Lexapro (escitalopram) is a common medication prescribed to treat depression and anxiety. Before using this medication, it’s essential to understand the potential side effects and interactions that can manifest from drinking while taking Lexapro. Patients on Lexapro are generally advised not to drink alcohol as it may undermine the medication’s effectiveness and increase the risk of several side effects.
Lexapro is in a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. SSRIs work on the central nervous system neurochemical serotonin to elevate a person’s mood and relieve anxious feelings.
Can You Drink on Lexapro?
Although there has not been significant testing on Lexapro and alcohol’s possible interactions, most health providers advise not to combine the two. Both substances are psychoactive and affect the brain and any issues that occur and can be severe.
Risks of Using Lexapro and Alcohol
When mixing drugs and alcohol, there is always a risk of potential side effects. Although not everyone will experience side effects, it’s essential to be familiar with the possible interactions that can occur—consuming alcohol while on Lexapro can cause numerous side effects and exacerbate side effects associated with the use of Lexapro independently. For example, side effects such as nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, sleepiness, diarrhea, and sleep disturbances may intensify when drinking.
Additionally, depression and anxiety can worsen when using alcohol and Lexapro in combination. This is because alcohol can reduce the ability of Lexapro to treat the symptoms for which the drug is being used. As a result, it may be best to avoid alcohol use altogether to ensure that Lexapro’s effectiveness is not undermined and that the medication is working to its fullest potential.
In addition to these problems, mixing these two substances can place an individual at an elevated risk for alcoholism. Most people taking Lexapro experience depression, which sometimes leads them to consume drugs or alcohol to self-medicate the symptoms and unwanted thoughts and feelings associated with this mental health condition.
One of the risks of alcohol abuse is liver damage. The liver is the organ that is responsible for breaking down and eliminating toxins, including alcohol. When excessive amounts of the substance are ingested, the liver cannot keep up. As a result, the liver is forced to hold on to excess alcohol, which can slowly deteriorate this vital organ.
Combining Lexapro and alcohol can also increase one’s risk of suicidal ideations and behaviors. One side effect of Lexapro is an increased risk for suicide, especially among individuals below age 24. Because alcohol increases your risk for depression, combining Lexapro and drinking can further elevate a person’s risk of suicide.
Long-Term Effects of Combining Alcohol And Lexapro
While there are no clinically-proven long-term effects of using alcohol and Lexapro together, that doesn’t mean that there are none. Many of the short-term effects can be exacerbated for a long time when combining these two substances.
Because Lexapro is a drug used for the long-term treatment of anxiety and depression, it’s important to discuss alcohol use with your doctor while on this medication. Your physician may state that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol occasionally is not problematic, or he or she may suggest that you stop drinking alcohol entirely while on Lexapro. Everyone person’s situation is different, and it is essential to follow all advice given by your doctor.
Medical Detox Programs for Alcoholism
Drinking alcohol excessively for a prolonged period may put a person at high risk for alcohol use disorder. If you are suffering from alcohol dependence, a medical detox program is often the first step to recovery.
Although detoxing from alcohol alone is entirely possible, however, it is not recommended, especially if you have a high chemical dependence on the substance. Withdrawing from alcohol can be incredibly uncomfortable and can lead to severe symptoms that may be life-threatening.
A clinically-supervised detox program offers the medical support needed to ensure that individuals withdraw from alcohol as safely and comfortably as possible. Detox programs usually last several days and are provided in hospital or addiction treatment facilities. After detox, long-term treatment for alcoholism and any co-occurring disorders is recommended.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can onset as soon as two hours after your last drink and persist for days or even weeks, depending on a person’s physical or emotional dependence on the substance. Mild symptoms include shakiness, nausea, excessive sweating, sleep disturbances, and vomiting.
People with higher levels of physical dependence are also at risk for more severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. These symptoms can include seizures, which require immediate medical intervention.
Additionally, if physical dependence is severe enough, the individual may experience delirium tremens, commonly referred to as DTs. Delirium tremens is life-threatening and will usually onset around 48-72 hours following the last drink. Symptoms of DTs include extreme confusion and disorientation, hallucinations, shakiness, unpredictable behavior, and high blood pressure. Immediately seek emergency medical attention if you or someone you know experiences these symptoms.
Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery are specialized treatment facilities that offer comprehensive programs featuring various therapeutic services and activities, including psychotherapy, individual and family counseling, 12-step program support, health and wellness education, mindfulness therapy, aftercare, and more.