Mixing Zoloft and Alcohol: Is It Dangerous?

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : November 26, 
| 4 Sources

 Mixing Zoloft and alcohol is not recommended 

Why shouldn't you mix Zoloft and alcohol? For individuals living and coping with a mental illness, psychotropic medications such as Zoloft can provide relief. Zoloft is especially effective in patients experiencing depression and its symptoms, including depression accompanied by anxiety symptoms.

When looking at depression, research has shown that the most effective treatment option is a combination of both medication and therapy. 

Although medications like Zoloft have been prescribed for quite some time now, there is little clinical research regarding the impact that drinking alcohol can have on a person who is also taking this medication.

That is not to say that there is no consequences known to occur Zoloft and Alcohol. Keep in mind that mixing medications and alcohol puts you at risk for harmful reactions.

Zoloft and Alcohol- Drinking alcohol while taking Zoloft or any other antidepressant is not advised due to the inconsistent and complex chemical reactions of brain neurotransmitters and ethanol, the psychoactive substance found in alcohol. Alcohol could trigger depression itself and likewise keeps some antidepressant medications from working as efficient as they should.

In addition to provoking the familiar "drunken" behaviors exhibited by individuals who are drunk, ethanol also modifies production of neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically serotonin and norepinephrine, which directly influence thoughts, emotions and behaviors.

By distorting Zoloft's influence on an individual's thinking processes, alcohol could cause extreme behaviors to manifest themselves that otherwise would not be seen. 

Effects of Drinking Alcohol with Depression

To better understand the effects that drinking alcohol can have while a person is taking Zoloft, it is important to know the effects that drinking alcohol would have on a person who is struggling with depression.
For individuals who are not taking any psychotropic medications for depression, alcohol can have a significant impact on their mood, thoughts and behaviors.

Alcohol decreases activity in the part of our brain that is responsible for decision making and rational thinking. This change contributes to the rise of aggression often seen when a person is impaired.

Alcohol is also known to cause an increase in anxiety symptoms, irritability, feelings of worthlessness and tiredness.  This can lead to an increase in risk taking behaviors and putting oneself in dangerous situations.

 Uses for Zoloft

Zoloft has been a commonly used medication for over 25 years. It is also referred to by its generic name Sertraline. Zoloft is recognized as an antidepressant. Below are mental health issues that Zoloft is commonly prescribed for:

· Depression
· Panic disorder
· Obsessive-compulsive disorder
· Generalized anxiety disorder
· Post-traumatic stress disorder
· Premenstrual Dysphoric disorder
· Social Anxiety
· Impulse control disorders
· Phobias

As a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Zoloft effectively retains sufficient amounts of serotonin in the brain rather than allowing receptors to essentially inhibit serotonin from circulating throughout the brain.
This continuous, rich supply of serotonin regulates mood as well as sleep, appetite and sexual drive.

Research has provided us with a better understanding of the potential side effects associated with Zoloft. According to their own website, common side effects experienced by adults who take Zoloft as prescribed are:

· nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, or indigestion
· increased sweating
· tremor or shaking
· agitation
· change in sleep habits including increased sleepiness or insomnia
· sexual problems including decreased libido and ejaculation failure
· feeling tired or fatigued
· anxiety

Common side effects experienced by children and adolescents who take Zoloft as prescribed are:

· abnormal increase in muscle movement or agitation
·  nose bleeds
·  urinary incontinence
·  aggressive reaction
·  possible slowed growth rate
·  and weight change

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Causes of Serotonin Imbalance

Researchers have yet to discover the cause of serotonin imbalance or other neurotransmitter imbalances occurring in the brain. However, results of studies have indicated that several factors play important roles in why an individual may suffer from depression and anxiety. 

Individual environmental, behavioral and cognitive reactions to life experiences seem to affect neurotransmitter actions, as well as the development or underdevelopment of coping skills.

Studies investigating the interaction of Zoloft and alcohol have revealed no pertinent or statistically significant results.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently recommends avoiding drinking alcohol while taking Zoloft. Empirical observations of individuals who take Zoloft and alcohol suggest that people who drink while taking this antidepressant experience:

  •  Intensification of alcohol's effects on psycho-motor functions
  •  Aggressiveness
  • Increased depression and possible suicidal ideation
  •  Exaggerated impulsiveness
  •  Blackouts, if enough alcohol and Zoloft are ingested 

For chronic alcoholics who are recovering but suffer from sustained liver damage, having a less than optimally functioning liver may inhibit elimination of Zoloft which could cause subsequent toxic levels of Zoloft to accumulate in the body.

Individuals with impaired liver functioning usually need to take lower than normal doses of Zoloft while continuing to be monitored by their physician.

According to Suzanne LeVert, author of the book The Facts about Antidepressants (2006), alcohol appears to stimulate protein compounds that facilitate the breakdown of Zoloft in the bloodstream. This means that levels of Zoloft in the body are significantly lower than the prescribed level, which may possible worsen depression and anxiety symptoms.

The Central Nervous System, Zoloft and Alcohol

Alcohol, unlike Zoloft, depresses neurochemical processes in the brain which control thinking, muscle control and metabolism. Pharmacological medications often interact with ethanol which detrimentally exaggerate or minimize desired effects of the medication.

Drinking often exacerbates depression by temporarily anesthetizing neuronal activity in the brain. Once the effect wears off, the depression still exists and may even worsen, causing the person to reach for the bottle again. 
Zoloft is meant to relieve depression, anxiety and other symptoms of serotonin imbalance.When Zoloft and alcohol confront each other in the brain, the negation of each other's impact on someone's behavior and thoughts struggles to occur with possibly unfavorable results.
Zoloft wants to elevate your mood, alcohol wants to bring it down. This unhealthy interaction could create extreme behaviors resulting in physical injury. 

If you are feeling lost or confused, this would be an appropriate concern to talk to your prescribing doctor about. Think about the known potential side effects from taking Zoloft, combined with the known impacts that alcohol has on our brain and behavior.
One could assume that combining the two would potentially compound and/or enhance the side effects of the other.  

Zoloft, as well as other antidepressants, should never be discontinued because someone feels the need to drink. Abruptly stopping Zoloft usually causes depression and anxiety to worsen. Obsessive compulsive behavior will become more rigid as well

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Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


MIMS. Zoloft. https://www.mims.com/malaysia/drug/info/zoloft?type=full

Northern Arizona Center for Addiction. ZOLOFT AND ALCOHOL. January 22, 2021. https://nacatreatment.org/zoloft-and-alcohol/

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Mixing Alcohol With Medicines. 2003. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/harmful-interactions-mixing-alcohol-with-medicines

National Alliance on Mental Illness. Medication Frequently Asked Questions. https://www.nami.org/FAQ/Mental-Health-Medication-FAQ/Can-I-drink-alcohol-while-taking-antidepressants

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