Can I drink alcohol if I'm taking antidepressants?

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

Therefore, it’s generally safest to avoid any alcohol if you are taking antidepressants, particularly if you are going to drive or operate machinery.

See below for advice specific to the different types of antidepressants that are available:

  • Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – SSRIs are generally not known to cause any problems when taken with alcohol and it may be safe to drink alcohol while taking them, although manufacturers of these medications advise avoiding alcohol during treatment
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) – drinking alcohol while taking TCAs can make you feel drowsy and affect your co-ordination, particularly during the first few weeks of treatment; alcohol avoidance is advised by the manufactures of these medications, 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, sherry and lager), can cause serious side effects if taken with MAOIs, such as a sudden and dangerous rise in blood pressure; if you’re taking an MAOI, it’s best to not to drink alcohol and any food or drinks that contain tyramine should be completely avoided
  • Other antidepressants – most other antidepressants are not known to cause problems when taken with alcohol, although manufacturers generally advise drinking alcohol with caution; you should avoid drinking alcohol if you are taking a medication called mirtazapine because this can make you feel very sleepy

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

Finding out more about your medication

If you’re not sure what type of antidepressant you’re taking and don’t know whether you should avoid alcohol, speak to your GP or pharmacist. 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. For online versions of many PILs, search for your medication in the medicines A-Z.

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: 09/04/2014

Next review due: 09/04/2016

Page last reviewed: 27/03/2014

Next review due: 26/03/2016