Updated on September 12, 2023
8 min read

What is Effexor (venlafaxine)?

Effexor (venlafaxine) belongs to a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

It inhibits the reuptake (reabsorption) of serotonin and norepinephrine, which transmit signals between nerve cells. Effexor maintains higher levels of these neurotransmitters in the nervous system, improving mood and reducing depression and anxiety.1,2,3,4,5

Effexor is FDA-approved for the treatment of the following mental health issues:1,2,3,4

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder (PD)
  • Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
  • Bipolar mood disorder

Effexor is sometimes prescribed off-label for treating:3

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Migraine prevention
  • Hot flashes
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

Alcohol and Drug Interactions: Is Mixing Alcohol With Effexor Dangerous?

Like with any antidepressant medication, you should avoid mixing Effexor with alcohol. Combining the two substances can lead to various risks and complications.

Sedation and Other Side Effects

Mixing alcohol and Effexor can intensify the sedative effects of both substances, leading to extreme drowsiness and impaired motor skills. This can increase the risk of accidents and injuries.

The table below outlines the most common side effects of Effexor and alcohol and their impact on your body:2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

EffexorAlcoholEffexor + Alcohol Combination
DrowsinessYesYesIntensified drowsiness
DizzinessYesYesIncreased dizziness
NauseaYesPossibleIncreased nausea
Impaired cognitionPossibleYesFurther impaired cognition
Impaired motor skillsPossibleYesFurther impaired motor skills
Liver damageRare casesPossible, especially with excessive useIncreased risk of liver toxicity
Mood swingsPossiblePossibleHigher risk of mood swings
Sleep problemsPossiblePossibleFurther sleep problems
Sexual dysfunctionPossiblePossibleFurther sexual dysfunction
Digestive problems (gas, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn)PossiblePossibleHigher likelihood of digestive problems
Risk of internal bleedingPossiblePossibleIncreased risk of internal bleeding

This table doesn’t list all the potential effects of mixing alcohol with antidepressants. Moreover, people may experience varying side effects based on their unique physiology and dosage.

Reduced Effectiveness of Effexor

Alcohol is a depressant and can aggravate depressive symptoms. Mixing alcohol with Effexor can counteract the medication's antidepressant effects, which can worsen depression.

Liver Damage

Experts don’t consider Effexor to overwork the liver. In one study, less than 1% of patients on Effexor have shown liver test abnormalities.2

However, mixing alcohol and Effexor can increase the risk of liver damage or impair the liver's ability to process the medication effectively. Effexor can affect how alcohol is processed by the body, leading to a higher blood alcohol concentration than expected.

Increased Risk of Bleeding

Alcohol can inhibit the clotting process, which prolongs the time it takes for blood to clot, potentially increasing the risk of bleeding. Effexor may also increase the risk of internal bleeding and other bleeding events, so it mustn't be mixed with alcohol.3

Serotonin Syndrome

Combining Effexor and alcohol can lead to the development of the potentially life-threatening serotonin syndrome (SS). Both substances can increase serotonin levels in the brain and lead to adverse effects.

Some symptoms of this condition include:3

  • Shivering
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion
  • Severe muscle tightness
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Death

Serotonin syndrome (SS) requires immediate medical attention.


Online Therapy Can Help

Over 3 million people use BetterHelp. Their services are:

  • Professional and effective
  • Affordable and convenient
  • Personalized and discreet
  • Easy to start
Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Woman drinking coffee on couch

Can I Have an Occasional Drink While on Effexor?

Some doctors may permit moderate alcohol consumption, which is typically one drink per day for women and two for men.10 Alcohol affects each individual differently, so it’s essential to discuss with your healthcare provider if consuming any quantity of alcohol is advisable.

What Should You Avoid While on Effexor?

Besides alcohol, other substances can interact with Effexor and potentially cause adverse effects or reduce the effectiveness of the medication. 

These interacting substances are classified as follows:

Substances That Can Make You Sleepy

These include alcohol and other drugs with sedative effects. Combined with Effexor, they can increase the risk of drowsiness and impair a person’s ability to perform routine tasks (like driving or operating a piece of machinery). 

Substances That Can Increase Serotonin Levels

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are a class of antidepressant medications that affect the brain’s serotonin levels. Using both MAOIs and Effexor can increase the chances of developing serotonin syndrome (SS).3,5

To some extent, combining Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) with Effexor (or other SNRIs) may also increase the risk of serotonin syndrome.5

Other substances that can increase serotonin levels include:3,5,11

  • Triptan migraine medications
  • Some opioids like tramadol (Ultram)
  • Lithium carbonate (Lithobid)
  • St. John’s wort (an OTC herbal supplement for depression)
  • Alcohol

Substances That Can Increase the Risk of Internal Bleeding

Blood thinners, including anticoagulants and antiplatelets, can increase the risk of bleeding. The risk is amplified when taken with Effexor. Examples of blood thinners include apixaban (Eliquis) and warfarin (Coumadin).5

While not classified as blood thinners, most NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) have some blood-thinning effects. NSAIDs are a popular class of pain relievers, including aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).

Effexor with certain NSAIDs can raise the risk of stomach bleeding and ulcers.5 Alcohol also has a certain degree of blood-thinning effect.

Substances That Can Increase Effexor’s Side Effects

Medication like bupropion is sometimes used to boost the effects of other antidepressants. While bupropion's action makes Effexor more effective at treating depression and anxiety, high doses of the medication may also increase the risk of causing severe side effects from Effexor.5,12

Consult your healthcare professional for personalized advice regarding avoiding substances while taking venlafaxine. They can assess potential drug interactions, instruct you on safe medication use, and ensure your treatment's optimal effectiveness and safety.

Get Professional Help

BetterHelp can connect you to an addiction and mental health counselor.

Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Rehab Together

Alcohol and Effexor: Identifying a Co-occurring Disorder

As stated above, it’s highly advised to abstain from alcohol while on antidepressants like Effexor. However, some people may have difficulty staying sober due to a co-occurring disorder.

Co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis, involve the coexistence of a mental health disorder alongside a substance use disorder.16

Identifying a co-occurring disorder involves recognizing symptoms associated with mental health issues and substance use disorders. Common symptoms can include:

  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Increased irritability or aggression
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Impaired judgment or impulsivity
  • Cravings or preoccupation with substances
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not using substances

The Link Between Depression and Alcohol Abuse

People with MDD (major depressive disorder) are more prone to experiencing AUD (alcohol use disorder). Conversely, those with AUD have a 12-month prevalence rate of developing MDD, at 16.4%.17

The two illnesses’ co-occurrence requires integrated treatment approaches to address both conditions effectively. However, the treatment outcomes for individuals with both MDD and AUD tend to be less successful than those with just MDD or AUD alone.17

Treatments for Co-Occurring Disorders

Recovering from co-occurring disorders requires a comprehensive and integrated approach. It differs from typical stand-alone treatments due to the need to simultaneously address both the mental health and substance use components.

Here are some options for treating co-occurring disorders:

  • Medications: Antidepressants can alleviate depression, and specific drugs are available for different substance use disorders, such as opioid or alcohol abuse. Medications can also assist in managing withdrawal symptoms during detoxification.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach helps individuals modify their thoughts and behaviors contributing to substance abuse. CBT also equips them with coping skills while in recovery.
  • Contingency Management (CM): Also known as motivational incentives, CM programs provide rewards or vouchers as positive reinforcement for healthy behaviors, like joining a gym, watching a movie, or other healthier rewards.
  • Motivational Enhancement: This approach focuses on increasing motivation to facilitate positive changes throughout the treatment process.
  • Mutual Support Groups: Participation in groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Double Trouble in Recovery (DTR), and SMART Recovery offers a platform to share experiences, find resources, celebrate achievements, exchange referrals, and gain valuable tips.
  • Residential Treatment: Individuals reside at a facility where mental health professionals provide support, medication, and guidance in managing co-occurring disorders.

If you suspect that you or someone you know has a co-occurring disorder involving a mental health disorder and substance abuse, it is crucial to seek professional help. 

A healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or addiction specialist, can conduct a comprehensive assessment and provide an accurate diagnosis. They can also guide you to specialized resources and support groups that address co-occurring disorders.

Practical Advice for Drinking While Taking Effexor 

  • Follow the prescribed dosage: Consult your healthcare provider before modifying or discontinuing the medication.
  • Familiarize yourself with the possible side effects of Effexor: This can help you identify any changes or symptoms that may require attention.
  • Communicate with your healthcare provider: Each individual's experience with Effexor can vary. Your healthcare provider can guide you, address your concerns, and make necessary adjustments to your treatment. Tell them if you’re taking other antidepressants, medications, or supplements.
  • Focus on self-care activities that support your overall well-being: Exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, prioritizing sleep, and engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation are all examples of self-care.
  • Explore coping mechanisms: Instead of drinking alcohol, consider alternative coping tools to manage stress, anxiety, or depression. This may include mindfulness or relaxation exercises, seeking support from family members or support groups.
  • Monitor your alcohol intake: As much as possible, don’t mix alcohol and Effexor. If you still choose to drink, do so in moderation. Be mindful of how much alcohol affects you personally, and monitor any changes in your mood or well-being.

Phone, Video, or Live-Chat Support

BetterHelp provides therapy in a way that works for YOU. Fill out the questionnaire, get matched, begin therapy.

Get Started

Answer a few questions to get started

Woman drinking coffee on couch


Effexor (venlafaxine) is a widely used prescription medication for individuals struggling with depressive and anxiety symptoms. It balances the serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain, helping in alleviating depressive symptoms and improving mood disorders. 

Healthcare professionals strongly advise against combining Effexor and alcohol due to the risk of intensified side effects. If you mix alcohol and Effexor, you may experience extreme drowsiness and increased intoxication. The combination can also cause serotonin syndrome, liver damage, and risk of internal bleeding.

Always follow the prescribed dosage of Effexor and communicate openly with healthcare providers regarding any concerns or potential interactions with other substances. If you have a co-occurring disorder, seek professional help and consider integrated treatment addressing both conditions simultaneously.

Get matched with an affordable mental health counselor

Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Updated on September 12, 2023
17 sources cited
Updated on September 12, 2023
  1. Common questions about venlafaxine.” NHS, 2022.
  2. LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2012. 
  3. Venlafaxine (Effexor).” National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 2016.
  4. Venlafaxine.” MedlinePlus, 2022.
  5. Foley, K. “7 Venlafaxine Interactions to Be Aware of.” GoodRx Health, 2022.
  6. Side effects of venlafaxine.” NHS, 2022.
  7. Effexor XR and Alcohol/Food Interactions.” Drugs.com.
  8. Alcohol Use and Your Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2022.
  9. Alcohol.” MedlinePlus.
  10. Can I drink alcohol while taking antidepressants?” National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
  11. Taking venlafaxine with other medicines and herbal supplements.” NHS, 2022.
  12. Hoffelt, C., and Gross, T. “A review of significant pharmacokinetic drug interactions with antidepressants and their management.” Mental Health Clinician, 2016. 
  13. Cautions - Antidepressants.” NHS, 2021.
  14. Fletcher, J., and West, M. “Is it safe to mix Zoloft and alcohol?” Medical News Today, 2023.
  15. Le, K. “Can I Drink Alcohol With Antidepressants Like Cymbalta or Amitriptyline?” GoodRx Health, 2021.
  16. Gimeno et al. “Treatment of Comorbid Alcohol Dependence and Anxiety Disorder: Review of the Scientific Evidence and Recommendations for Treatment.” Front Psychiatry, 2017.
  17. Chan et al. “Prescription for antidepressant in reducing future alcohol-related readmission in patients suffering from depression and alcohol use disorder: a retrospective medical record review.” Substance Abuse Treat Prev Policy, 2015.

Related Pages