Can I drink alcohol if I'm taking antidepressants?

Drinking alcohol while taking antidepressants is generally not advised because alcohol can make depression worse. It can also increase the side effects of some antidepressants, such as drowsiness, dizziness and co-ordination problems.

Therefore, it’s best to avoid drinking alcohol if you're taking antidepressants, particularly if you're going to drive or operate machinery.

Advice for different types of antidepressants

The information and advice below is specific to the different types of antidepressants that are available:

  • Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – generally don't cause problems when taken with alcohol, and it may be safe to drink alcohol while taking them; however, the manufacturers advise avoiding alcohol during treatment because it might make you feel drowsy 
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) – TCAs can make you feel drowsy and affect your co-ordination, particularly during the first few weeks; the manufacturers advise avoiding alcohol while taking TCAs, although it may be safe to drink small amounts after a few weeks once the side effects have settled
  • Monoamine-oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) – a substance called tyramine, found in some alcoholic drinks, such as wine, beer and sherry, can cause serious side effects if taken with MAOIs, including a sudden and dangerous rise in blood pressure; if you’re taking an MAOI, it’s best not to drink alcohol and avoid consuming food or drinks containing tyramine
  • Other antidepressants – most other antidepressants aren't known to cause problems when taken with alcohol, but manufacturers generally advise not drinking; for example, you should avoid alcohol if you're taking mirtazapine, because it can make you feel very sleepy

Never stop taking antidepressant medication just so you can drink alcohol. Stopping antidepressants suddenly can cause withdrawal effects, such as flu-like symptoms, sensations in the body that feel like electric shocks and seizures (fits).

Find out more about your medication

Speak to your GP or pharmacist if you’re not sure what type of antidepressant you’re taking and don’t know whether you should avoid alcohol. You can also call NHS 111 for advice.

It may help to check the patient information leaflet (PIL) that comes with your medication to see whether alcohol should be avoided.

Read the answers to more questions about medicines.

Further information:

Depression and low mood

In this video, an expert describes the various levels of depression, the early warning signs and the treatments available.

Media last reviewed: 09/04/2016

Next review due: 09/04/2019

Page last reviewed: 24/03/2016

Next review due: 24/03/2018