If you take the SSRI antidepressant Lexapro for depression or anxiety, you may wonder if it’s OK to have a cocktail, beer, or glass of wine once in a while. But there are lots of reasons to stay away from alcohol when you take antidepressants like Lexapro, which is the brand name of a drug called escitalopram.
Like any medication, Lexapro can cause side effects. But the side effects that you get may vary from someone else’s. Drinking alcohol can also lead to more and different side effects -- and risks -- when combined with the drug. Learn more about alcohol and anxiety.
Side Effects Without Alcohol
Even without alcohol in the mix, Lexapro’s side effects can include:
- Dry mouth
- Sweating a lot
- Nausea, belly pain, or gassiness
- Throwing up
- Tiredness or sleepiness
- Problems falling asleep
- Less interest in eating
- Less interest in sex
- Runny nose
- Sinus swelling
- Neck or shoulder pain
- Problems having an orgasm, an erection, or ejaculating
Rarely, antidepressants like Lexapro can lead to severe side effects such as:
- Panic attacks
- Hostile or aggressive feelings
Reactions With Alcohol
The mix of alcohol and Lexapro can lead to more side effects than from taking Lexapro by itself. Together, the two can make you feel:
- Less alert
- Less coordinated
In extreme cases, drinking alcohol while taking an SSRI like Lexapro can sometimes lead to side effects such as becoming violent. But usually, doing it can just make it harder to do tasks that require you to be sharp and alert.
If you drink while taking Lexapro, it doesn’t mean you’ll feel drunker than you would otherwise. But combining antidepressants and alcohol isn’t recommended: it can sometimes be deadly as well as dangerous.
Alcohol’s Effect on Depression
You may think of alcohol as something to lift your mood, but mixing it and Lexapro may actually do the opposite: Alcohol can make your depression worse.
You may not want to risk feeling even more depressed or anxious than you were before you took an antidepressant. But if you drink, it could also make it harder to treat your depression or anxiety. That’s because alcohol can change the balance of chemicals in your brain that affect mood.
If your depression gets worse or you have thoughts of harming yourself, talk to your doctor immediately. They might tell you to stop taking Lexapro.
Get Your Doctor’s Advice
You may not want to skip having a drink just because you take an antidepressant. But if you want to raise a glass once in a while, you need to do it safely. And don’t stop taking your medication just so you can drink.
Some doctors think it’s OK to drink moderately if you take an SSRI like Lexapro. “Moderate drinking” means 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce of hard liquor.
But before you drink any alcohol, you should take Lexapro long enough to know how it affects you and which side effects you have with it. Try to drink slowly and eat while you drink to tamp down alcohol’s possible effects.
If you’re at low risk of alcohol abuse and want to have a drink once in a while, it might be OK. To stay safe, talk to your doctor first.