Zoloft® (sertraline) is widely used to treat depression which affects an estimated 7.8% of U.S. adults per year. However, many people who use Zoloft are unaware that combining it with other substances may lead to harmful health consequences.
Continue reading to learn more about the effects of mixing Zoloft with alcohol and what you can do if you are currently using Zoloft and need treatment for alcohol abuse or addiction.
What is Zoloft?
Zoloft is the brand name for sertraline, an antidepressant used for treating depression. In addition to feelings of hopelessness and a depressive mood, Zoloft may also be used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, and social anxiety disorder.
Zoloft belongs to a class of medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It increases serotonin in your brain to reduce depression and anxiety. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates your mood and other bodily functions, including sleeping, eating, and wound healing. Zoloft treats depression by increasing your levels of serotonin to make you feel uplifted.
What are the Side Effects of Zoloft?
Like many other drugs and medications, Zoloft comes with the risk of side effects that can compromise your overall health, especially when used incorrectly or combined with other substances.
The NIH states that the number one risk of taking Zoloft is suicidal ideation and the attempt to self-harm. The drug’s label warns that Zoloft can lead to unexpected changes in mental health if you are an adult over 24 years of age and that you may become suicidal when starting Zoloft or when increasing or reducing your dosage. Zoloft patients are instructed to notify their doctors immediately if they experience any suicidal thoughts or tendencies when using this medication.
Other side effects of Zoloft include:
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Dry mouth
- Excessive sweating
- Blood pressure changes
- Excessive tiredness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Motor skill difficulty
- Reduced sexual libido
- Sleep disturbances
- Uncontrollable shaking and tremors
Is It Safe to Drink Alcohol while Taking Zoloft?
Pfizer, the manufacturer of Zoloft, recommends that you avoid alcohol if you are taking Zoloft. Zoloft can make you feel extremely tired and affect your ability to make decisions and think or react quickly. Mixing Zoloft with alcohol may increase your risk for accidents, especially if you drive a vehicle, operate heavy machinery, or engage in any other dangerous activities while using these two substances.
What Can Happen if I Mix Alcohol and Zoloft?
Alcohol has sedative effects that can make you extremely sedated and sleepy. Like Zoloft, alcohol can also affect your judgment and decision-making ability and slow reaction times. Mixing alcohol with Zoloft can amplify the effects of both substances and increase the risk of accidents.
Other side effects that can be intensified or worsened by mixing alcohol with Zoloft include sleep disturbances, nausea, shaking, reduced sex drive, and suicidal thoughts or self-harm attempts.
Why Do People Mix Alcohol with Zoloft?
There are many reasons a person may use alcohol with Zoloft, and not all people do it intentionally to create intoxication or side effects. For instance, many Zoloft users are unaware of the dangers of mixing alcohol with their medication and may continue drinking alcohol to relax, wind down, or to have fun in social settings. Many assume that mixing these two substances is safe because both substances are legal.
Some people may mix alcohol with Zoloft to experience heightened effects of one or both substances, such as relaxation, lowered inhibitions, and extreme happiness. There are also instances where people may drink alcohol with Zoloft in an attempt to further relieve symptoms of depression or anxiety, especially if they feel that their medication isn’t working as it should. Regardless of the reason for mixing Zoloft with alcohol, it’s important to be aware of the effects and risks of using both substances.
If you are struggling with alcohol abuse or are misusing your Zoloft medication, your doctor can talk to you about available treatment options and may even refer you to an addiction treatment center. An addiction treatment center can help you get back on track with taking your Zoloft medication as directed while also treating you for substance abuse.
What Are Signs a Person Needs Substance Abuse Treatment?
Substance abuse and addiction are mainly characterized by a set of compulsive behaviors that are difficult to control. Many people who struggle with substance abuse are unaware they have a problem to begin with, because chronic use of alcohol and misuse of prescription drugs can change the functioning and structure of the brain.
Here are signs you may need professional addiction treatment according to the NIH:
- Using alcohol or misusing Zoloft in larger amounts or for a longer period than was intended
- Being unable to cut down or control drug and alcohol misuse despite wanting to do so
- Spending lots of time obtaining, using alcohol, or recovering from the effects of alcohol
- Experiencing strong cravings or urges to misuse alcohol or to mix alcohol with Zoloft
- Experiencing problems at work, school, or at home due to mixing alcohol with Zoloft
- Experiencing persistent or recurring social and relationship problems
- Spending less time doing recreational activities due to alcohol or Zoloft misuse
- Continuing to mix Zoloft with alcohol even though it keeps leading to hazardous situations
- Continuing to misuse Zoloft with alcohol despite knowing it is worsening conditions
- Developing a tolerance for alcohol and Zoloft due to misusing these substances
- Experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms when suddenly stopping alcohol use
You may have a problem with substance abuse if you meet two or more of the above criteria for at least 12 months. Misusing two or more substances at the same time, such as alcohol and Zoloft, is known as polydrug abuse. Polydrug abuse can get safely and effectively treated at a drug and alcohol rehab center.
What are Treatments Available for Polydrug Abuse?
Polydrug abuse, like many substance use disorders, usually demands detox and behavioral therapy. If you are misusing alcohol and Zoloft, your treatment program will likely include alcohol detox, dual diagnosis therapy, and other behavioral therapies that address the root cause of substance misuse.
Alcohol detox helps you overcome physical alcohol dependence. This treatment will help your body detox from alcohol and get you through withdrawal while facing a reduced risk of complications. Alcohol detox usually lasts several days and involves medications that can reduce your symptoms and help you feel more comfortable.
Dual diagnosis therapy teaches patients how to live with a mental health disorder without turning to alcohol and illicit drugs that can worsen their mental health symptoms. If you are misusing Zoloft with alcohol, you may learn how to work more closely with your doctor to manage symptoms of depression, such as communicating when your medication isn’t working or using yoga and meditation instead of alcohol to minimize your symptoms. You will also learn how to manage triggers such as stress that previously led to alcohol misuse.Drug and alcohol rehab centers offer a wide range of short- and long-term treatment programs that can get customized for you based on your unique situation. The Haven in New England specializes in dual diagnosis treatment and alcohol detox and can help you recover from an alcohol and Zoloft polydrug use disorder. Contact us today at (844) 933-4145 to learn more about our many available treatment programs.