Medical professionals generally advise against drinking alcohol while taking sertraline (Zoloft). Though each person metabolizes medication and alcohol differently, the interaction can be very dangerous and even life threatening.
Zoloft belongs to a group of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). They work by blocking the brain’s serotonin receptors, causing more serotonin molecules to circulate.
Serotonin stabilizes a person’s mood and is known as the “feel-good” hormone. Having more of this hormone in the brain can benefit mood, sleep, and emotions.
Anyone taking any medication should try to prevent drug interactions. If a person is taking Zoloft, they should avoid drinking alcohol.
This is because alcohol temporarily increases serotonin levels. It also has some of the same side effects as Zoloft. Having the drug and alcohol in the body can be dangerous. In some people it can, for example, cause oversedation and a higher risk of suicidal behavior.
Below, learn more about the risks of consuming alcohol while taking Zoloft.
However, some people who take Zoloft find that they can drink small amounts of alcohol without negative effects. An
It is impossible for a doctor to estimate how much alcohol might be safe for someone taking Zoloft. Each person metabolizes alcohol and antidepressants differently, and a safe amount for one person may not be safe for another.
If a person does decide to drink while taking Zoloft, they should do so with caution, and stop consuming alcohol if any adverse effects develop.
Drinking alcohol while using Zoloft can have various effects, including:
As an SSRI, Zoloft blocks the normal uptake of serotonin, which
Suicidal thoughts and behavior
One possible side effect of Zoloft is an increase in suicidal behavior and thinking. This is serious, and it can heighten when a person taking this medication also consumes alcohol.
The interaction can cause depression, which may hinder the effectiveness of an antidepressant. The combined effects can make a suicide attempt more likely.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
Both Zoloft and alcohol are central nervous system depressants, meaning that they slow or suppress brain activity. In combination, the two can cause oversedation. This can be dangerous, and in severe cases, it can cause slowed breathing, coma, and death.
Also, alcohol and antidepressants can each cause drowsiness, reduced alertness, and uncoordinated movements. When a person has both in their system, these effects increase, which may lead to accidents and injuries.
If a person taking antidepressants consumes too much alcohol, their liver may be unable to process the toxins. This can result in toxicity or liver damage.
Zoloft can interact with the following drugs:
- Monamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): This is another class of antidepressants. MAOIs work differently from SSRIs, and a person should not take them together. If a person is switching between types of antidepressants, they should only do so with a doctor’s guidance. Symptoms of an MAOI and SSRI interaction include:
- rapid fluctuations in heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure
- extreme agitation
- Warfarin (Coumadin) and digitoxin (Crystodigin): These two drugs are blood thinners. They bind to plasma proteins, and they can cause adverse effects if someone takes them with Zoloft.
- Pimozide (Orap): Doctors often use this antipsychotic drug to treat Tourette’s syndrome. In combination with Zoloft, it can cause cardiac side effects.
- Serotoninergic drugs: These increase serotonin levels in the brain, like Zoloft. The combination can lead to serotonin syndrome.
Zoloft can also interact with other drugs and supplements. A person should let their doctor know about any drugs or supplements that they take before starting Zoloft treatment.
Caffeine is in coffee, teas, and sodas, and it may enhance the effects of antidepressant medications, though confirming this requires more research.
They divided the participants into three groups and compared the effects of: a placebo, 60-milligram (mg), and 120-mg caffeine pills. After 4 weeks, the group taking the 60-mg dosage experienced faster antidepressant effects and improved thinking ability. The authors concluded that supplementing antidepressants with caffeine may enhance treatment outcomes.
Moreover, alcohol can worsen the symptoms of depression, which may make any antidepressant less effective and increase the risk of suicidal behavior.