How Prozac and Alcohol Interact

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If you are one of the millions of Americans who take Prozac (fluoxetine) to treat depression or another mental health condition, there are certain precautions you should take—including avoiding or limiting alcohol use.

While having a glass of wine with dinner or enjoying a beer after work is a part of daily life for many people, it can potentially lead to serious issues if you take Prozac or a similar antidepressant.

This article discusses what you should know about mixing Prozac and alcohol, including the side effects you may experience and what you can do if you need help with your drinking.

Can You Mix Prozac and Alcohol?

You should avoid consuming alcohol while you are taking Prozac. The interactions that may occur when mixing these two substances pose several serious health risks. Combining the two can lead to:

Increased Drowsiness

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes that Prozac can cause feelings of sleepiness that can affect your ability to drive and react quickly. Mixing your medication with alcohol can worsen these effects.

Research suggests that people who take SSRI medications are at a higher risk of being involved in car accidents, particularly when they first start taking their medication or when their dosage is modified. Mixing Prozac with alcohol can heighten this already elevated risk.

Serotonin Toxicity

Like Prozac, alcohol also increases serotonin levels in the brain. Excessively high serotonin levels can lead to a potentially dangerous condition known as serotonin syndrome. Mixing Prozac and alcohol may increase the risk for this condition.

Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:

  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Poor coordination
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restless and anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Tremors

More Severe Side Effects

While this medication is generally considered safe and effective, it can produce specific side effects. Some of these include:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Low libido
  • Weight changes

Taking Prozac and alcohol simultaneously can make these side effects more severe.

How Prozac Works

Prozac is often prescribed to treat depression, but it can also treat symptoms of other conditions, including anxiety, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Prozac is a selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Medications in this class work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin. Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger that carries signals throughout the body.

Serotonin affects different body functions, including mood, behavior, and memory. By blocking the reabsorption of serotonin, Prozac makes it so that there is more of this neurotransmitter available in the brain. 

It was once believed that chemical imbalances in the brain, particularly low serotonin levels, were the cause of depression. However, recent research suggests little evidence connecting low serotonin to depression.

However, SSRIs continue to play an essential role in treating depression and other mental health conditions. More research is needed to fully understand the best ways to manage such conditions and the role SSRIs such as Prozac may play.

Should You Skip a Dose if You Plan to Drink?

While it might be tempting to skip a dose of your medication if you plan on drinking, such as if you are going to be attending a social event where alcohol will be consumed, it is never a good idea to skip your medication.

Because Prozac needs to be taken for an extended time to be effective, you can’t avoid your medication if you want to consume alcohol. Suddenly stopping your medication or changing your dose can lead to other problems, including symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal or the return of mental health symptoms. 

Alcohol and Mental Health

In addition to interacting with Prozac, consuming alcohol can contribute to other issues, particularly if you have a mental health condition.

In some cases, people turn to alcohol as a way to cope with symptoms of undiagnosed or untreated depression. Unfortunately, while alcohol might provide a short-term escape, it tends to make depression and mental health issues worse in the long term.

Chronic and excessive alcohol use increases the risk of developing major depressive disorder.

Some evidence suggests that people with depression might be more susceptible to developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Among people with an alcohol use disorder, more than 60% also experience significant depression.

If You Need Help With Alcohol Use

If you think you might have a problem with alcohol, it is important to talk to your doctor or mental health professional. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR), some signs that you might have alcohol use disorder include:

  • Drinking that interferes with aspects of your life, including work, home, and school
  • Difficulty reducing your drinking
  • Drinking more than you intended
  • Drinking to experience a certain effect
  • Engaging in risky or dangerous behaviors while drinking
  • Having withdrawal symptoms if you try to reduce or stop your alcohol intake

If you experience such symptoms, some options can help you quit. Psychotherapy and medications may help treat co-occurring depression and alcohol use disorder. Some medications can help you manage withdrawal symptoms and curb alcohol cravings. 

Your doctor may also prescribe FDA-approved medications such as Acamprosate, Naltrexone, or disulfiram to help manage alcohol cravings.

If your doctor prescribes Prozac or another antidepressant to treat a mental health condition, talk to them about your alcohol use. Working with a doctor or mental health professional can help you manage co-occurring alcohol use and depression.

For more information and help with alcohol misuse, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator.

A Word From Verywell

Prozac and alcohol should not be used simultaneously since combining them may lead to interactions and decreased medication efficacy. While an occasional drink may not lead to serious side effects, it is best not to combine your medication with alcohol. If you are in a social situation where alcohol is served, consider ordering a non-alcohol beverage instead. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental health or substance use condition, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."