Using Prozac With Alcohol: What Are the Risks?
Dr. Gerardo Sison, Pharm.D.
Prozac has become perhaps the most well-known antidepressant in the United States since its approval for the treatment of depression in 1986. Since then, millions of adults and children alike have received a prescription for Prozac. Currently, approximately 12 percent of adults taking antidepressant medication in the United States use Prozac.
Prozac can be used to treat many different mental health conditions, is associated with a relatively low risk of side effects, and causes the fewest withdrawal symptoms of any SSRI antidepressant.
However, mixing Prozac with alcohol may not be safe.
What is Prozac?
Prozac is a brand-name prescription antidepressant that is commonly sold under the generic name of its active ingredient, fluoxetine.
Prozac belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and was the first drug in this class to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 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.
Despite being nearly 35 years old, Prozac remains one of the most popular antidepressants on the market. It is an antidepressant that can be used for the treatment of major depressive disorder in adults and children as young as eight years old. Prozac is commonly used for the treatment of mental health conditions like major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks, bulimia, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
SSRIs like Prozac work by blocking the reabsorption of a neurotransmitter called serotonin in the brain, which helps to raise the levels of serotonin. Increased levels of serotonin mean that the brain cells are better able to communicate with each other and send messages back and forth, which helps to improve mood. People with depression and anxiety are thought to have low levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin.
What are the risks of using Prozac with alcohol?
Prozac, like other SSRIs, helps to improve the symptoms of common mental health disorders like depression and anxiety by increasing the amount and activity of serotonin in the brain. Although many people are aware of the dangers of mixing alcohol with certain types of medications, including opioid painkillers, sleeping pills, and benzodiazepines like Xanax, fewer people understand just how dangerous using Prozac with alcohol can be.
Like other SSRIs, Prozac is designed to increase the activity of certain neurotransmitters so that the brain cells are able to communicate more effectively. By contrast, alcohol, which is classified as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, can “depress,” or slow, the activity of the neurological system, which includes the brain.
When using Prozac with alcohol, both substances work to influence the activity of neurotransmitters. Side effects of both substances may become worsened, which can make it difficult to perform simple tasks. In addition, drinking alcohol with Prozac may cause Prozac to be less effective.
What side effects can occur when using Prozac with alcohol?
Although rare, using Prozac on its own can cause feelings of tiredness in some people, and alcohol has the tendency to make feelings of drowsiness more pronounced. As a result, using Prozac with alcohol can make it difficult to finish simple tasks and may require you to rest frequently. You also are more likely to make poor decisions, fall, or drive while impaired.
Other side effects that can occur when using Prozac with alcohol include:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Sudden onset of fatigue or weakness
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts
If you are experiencing any of these serious side effects, please seek immediate medical advice.
Prozac is most commonly used for the treatment of depression. However, the effects of alcohol mixed with Prozac can prevent the medication from working as effectively and may make your depression worse, potentially leading to suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Using Prozac combined with alcohol consumption can cause dangerous side effects, such as extreme drowsiness, dizziness, sudden onset of fatigue or weakness, feelings of worsening depression, and suicidal thoughts. As a result, people who are taking Prozac should not drink alcohol.
Additionally, patients who use Prozac to treat depression may find that their symptoms of depression get worse because the medication cannot work as effectively when combined with alcohol.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, alcohol abuse can also exacerbate other areas of mental health. Therefore, 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 treatment options and support groups in your area if you are struggling with alcohol addiction.