Co-consumption of antidepressants and alcohol

Co-consumption of antidepressants and alcohol – a potentially deadly consumption

Burnouts, depression and anxiety: Affective disorders will affect one in five of us at least once in our
lifetime. Financial difficulties, our career, family problems, the search for our identity and to make sense
of things – and all of this against the backdrop of a pandemic – make it easier for a mental health
problem to sneak up on us. They manifest in symptoms such as sleep disturbances, exhaustion, agitation,
a lack of motivation and even suicidal thoughts. Such symptoms often result in the use of alcohol, though
this in itself can be a trigger for depression.

The role of antidepressants

Antidepressants are prescribed in order manage the cause of symptoms related to mental illness, such as
righting the out-of-balance neurotransmitter metabolism seen in depression, thus restoring the signal
transmission between individual nerves. They can, however, also harbour considerable side effects.
Due to their unpredictability when taken in combination with alcohol, antidepressants can pose a
considerable danger. Ethanol can have an extreme influence on the effects of medication, and can both
diminish and magnify the impacts of antidepressants. On the other hand, antidepressants slow the
breakdown of alcohol in the body. Different situations can present themselves depending on the amount
of alcohol consumed, as well as the type of antidepressants that are being taken.
The co-consumption of alcohol and antidepressants can have the following effects:

1. It can worsen conditions

The euphoric effects of alcohol don’t last long. People generally feel unwell as they sober up, which only
worsens their depression. Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in
particular target the metabolism of serotonin. The messenger colloquially known as the ‘happiness
hormone’ carries information throughout the nervous system and can influence our emotions. Alcohol
can also have an impact on the release of this hormone. Although some SSRIs such as Escitalopram and
Sertralin interact with alcohol to a lesser extent, others such as Paroxetin and Citalopram can amplify its
effects. Even small quantities can lead to a severe hangover and nausea, which in turn intensifies psychological

2. Sleep disturbances

Alcohol has a negative influence on the quality of night-time sleep, which not only affects general health
in the short term, but can also have long-lasting consequences and increase depressive tendencies. At
the same time, it counteracts the antidepressants whilst they try to tackle sleep disturbances.

3. It intensifies the effects of antidepressants

The consumption of antidepressants already comes with a range of side-effects such as nausea,
restlessness, anxiety, sedation, impaired cognition or extreme drowsiness. In combination with alcohol,
the incidence of these side-effects rises and they are often felt more acutely.

4. Dangerous rise in blood pressure

When consumed alongside alcohol, a certain range of antidepressants known as monoamine oxidase
inhibitors (MAOIs) can cause a dangerous rise in blood pressure. Older antidepressants containing active
substances such as Moclobemide and Tranylcypromine are only prescribed for severe cases of
depression. They can cause problems with circulation as well as cardiac arrhythmia.

5. Impaired judgment and weakened motor abilities

The co-consumption of alcohol and antidepressants has an extremely negative effect on motor skills,
coordination and reaction times. Even everyday activities that require attention and concentration can
become incredibly difficult. As newer antidepressants in particular magnify the effects of alcohol, they
can quickly and unexpectedly lead to disorientation.

Recognise co-consumption quickly

The mixed consumption of alcohol and antidepressants is like walking a tightrope. It can not only have
alarming physical effects but can also take psychological suffering to dangerous new levels. If you
suspect and would like to help someone who may be affected, we can recommend a urine rapid test, an
alcohol testing device or even a hair analysis. Depending on the situation, you can test for current
intoxication or long-term consumption. In this way alcohol consumption can be promptly identified and
therapy initiated.

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