you combine them.
  • You may have dizziness, sudden weakness, and feelings of hopelessness. You may also be more at risk for suicidal thoughts.
  • Another reason to avoid the combination of Prozac and alcohol is that drinking when you’re on the medicine can prevent it from working as well as it should. Alcohol is a depressant, so you could be counteracting the medicine’s benefits.

Getting Help for Co-Occurring Disorders

Because Prozac and alcohol are commonly used substances, people may think they’re safe to combine. The reality is there is an increased risk of side effects when you use Prozac and alcohol together. There are also more mental health risks when you combine the two, and you might be worsening your symptoms or preventing your medication from working.

Contact Silicon Valley Recovery by calling 408-547-4089 to learn more about available substance use disorder treatment programs, including a co-occurring diagnosis. Alcohol addiction is treatable, but it’s likely to continue getting worse without treatment.