Using Paxil With Alcohol: What Are the Risks?

Published February 9th, 2021 by Angel Rivera
Fact Checked by
Camille Freking
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Gerardo Sison, Pharm.D.
Updated Date: Mar 29th, 2021
 

Paxil is a commonly used antidepressant that is approved for the treatment of a large number of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety, in adults. Paxil may also be beneficial in the treatment of depression stemming from bipolar disorder. 

The drug is associated with side effects similar to those caused by other medications in its class, which cause the drug to interact with alcohol similarly to other antidepressants. 

If you are taking Paxil to treat a mental health condition, here’s what you need to know about using Paxil with alcohol.

What is Paxil?

Paxil is a brand-name prescription antidepressant that is commonly sold under the generic name of its active ingredient, paroxetine. Paxil belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001. 

Although SSRIs are the current frontline treatment for depression, MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) were the first antidepressants developed. However, they're used less frequently than selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other antidepressants because of necessary dietary precautions and risks of adverse reactions when mixed with certain drugs. 

Paxil is intended for use in adults only and is commonly used for the treatment of mental health conditions like major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). 

SSRIs like Paxil are thought to improve the symptoms associated with common mental health conditions by preventing the reabsorption of a neurotransmitter called serotonin in the brain, which helps to raise the levels of serotonin. Serotonin is needed by the brain in order to send messages efficiently between the brain cells, and the chemical is thought to influence mood. People with depression and anxiety are thought to have low levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin.  

What are the risks of using Paxil with alcohol?

The mechanism by which SSRIs like Paxil are thought to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety is through the increase of the levels and activity of serotonin in the brain. By contrast, alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that “depresses” the action of the neurological system and the brain, which is why people sometimes have difficulty thinking, speaking, or moving properly when they drink too much. 

Mixing alcohol with Paxil or any type of SSRI such as Lexapro, Prozac, Zoloft,  Celexa or Xanax can worsen the side effects of either substance. 

Additionally, Paxil can be rendered less effective when combined with substance use, including alcohol abuse, and even mild alcohol consumption, causing your depression or anxiety symptoms to become worse.

While fewer people may be aware of the dangers of mixing antidepressants with alcohol, the fact remains that the interaction between Paxil and alcohol is very dangerous. 

When using Paxil with alcohol, both substances are trying to influence the activity of the neurotransmitters, which increases your risk of experiencing certain side effects.

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What side effects can occur when using Paxil with alcohol?

Paxil is associated with side effects that may be worsened when using it with alcohol. That’s why it can be dangerous to mix the two substances even if you don’t take Paxil at the exact same time that you are drinking alcohol. 

When using Paxil with alcohol, you may be more likely to make poor decisions, fall, or drive while impaired. 

Other side effects that can occur when using Paxil with alcohol include:

  • Dizziness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Sleepiness
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Loss of emotional feeling
  • Vomiting
  • Paranoia
  • Rigid muscles, uncontrolled muscle movements, or poor muscle control
  • Unintentional weight gain
  • Changes in vision
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Mood swings
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Mania
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

Disclaimer: If you are experiencing any of these serious side effects, please seek immediate medical advice.

Summary

Using Paxil combined with alcohol consumption can cause the medication’s side effects to occur more frequently or in a more pronounced way. Some of the most common side effects of using Paxil with alcohol include dizziness, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, agitation, hallucinations, changes in vision, and decreased sex drive. 

As a result, people who are taking Paxil or any antidepressant medication should not drink alcohol. 

Using Paxil with alcohol also makes the medication less effective, which can cause your mental health condition to get worse. Lastly, If you are struggling with alcohol dependence or any other kinds of substance abuse you may want to consider addiction treatment. 

In any event, contact a loved one and or health care provider to see about the treatments available in your area if you are struggling with addiction.

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/antidepressants-and-alcohol/faq-20058231 

https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm 

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2592697 

https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-32900/paxil-cr-oral/details

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