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Lexapro and Alcohol – Risks and Dangers

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If you’ve been prescribed lexapro, your doctor may have told you not to mix with any drugs or alcohol. But with alcohol being such an integral part of daily life in many cultures, you may be wondering if you really have to give it up. 

Keeping safe when using prescription medication is crucial to ensuring successful recovery. Learn more about mixing lexapro and alcohol below, so you can make an informed choice for yourself. 

Can You Drink Alcohol on Lexapro?

While it may be tempting to indulge in a drink, it’s generally advised to avoid alcohol when taking Lexapro. Your doctor has likely warned you against consuming alcohol while taking an SSRI medication, and they haven’t done this to dull your buzz. 

Lexapro is an SSRI medication, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor. This means that it reduces the symptoms of depression or anxiety by increasing the amount of serotonin available in the brain by preventing its reabsorption. 

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This means that it depresses the speed and functioning of the brain by enhancing the effects of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a kind of ‘brake pedal’, and inhibiting glutamate, a kind of ‘gas pedal’. 

Polysubstance use, or taking more than one drug or medication at a time is generally not advised and often quite risky. The danger of negative effects, such as health issues or overdose, is increased when several substances are combined because of unforeseen pharmacological interactions. 

Secondly, each substance may amplify the effects of the others, raising your risk of accidents as well as unpleasant side effects or even effects on cognitive and motor abilities. Last but not least, consuming multiple substances at once can have cumulative negative physical and psychological side effects that may make the original reasons you started using these substances worse.

Lexapro and Alcohol Risks

Given the potential risks and interactions associated with mixing the two, it is generally advised to avoid using alcohol when taking Lexapro. Some of the potential interactions and safety concerns include: 

  • Enhanced Side Effects: Both lexapro and alcohol have some of the same side effects, including impaired coordination and drowsiness. Combining the two may significantly enhance their effects. 
  • Increased Risk of Depression and Anxiety: It is likely that if you are taking lexapro, a doctor has prescribed it to help alleviate the symptoms of depression or anxiety. However, alcohol is a depressant and can counteract the effects of lexapro, reducing its therapeutic effectiveness. 
  • Variable Reactions: Everyone will react differently to the combination of lexapro and alcohol, making individual impacts very unpredictable. Factors such as dosage strength, tolerance, and individual sensitivity will all influence someone’s susceptibility to negative effects.
  • Medical Compliance: This is ‘doctor speak’ for remembering to take your medication. Regular alcohol intake often makes people either forget to take their medication or take it irregularly, negating its therapeutic benefits. 

Can You Die From Mixing Lexapro and Alcohol?

Mixing lexapro and alcohol can potentially be fatal in rare cases. This is most typically associated with serotonin syndrome, however can also occur with chronic use impact on the organs,  and due to accidents. 

Serotonin syndrome is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when there is an excessive accumulation of serotonin in the brain and body. This most typically happens when people mix substances that both have impacts on neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically serotonin.

Symptoms can include: 

  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heart rate and high blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating
  • Shivering
  • Tremors or muscle twitching
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea
  • Headache
  • In severe cases, seizures, high fever, irregular heartbeat, and unconsciousness which can be fatal

Fatalities can also be caused due to long term strain on the liver. Both lexapro and alcohol are metabolised by the liver, and combining the two can cause undue strain which affects its ability to function correctly. While this may not be immediately fatal, long term it can have serious consequences. 

Alcohol can significantly impair judgement and emotional stability. Lexapro can enhance these impairments, increasing risk and susceptibility to both accident, injuries, and self-harming behaviour or suicidal thoughts. 

Summary – The Risks of Lexapro and Alcohol

The combination of lexapro and alcohol can lead to enhanced side effects, potentially reduce the therapeutic effectiveness of Lexapro, and yield unpredictable reactions due to individual factors. To prioritise your health and ensure a successful recovery, it’s wise to consult with your healthcare provider for personalised guidance and make informed choices regarding using lexapro and alcohol.

Clinically Reviewed By

Brittany Hunt

Brittany Hunt is an internationally experienced clinician, specialised in treating addictions and co-occurring disorders. Having worked in the public and private sector, she utilises holistic and evidence-based approaches designed to empower the patients in their recovery journeys. A graduate of The University of Auckland, she has a Bachelor of Health Sciences majoring in Mental Health and Addictions, a diploma in Psychology and Counselling and a Post-Graduate degree in Health Sciences, majoring in Addictions. She is a fully registered practitioner under the Drug and Alcohol Association of Aotearoa New Zealand (DAPAANZ).

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