Lexapro and Alcohol Don’t Mix
The holidays can be especially difficult for those who struggle with depression. It’s enough to have to worry about family tensions and pressures without having to deal with the extra stress of mental illness.
But, there may be one way in which you are exacerbating your holiday depression without realizing it.
If you are taking an antidepressant such as Lexapro (generic name Escitalopram) and continuing to drink, you could be making your anxiety and depression worse.
That’s because alcohol and Lexapro are not meant to be combined. Keep reading to find out why and how to better manage the intersection of alcohol and mental health.
What Is An SSRI?
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) work in the brain to ease depression and anxiety. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, or brain chemical, that regulates one’s mood.
SSRIs are called “selective” because they only work with serotonin, not on any other neurotransmitters.
The reuptake inhibitor part of SSRIs refers to the mechanical process that the drug enacts in the brain. Put simply, reuptake is a process whereby the brain reabsorbs serotonin into itself. After a chemical is reabsorbed, it is no longer active in the brain.
SSRIs stop the reabsorption of serotonin, so that more of the neurotransmitter will float around and increase your mood.
It sounds a little complicated, but in the grand scheme of all the brain’s millions of micro-processes, it’s one of the simpler ones. In fact, SSRIs are generally considered to be one of the milder and safer drugs used to treat depression.
What is Lexapro?
There are several different kinds of SSRIs, and each works as described above. But each SSRI is different and is prescribed for different purposes.
Lexapro is typically only prescribed to treat depression and anxiety symptoms. The makeup of this drug means it won’t be very useful or effective in treating other mental health issues.
This is as opposed to other drugs such as Prozac, also an SSRI, which is prescribed to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Lexapro is also prescribed for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), with or without depression. Other SSRIs, such as Cymbalta, don’t work to treat anxiety and are only prescribed for major depressive disorder.
We use other SSRIs to treat different ailments. They are also used for post-traumatic stress disorder and seasonal affective disorder. It’s up to a person and their doctor to discuss these different options and decide which drug fits their situation the best.
Lexapro and Alcohol: Side Effects
The holidays are especially difficult for people with mental illnesses. In a study from the National Alliance for Mental Illness, over 60% of people said the holidays cause them to struggle.
For people who are already prone to addiction, this can be a disastrous combination. In the moment, if you are feeling anxious and depressed, the easiest and quickest way to relieve those feelings is to have a drink.
It’s completely understandable why alcohol is so tempting in a high-stress situation. For one, it’s socially acceptable. Everyone else is also doing it, so you won’t look out of place, and you’ll ease your symptoms – it seems like a win-win.
But, drinking while taking Lexapro is a bad idea. It’s not so dangerous that it will cause acute damage, but it may unravel the progress you’ve been making with Lexapro. And that can be even more insidious and harmful.
Antidepressants like Lexapro need daily doses to build up in the system and maintain their positive effects.
However, alcohol is a depressant. It slows the body’s processing systems and counteracts the effects of SSRIs.
In short, drinking alcohol undoes the benefits of taking Lexapro, especially when they are combined over long periods of time.
Because Lexapro requires continuous daily doses to work, it’s also a bad idea to start and stop using the medication to schedule when you’re able to drink. Doing so will still have negative side effects and can worsen your depression or anxiety.
Finally, drinking can increase Lexapro’s negative side effects. While Lexapro is considered fairly safe, side-effects wise, they do exist. Someone who has never experienced the side effects before may even experience them for the first time because of drinking.
Insomnia, nightmares, nausea, headaches, and flu symptoms are all common side effects that are exacerbated by alcohol.
Depression and Drinking
Even if you understand the reasons why you shouldn’t mix Lexapro and alcohol, the temptation is still there. And it can be extremely difficult to stay sober in a situation where everyone else is drinking.
However, it’s important to remember that mental illness and addiction are not shameful. Taking Lexapro or other antidepressants to function is not a dirty secret. Everyone has hidden struggles – it just so happens that this is yours.
Fortunately, there are professionals out there who understand and want to help. Soul Sanctuary has a comprehensive and compassionate alcohol treatment program that is designed to address mental illnesses alongside addiction treatment.
It’s a common myth that addicts need to be drinking 24/7 to need help, or that they need to hit “rock bottom” first. This is not true – anyone with any kind of struggle is welcome to seek help at Soul Sanctuary.
Mental Illness and Addiction Treatment
Asking for help with your addiction is a difficult and brave step, and the staff at Soul Sanctuary know this. They are committed to providing a personalized treatment plan to serve your specific needs.
Soul Sanctuary is also committed to transparency. They will work diligently with your insurance company to get you the coverage you deserve.
If you are on Lexapro, suffer from worsening depression, holiday depression, or increased anxiety, and think you may need help with alcohol dependence, please Soul Sanctuary today.
All calls are confidential, and each staff member is there to listen to you and assess your needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out and get the help you truly deserve.