Medical professionals warn against drinking alcohol while taking Zoloft. What are the risks of mixing Zoloft and alcohol, and how does this affect the body?

Zoloft is a common antidepressant drug with the generic name sertraline. People take this drug to help treat mood and behavior disorders, including depression, social anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

In this article, we look at the effects of mixing Zoloft and alcohol, safety, and what to do if someone has taken them together.

a woman holding two pills of zoloft in her hand and a glass of water in the other hand. Share on Pinterest
A doctor may prescribe Zoloft to treat depression, social anxiety, and OCD.

Zoloft and alcohol are two drugs that affect the brain. They can have similar effects, such as making a person feel sleepy and affect their abilities to make decisions or think clearly. When taken together, these drugs may interact and worsen these side effects.

For these reasons, healthcare professionals advise that people avoid alcohol while taking Zoloft.

Studies in healthy people do not suggest that Zoloft increases the mental or motor skill impairments caused by alcohol. However, there is little evidence about the actual effects of mixing the two drugs, and experts advise that people should not drink alcohol while taking Zoloft.

More generally, healthcare professionals recommend that people should avoid alcohol when they have depression. This is because alcohol is a depressant and, when a person drinks alcohol, especially in large amounts, it can make their symptoms worse while drinking and the next day.

Zoloft and alcohol both affect the way the brain functions.

Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it reduces the activity of certain chemical messengers in the brain, known as neurotransmitters. Zoloft is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), meaning that it works by changing the brain's levels of a neurotransmitter called serotonin.

Alcohol reduces neurotransmitter activity and lowers the amount of mental and physical arousal or stimulation. This can lead to the following effects:

  • a lack of muscle coordination, known as ataxia
  • decreased anxiety
  • lowered inhibitions
  • sleepiness or increased drowsiness
  • impaired memory
  • trouble thinking clearly
  • lowered perception of pain
  • euphoria
  • low blood pressure
  • reduced heart rate
  • death in cases of drinking too much alcohol

Zoloft also affects brain chemicals. While alcohol has effects on many neurotransmitters, Zoloft specifically affects the balance of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is involved in regulating mood, behavior, and motivation.

Zoloft, while regulating mood, may have some side effects that include:

Interactions between alcohol and Zoloft may change how effective Zoloft is and may cause some unexpected side effects. Zoloft and alcohol have some similar effects. When a person drinks alcohol while taking Zoloft, these effects may happen more quickly or intensely.

Drinking alcohol while taking Zoloft often causes sleep problems, such as feeling drowsy or not being able to sleep through the night. A person may also feel more dizzy or uncoordinated.

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A person should speak to their doctor about any interactions Zoloft might have with their other medications.

Zoloft can interact with other drugs, medicines, and supplements. People should tell their doctor about all other drugs they take before starting Zoloft. The doctor may recommend changing some medicines to avoid interactions.

People should not take Zoloft if they are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), which are another type of antidepressant or pimozide, which is an antipsychotic drug.

Other medications that can interact with Zoloft include:

  • other drugs that affect serotonin levels, such as certain antidepressants, linezolid, tramadol, and St. John's wort
  • warfarin and other drugs highly bound to plasma proteins
  • drugs that affect the central nervous system, such as some antiseizure medicines
  • triptans, a drug that treats migraine

Other medications can interact with Zoloft as well. A person should work with their healthcare provider to manage all medications they are taking while on Zoloft.

Healthcare professionals advise that people avoid drinking alcohol when taking Zoloft. This is because both drugs can cause similar side effects. Taking both together may make the side effects worse.

Alcohol can also worsen the symptoms of depression because it is a central nervous system depressant.

People can speak to their healthcare provider about their concerns regarding Zoloft and alcohol. If a person is finding it difficult to stop drinking alcohol, they can talk to their friends, family, and healthcare provider for advice and support. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism can also offer help and advice.

Q:

What should I do if I have taken Zoloft with alcohol?

A:

If you’ve taken Zoloft with alcohol, pay attention to how you’re feeling. Some people may be able to drink small amounts of alcohol while taking Zoloft without any side effects. However, other people may experience symptoms such as feeling very sleepy or dizzy or have changes in their mood. If you start feeling more depressed or anxious after drinking alcohol, call a healthcare professional. If your symptoms are severe or you’ve drunk significant amounts of alcohol, call 911 or seek immediate medical attention.

Zara Risoldi Cochrane, PharmD, MS, FASCP Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.