Sertraline and alcohol

What happens when you mix Sertraline (Zoloft) and alcohol?

What is Sertraline prescribed for?

Sertraline — also known under Pfizer’s trade name Zoloft — is a prescription antidepressant that is used to treat depression, anxiety disorder (such as panic and social anxiety), post-traumatic stress, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The usual daily dosage can vary from 50mg to 200mg, depending on treatment use and duration. 

 

Sertraline as a low-dosage drug is also prescribed for delaying ejaculation. For this treatment sertraline isn’t taken regularly but only when needed, that is several hours prior to sexual activity. The typical one-off dose is 50mg.

 

Can you drink alcohol while taking Sertraline?

For its use as an antidepressant, doctors typically prescribe sertraline for the long-term, often years, as it takes time for the drug to become effective and heal the patient. Often sertraline is taken for many months after symptoms have disappeared in order to be on the safe side and prevent a new depression or anxiety outbreak. If you enjoy the occasional beer, glass of wine or whiskey, you may ask: do I need to refrain from drinking alcohol for the entire course of the treatment?

 

The U.S. FDA is very clear about this question. It advises against consuming any amount of alcohol while you take sertraline regardless of how high your daily sertraline dosage is. Medical experts agree with this verdict. Part of the problem is that there aren’t many studies available on the subject since any trial on real people who suffer from depression or anxiety would expose them to unnecessary risks. 

 

Needless to say, even if you don’t take sertraline or other antidepressants if you suffer from anxiety or depression alcohol is never a good idea under any circumstances.

 

Even if you don’t have depression or any mental disorders and take sertraline only a few times a month to last longer in bed, there is a risk of interactions with alcohol. 

 

What can happen if I combine Sertraline and alcohol? 

Sertraline and alcohol both have an effect on neurotransmitters in the brain and in combination can lead to interactions ranging from moderate to serious, depending on how much sertraline and alcohol have been consumed. These interactions include but are not limited to:

  • depression
  • lightheadedness
  • drowsiness
  • anxiety
  • suicidal thoughts
  • memory loss
  • headaches

 

A 2014 meta-review of clinical literature by the University of Auckland showed that combining excessive alcohol consumption and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI, sertraline is such an SSRI) can cause strong interactions, including memory impairment and violent behavior. 

 

Even if you only occasionally take sertraline to avoid premature ejaculations, you best don’t mix the drug with alcohol and wait for several days after you last took sertraline before you have another beer. 

 

Some people think it’s ok to occasionally skip a daily dose of sertraline to be able to enjoy a drink without any interaction risks. Healthcare experts strongly disagree. For sertraline to be an effective antidepressant treatment, it needs to be taken regularly as prescribed by your doctor. Moreover, sertraline has a half-life of roughly 24 hours, i.e., every 24 hours its remaining concentration in the body drops by 50%. It would thus take several days to get sertraline out of your body. Some of the trace substances found in sertraline even stay in your body for weeks. 

 

In summary: don’t take the risk. It’s not worth it and alcohol can cause serious interactions with sertraline. 

 

What should I do if I already mixed Sertraline and alcohol? 

You may have come to this article after the fact. There’s no need to panic. The first step is to relax and try to get the alcohol out of your system. Drink a lot of water (not in one go but stretched over an hour) and rest. Avoid driving, handling machines, or anything else that requires focus and a steady hand. In most cases, these measures will help you to get better. However, if you notice any unusual feeling or pain, like drowsiness, dizziness or headaches, seek immediate medical help.

 

References

  1. Medical-conditions-/Substance-related-disorders. “Drinking Alcohol during Antidepressant Treatment — a Cause for Concern?” Pharmaceutical Journal, 2011, www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/news-and-analysis/drinking-alcohol-during-antidepressant-treatment-a-cause-for-concern/11091677.article?firstPass=false. Accessed 12 Dec. 2019.
  2. “DailyMed - ZOLOFT- Sertraline Hydrochloride Tablet, Film Coated.” Nih.Gov, 2010, dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=c3b0b1f8-abfd-4054-8645-fd076305f4f8. Accessed 12 Dec. 2019.
  3. Menkes, David B, and Andrew Herxheimer. “Interaction between Antidepressants and Alcohol: Signal Amplification by Multiple Case Reports.” The International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine, vol. 26, no. 3, 2014, pp. 163–70, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25214162, https://doi.org/10.3233/JRS-140632. Accessed 12 Dec. 2019.

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