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 disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The usual daily dosage can vary from 50mg to 200mg depending on what condition is treated and for how long.

Sertraline is also prescribed at a lower dose for delaying ejaculation. For premature ejaculation, sertraline can be taked as needed (normally 50mg), but is more effective as a daily medication.

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Can you drink alcohol while taking Sertraline?

To treat depression, doctors typically prescribe sertraline long-term, often years.  Often sertraline is taken for many months after symptoms of transient depression have disappeared, to prevdent relapse.  If you enjoy the occasional beer, glass of wine or whiskey, you may be asking: 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 taking sertraline, regardless of dose. Medical experts genrally agree with this verdict, however, there aren’t many studies available, on tis topic, as any trial would expose real people who suffer from depression or anxiety to the risks of alocohol.

 

Needless to say, even if you don’t take sertraline or other antidepressants, if you suffer from anxiety or depression, excessive alcohol consumption is a bad idea regardlesss.

 

Even if you don’t have depression or any psychiatric disorder, and take sertraline only occasionally, there is still a risk of interaction with alcohol. 

 

What can happen if I combine Sertraline and alcohol? 

Sertraline and alcohol both have an effect on neurotransmitters in the brain.  In combination, they can lead to interactions ranging from moderate to serious, depending on how much of each is 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 and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as sertraline can cause strong interactions, including memory impairment and violent behavior. 

 

Even if you only occasionally take sertraline to avoid premature ejaculations, you should not mix the drug with alcohol, and you should likely wait for several days after you last took sertraline before you have another drink. 

 

Some people think it’s ok to occasionally skip a daily dose of sertraline to be able to enjoy a drink without rsik of interactions. Healthcare experts strongly disagree. For sertraline to be an effective antidepressant, 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%). Therefore, it can take several days for sertraline to clear out of your system. 

 

In summary: don’t take the risk. It’s not worth the potentisal serious interaction which can occur by combining sertraline and alcohol.

 

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 plenty of water over the course of a few hours, and rest. Avoid driving, handling machines, or anything else that requires focus and a steady hand. In most cases, these measures will help. However, if you notice any unusual pain, 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.

Information

Reviewed by Dr Roy Kedem, MD

Information last reviewed 10/13/21

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