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What Is Lexapro (Escitalopram)?
Lexapro is the brand name of the drug escitalopram oxalate, an antidepressant medication that is prescribed to treat generalized anxiety disorder (anxiety) and major depressive disorder (depression). Lexapro is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that treats depression by increasing serotonin availability in the brain.
Side effects of Lexapro include:
- Increased sweating
- Changes in sex drive or ability
- Stomach pain
- Excessive tiredness or trouble sleeping
- Dry mouth
- Increased appetite or weight gain
- Flu-like symptoms
- Runny nose
Can you Drink Alcohol on Lexapro?
Few studies have been conducted on the interaction between alcohol and drugs that treat depression. The negative interactions and side effects are not known conclusively. Some studies suggest that light to moderate drinking is safe on some antidepressants, whereas drinking alcohol on other types of antidepressants can cause adverse reactions.
In limited studies of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Lexapro, researchers found no serious interactions when consumed with moderate alcohol doses. In another clinical trial, Lexapro did not increase the cognitive and motor effects of drinking alcohol.
The FDA and drug manufacturers do not recommend drinking alcohol while taking Lexapro for lack of definitive evidence of its safety. They also assume that antidepressants may enhance the effects of alcohol.
However, some doctors do allow their patients occasional to moderate drinking while on Lexapro.
Before combining alcohol with any antidepressant, including Lexapro, patients should discuss the risks with their doctor beforehand to determine if it is safe for them.
Side Effects of Lexapro and Alcohol Interactions
There is limited conclusive data on the side effects of Lexapro and alcohol interaction. Some sources suggest that mixing Lexapro with alcohol may bear some possible adverse short-term effects, including drowsiness, dizziness, increased risk of overdose, and increased feelings of depression or hopelessness.
According to the FDA, Lexapro may cause drowsiness or affect the ability to make decisions, think clearly, or react quickly. Because alcohol also causes these same symptoms, combining the two drugs may magnify alcohol’s effects.
Another independent study suggests a possible risk of pathological intoxication when SSRIs such as Lexapro are consumed with alcohol. Pathological intoxication refers to a temporary psychotic episode caused by drinking that is often violent. This condition is most commonly diagnosed in patients with existing mental illnesses. Patients with other diagnosed mental health conditions should speak with their healthcare provider before consuming alcohol with Lexapro.
There are no known consequences associated with long-term use of escitalopram and no known long-term side effects of mixing Lexapro and alcohol.
Dangers of Mixing Lexapro and Alcohol
Lexapro may increase the sedation and motor effects of alcohol, which may be why some people have reported experiencing blackouts or temporary memory loss after mixing alcohol and Lexapro.
Drinking while on antidepressants may present a risk for the liver. The National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests that in some patients, when alcohol is combined with antidepressants, the liver cannot process all the toxins present, and fatal toxicity can occur. Studies indicate that drinking while on antidepressants may contribute to liver problems and antidepressant-related hepatic injury. It is currently unknown how Lexapro, in particular, impacts the liver.
Alcohol and Lexapro increase your heart rate, leading to acute severe conditions such as heart failure, especially in patients with high blood pressure. It is unknown if mixing Lexapro and Alcohol causes long-term heart damage.
It is rare for a patient to overdose on Lexapro alone. But according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there is an increased risk for overdose while mixing alcohol and Lexapro.
Alcohol, a depressant, can cause or worsen depressive symptoms, which include suicidal thoughts. Excessive alcohol consumption also reduces inhibitions, including inhibitions against suicide and self-destructive behavior. More than half of people who commit suicide are found to have been drinking. This may present an additional risk to patients with substance use disorder or other existing mental health disorders.
Patients with existing health conditions related to the heart, liver, or kidney are at increased risk for side effects. They should discuss whether or not it is safe to drink alcohol while taking Lexapro with their healthcare provider.
Alcohol Use Disorder
If you or a loved one is having a hard time cutting down on alcohol, it could be a sign of an alcohol use disorder.
If you're wondering if you or someone you know has a drinking problem, you can use this list of symptoms to do a quick self-diagnosis. This is taken from the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
Remember, a self-diagnosis is not a substitute for professional medical advice. These are symptoms of an alcohol use disorder, according to the DSM-V:
- Drinking more or for longer than was intended
- Unsuccessful attempts to cut down or stop alcohol use
- Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, or recovering from alcohol consumption
- Cravings for alcohol
- Failure to fulfill responsibilities at work, school, or home due to drinking alcohol
- Continuing to drink despite having social problems caused by the effects of alcohol
- Important social, work, or recreational activities are stopped or reduced because of alcohol use
- Drinking in physically dangerous situations
- Continuing to drink even though it is known to have negative effects on your health
- Developing a tolerance to alcohol
- Having withdrawal symptoms after stopping alcohol use
According to the DSM-V:
- 2 to 3 symptoms is considered mild
- 4 to 5 symptoms is considered moderate
- 6 or more symptoms is considered severe
Addiction Treatment Options
Luckily, there are many treatment options for anyone suffering from an alcohol addiction, including:
- Inpatient Programs
- Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)
- Outpatient Programs
- Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT)
- Support Groups
Lexapro & Alcohol FAQs
Can I have an occasional drink while on Lexapro?
Currently, there is a disagreement between health professionals on whether or not drinking alcohol is safe while on Lexapro based on a lack of conclusive scientific evidence.
In studies of SSRIs and alcohol, the combination of alcohol and SSRIs fails to impair function or produce other effects beyond those of alcohol alone.
Although in experiments with normal subjects, Lexapro has not been shown to increase the mental and motor skill impairments caused by alcohol. The FDA does not recommend that patients consume alcohol while on Lexapro. Most drug manufacturers caution patients against the consumption of alcohol while on antidepressants.
Some doctors do allow their patients mild to moderate alcohol consumption based on the lack of conclusive evidence of the adverse effects of drinking alcohol while on Lexapro.
You should always discuss with your doctor whether or not it will be safe for you to drink while on Lexapro.
What else should I avoid while taking Lexapro?
All illegal drugs should be avoided while taking antidepressant medications because they may worsen depression symptoms and increase sedation.
Many clinicians believe that marijuana use interferes with the benefits of antidepressant medication. This idea is because there is an association between marijuana use and depression. However, it is not clear if it is a cause-and-effect relationship.
Patients should also take caution with other prescribed medications. There are potential interactions between any two drugs, including prescription medications. To avoid an adverse reaction, patients should inform their doctor and pharmacist of their medications.
Does alcohol make antidepressants less effective?
Alcohol is a depressant known to cause or worsen symptoms of depression including mood changes, making antidepressants less effective.
Is it ever safe to drink alcohol while taking antidepressants?
Studies suggest that SSRI antidepressants such as Lexapro do not cause problems when taken with alcohol, and it may be safe for some to drink alcohol in moderation while taking them.
However, other antidepressants such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and Wellbutrin carry serious side effects when combined with alcohol, so drinking alcohol is not recommended for patients taking these types of antidepressants.
Some physicians allow their patients occasional to moderate drinking while on antidepressants. This means 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. However, patients should always speak with their doctor to learn if drinking on antidepressants is safe for them, and should not combine alcohol with an antidepressant until they know how the antidepressant will affect them.