Mixing Alcohol and Zoloft (Sertraline)


Published On: October 6, 2023

Sertraline, the name of the substance commonly sold as ‘Zoloft’, is one of the most common antidepressant medications prescribed in the modern world.

In general, sertraline is prescribed to individuals who are suffering from depression (also known as depressive disorder) as indicated by the DSM-V (the manual for diagnosing and determining whether or not an individual has a specific mental health problem).

The use of sertraline can help an individual counter some of the negative effects that arise as a result of depression.

In addition, it is also sometimes prescribed to individuals struggling with other mental health issues, such as generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and other anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks.

Sertraline is a selective serotonin uptake inhibitor (SSRI) – one of the most common forms of antidepressant. These types of substances work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain, increasing its communication and role within everyday processes.

This is achieved by inhibiting the areas of serotonin reuptake, meaning that there is more serotonin in the brain that is available to affect other cells, though this is still heavily debated (1).

Side Effects of Zoloft (Sertraline)

Pill mikx 3

As with all drugs and other substances prescribed for a particular issue, there are likely to be some side effects, especially in the early stages of taking the substance and before the body has adapted to it.

The most common side effects of Zoloft are listed below:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea (but not vomiting)
  • Drowsiness/lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

Less common side effects also include:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Increased sweating
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhoea

If an individual has been prescribed Zoloft for the treatment of a mental health condition, then they must track any symptoms or side effects that they may notice as a result of the drug.

This will allow them to report more accurately to their doctor and allow any changes to be made to their prescription if needed.

If the individual experiences any serious side effects such as vomiting, blood in the stool, or vision changes, then help must be sought as soon as possible.

Why is Sertraline So Commonly Prescribed?

Two doctors in white coats and stethoscopes talking

Sertraline is one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, as well as one of the most common SSRIs, for many reasons.

The main reason is due to its reduced effect with other substances compared to other antidepressants, though this does not mean that any combined effects with other substances will be lessened as a result of this.

When given to individuals with no prior history of depression or other mental health disorders for which sertraline may be used, one study found that sertraline had an alerting effect on the healthy participants (2), though this is still a danger for some individuals.

However, sertraline is also known to aid in the individual’s sleep-wake cycle and the regulation of their circadian rhythms. This is due to the increased prevalence of serotonin in the body – something which also prompts the release of the hormone melatonin (the hormone heavily associated with the control of the sleep-wake cycle).

Effects of Alcohol on Depression

A woman sitting on the floor looking sad

Aside from the inclusion of taking Zoloft, most individuals are highly aware of the effects of alcohol on depression.

Widely, alcohol is known as a depressant due to how it impacts the brain and the central nervous system (CNS) (3).

When an individual drinks alcohol and it enters the body, the individual may initially experience an uplifting feeling, though any positive effects of alcohol are likely to be short-term and can quickly shift to negative in a matter of minutes.

Although alcohol can cause a short-term serotonin boost, this can quickly disappear, resulting in a lack of serotonin and an inability to regulate this.

These depressive effects can occur on their own, as well as with several other factors, such as anxiety, irritability, fatigue/tiredness, as well as general feelings of worthlessness.

Individuals with alcohol addiction are more likely to develop depression in the long term due to the levels of serotonin in the body and the body’s lack of control over its production and regulation.

Alcohol and Anxiety

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Although mentioned briefly above, it is important to consider the effects of alcoholism and long-term alcohol abuse on the individual’s anxiety and anxious behaviours.

The link between anxiety and alcoholism is a neurobiological one, referring to the complex interactions within the brain resulting from alcohol consumption (4).

As a result of this interaction, individuals may begin to experience increased anxiety over a period of a few hours, or if alcohol is consumed regularly and over long periods, it may become a long-term mental health condition – something which can require long courses of therapy to overcome.

If an individual has been prescribed Zoloft on top of this, as well as drinking alcohol regularly, then they should be especially aware of these interactions, seeking help when needed – either for emergency medical support and advice or as an attempt to begin some form of rehabilitation.

How Does Alcohol Interact with Sertraline?

Alcohol

Although not many individuals consider it so, alcohol is a drug. It is one of the most dangerous drugs on the planet due to its lack of restrictions on distribution and its widespread availability.

This means that alcohol has a wide range of negative effects when mixed with other drugs. Popular known ‘banned’ combinations include taking antibiotics with alcohol due to the effects that alcohol can have on these drugs, often reducing their effects or altering them in some way.

With alcohol and sertraline, this is no less true.

In general, medical professionals do not recommend mixing alcohol and sertraline due to how alcohol can interact with sertraline and the way it functions within the brain.

As alcohol is already known to cause disruptions to cognitive pathways, the inclusion of its consumption while taking sertraline could seriously impact the effects that sertraline may be having on the body, making it less effective for the treatment of depression or other disorders.

The Dangers of a Zoloft-Alcohol Interaction

Two glasses of whisky being poured

Not only do both alcohol and Zoloft carry their side effects, but these can be significantly worsened or increased as a result of consuming both of these drugs together.

When consuming multiple substances simultaneously, they can seriously impact how these drugs were intended to function.

This can include serious neurobiological complications, sometimes causing long-term and severe mental health issues in some individuals as well as the risk to the individual’s physical health and well-being.

Here are some effects that individuals should look out for if they have consumed alcohol and Zoloft together, which indicate that further emergency medical support should be sought:

  • Severe headaches
  • Extreme sedation (difficulty in getting the individual to move/respond)
  • Respiratory difficulty, i.e., slowed breathing, struggling to breathe
  • Suicidal thoughts

Mixing these two substances is never recommended, and individuals should aim to never consume both substances within the period of both substances being present in their bodies.

Even after an individual stops taking Zoloft, for example, it is still present in the body and, therefore, can still have a range of negative effects and cause the risks mentioned above if not carefully monitored and detected quickly.

Long-Term Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Zoloft

nose

Although most of the effects and warning signs for the mixing of alcohol and Zoloft have already been mentioned, it is important to remember that these effects are not just dangerous in the short term; they can also have significant long-term issues relating to both physical and mental health.

Zoloft is generally originally prescribed to assist in the treatment and management of the symptoms of depression. However, if it is consumed alongside alcohol, then these effects can be obsolete.

In the long-term, the joint consumption of alcohol and Zoloft can increase the individual’s likelihood of experiencing symptoms of depression, often making their initial mental health issues worse and delaying the treatment of any disorders that they may have.

This only increases the amount of time that the individual may need to spend in further care, i.e., a specialist depression therapist/treatment course or admission into a rehabilitation centre for the treatment of addiction.

Zoloft and Other Drugs

Mixing Pills

Zoloft is an SSRI that is known to have relatively lower interactions when combined with other substances than other SSRIs, but this is not to say that it is ever safe to do so.

Zoloft is known to have a serious impact on a range of other substances, such as other forms of antidepressants, including monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). As a result of combining Zoloft and MAOIs, an individual risks experiencing heart palpitations, amongst other serious effects to vital organs, such as increases in heart rate and blood pressure.

In addition, Zoloft may also cause negative reactions when combined with blood thinners such as warfarin and digitoxin. This is due to these drugs’ binding with plasma proteins – something which can be impacted with the ingestion of Zoloft at the same time.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

man lead in bed

There are many reasons why an individual may choose to consume alcohol at the same time as Zoloft, the most common of these being an alcohol addiction, also known as an alcohol use disorder.

If an individual is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, they may find that they continue consuming alcohol, even if they know that it may react negatively with their medication.

This is why it is essential to reduce and stop the usage of alcohol before beginning a course of Zoloft.

However, this can cause some serious withdrawal symptoms due to how alcohol becomes a part of the body’s everyday functioning.

One of the areas in the body that is most affected by alcohol withdrawal is the production of serotonin – something which is also heavily associated with Zoloft and its effectiveness.

Withdrawal symptoms can vary from mild to severe, but any withdrawal should be medically supervised due to the dangerous nature of alcohol withdrawal.

The most common withdrawal symptoms are listed below:

  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Shaking hands/body (may develop into delirium tremens in serious and long-term cases of alcohol addiction)
  • Increased sweating
  • Alcoholic seizures

Medically Supervised Detox Programmes for Alcohol Use

trazadone

To overcome addiction and learn to deal with its effects, cravings, and symptoms throughout the individual’s lifetime, there are several methods and treatment options that an individual can proceed with.

However, the most effective and efficient treatment is that found through residential rehab and the processes within this option.

Through residential rehab, individuals can access one of the most essential treatments they will experience throughout their rehabilitation.

This is partaking in a medically supervised detox programme to remove the harmful chemicals and toxins from the body that have built up as a result of long-term alcohol abuse, as well as any other substances that they have taken as a result of this, e.g., Zoloft and other antidepressants.

This is the safest way to withdraw, as individuals will have access to medical professionals to aid them through every step of the process, as well as the availability of medication and other resources that may be necessary throughout their treatment.

Medications for Alcohol Withdrawal

Doses of pills segmented in a packet.

Some medications can be taken to help reduce the negative impacts of alcohol withdrawal and assist in making the process safer and more comfortable for the individual undergoing a detox.

One of the most commonly used medications in this instance is the taking of Librium – a drug known for its ability to reduce the harmful physical effects of alcohol withdrawal.

When compared with other substances used in this field, Librium was shown to treat acute alcohol withdrawal in the short term, though it was also shown that some effects of alcohol withdrawal persisted throughout the study period, showing that not all drugs can be 100% effective at all times (5).

Seeking Help for Alcohol Abuse

Two women talking
Support

Rehab 4 Alcoholism is a dedicated withdrawal service that works closely with individuals to ensure that they get the best access to rehabilitative care that is most suitable and appropriate for them.

After just one initial telephone assessment, individuals will be given suggestions and advice on how best to proceed with their rehabilitation and/or recovery.

To find out how a member of our friendly and professional team can help you, please contact our addiction support line on 0800 111 4108 today.

No issue is too small or too big for Rehab 4 Alcoholism, so get in touch today to see how we can help you.

References

[1] Moncrieff, J. and Cohen, D., 2009. How do psychiatric drugs work? Bmj, 338.

[2] Hindmarch, I. and Bhatti, J.Z., 1988. Psychopharmacological effects of sertraline in normal, healthy volunteers. European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 35(2), pp.221-223.

[3] Himwich, H.E., 1957. The physiology of alcohol. Journal of the American Medical Association, 163(7), pp.545-549.

[4] Silberman, Y., Bajo, M., Chappell, A.M., Christian, D.T., Cruz, M., Diaz, M.R., Kash, T., Lack, A.K., Messing, R.O., Siggins, G.R. and Winder, D., 2009. Neurobiological mechanisms contributing to alcohol–stress–anxiety interactions. Alcohol, 43(7), pp.509-519.

[5] Lapierre, Y.D., Bulmer, D.R., Oyewumi, L.K., Mauguin, M.L. and Knott, V.J., 1983. Comparison of chlormethiazole (Heminevrin) and chlordiazepoxide (Librium) in the treatment of acute alcohol withdrawal. Neuropsychobiology, 10(2-3), pp.127-130.

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