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Zoloft is the common brand name for the drug sertraline. Sertraline is a relatively common anti-depressant drug prescribed by both psychiatrists and some general practitioners.

What it does is increase the level of serotonin in a person’s brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation, motivation, etc.

If it is off balance or if someone does not produce enough serotonin naturally, they can develop a variety of different mood disorders, including, but not limited to, depression, anxiety, and OCD.

Sertraline is an SSRI or a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. SSRIs are generally considered safer and have fewer side effects than other categories of anti-depressants, but whenever you mess with the brain’s chemistry, there is always a risk of adverse side effects.

If your doctor prescribes you Zoloft, he or she will most likely, and should, go over all the potential side effects with you, but you will also find an explanation of many of them below.

Remember, these side effects can change in severity or prevalence depending on your personal medical history; this is why it is so important to be completely transparent with your doctor when you are trying to figure out an anti-depressant.

Give him or her your complete history, make sure they are aware of any allergies you have, and any adverse reactions you have had to any other prescriptions.

Also, make sure they are aware of your personal substance abuse history as when Zoloft interacts with other substances, side effects can be much worse.

When someone takes Zoloft, the most common side effects are drowsiness, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, headache, and loss of appetite.

While all side effects and symptoms should be reported to your doctor as soon as you experience them, some of the more common side effects will go away as your body adjusts to being on the prescription.

More rare side effects include diarrhea, sweating, changes in sleeping habits, changes in sex drives, tremors or shaking agitation, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts.

Some of these symptoms may also be your body adjusting to the prescription, but they are rarer.

If you experience a worsening of depression or suicidal thoughts after starting Zoloft or any anti-depressant, it is vital to reach out to your doctor or another medical professional immediately.

They will probably instruct you to stop taking the medication, but it is essential to never make any shifts in your dosage without the guidance of a doctor because that can lead to some more severe symptoms.

Can You Take Zoloft With Alcohol?

Because Zoloft is so commonly prescribed, many people are under the impression that they can continue with certain lifestyle habits such as drinking alcohol.

The truth is, there is limited research as to the exact effects of drinking while taking Zoloft, but the medical community, including the FDA, generally advises against the combination.

First of all, when you have a mental health disorder such as depression, which is one of the most common conditions treated by Zoloft, you should probably not be drinking alcohol whether you are on the drug or not.

This is due to the fact that alcohol interacts with the brain and the central nervous system as a depressant. That basically means that alcohol can cause or worsen depression.

Without even talking about the potential added side effects, alcohol should be avoided because it may cancel out the positive changes the Zoloft is supposed to be making or at least make it far less effective.

As stated previously, there is relatively little research explaining the harmful effects of mixing alcohol and Zoloft.

But alcohol is believed to worsen the side-effects of Zoloft. For example, if you experienced nausea when you took Zoloft, you would feel significantly more nauseous if you drank alcohol on top of the prescription.

Worsening of side-effects can also make them more dangerous depending on a variety of different factors such as how long a person has been on the medicine, how much alcohol they consumed, their tolerance to alcohol, other medications they are taking, etc.

Side Effects

There are three big danger categories when it comes to mixing alcohol and Zoloft.

The first was mentioned previously: worsening depression. When a person is trying to cope with their depression symptoms, the last thing that they need is to make those symptoms worse.

This could lead to suicidal ideation or even suicide attempts that the person otherwise would not have.

Just as suicidal thoughts are one of the most concerning side-effects of sertraline, it is one of the most concerning side-effects of combining the two.

The second significant danger of combining the two substances has to do with drowsiness or sedation, a side-effect of both substances. Because both substances have a potential side-effect of drowsiness, it can cause major problems for a person when they consume both.

The drowsy and sedated feelings can lead to things like impaired judgment, poor motor skills, lack of coordination, and slow reaction times. All of these things can be extremely dangerous for the person taking the substances and for the people around them.

Even if you are used to drinking, know your tolerance, and know-how your body responds to specific amounts, your body may react completely differently when you are on Zoloft.

Finally, as previously mentioned, alcohol can make all the symptoms typically associated with Zoloft significantly worse.

These side effects include things like dizziness, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, low blood pressure, reduced heart rate, nervousness, changes in appetite, dry mouth, and more.

It is worth noting that the severity of all of these side-effects may also be affected by a variety of other factors such as what other substances/medications you are taking, what your normal alcohol tolerance is, and more.

There is even debate as to whether or not the type of alcohol you drink (beer, wine, hard liquor, etc.) plays a part in what the effects are. If you have any specific concerns or questions, it is worth bringing them to a doctor or other medical professional.

What To Do If You Have Taken Zoloft With Alcohol?

So what should you do if you do decide to drink while you are on Zoloft? Well, first of all, you should pay attention to how you are feeling and what symptoms you are experiencing very closely.

If you only drank a small amount, there is a chance that you may not experience any side-effects and do not need to worry.

On the other hand, you may only experience more minor symptoms such as increased fatigue, sleepiness, or dizziness.

Chances are, you will be able to sleep off the more minor symptoms. Finally, if you experience any more severe symptoms, including symptoms of depression and anxiety, you need to seek medical aid and perhaps even call 911.

You should do this if you have drunk significant amounts if you are on Zoloft, no matter the symptoms you are experiencing.

If you are drinking and take Zoloft, you absolutely should not drive or operate any heavy machinery.

This is usually true when you drink anyways, but when you are on Zoloft, your reactions may be worse, and your tolerance may be less, making you even more of a danger to yourself or those around you.

If you have to get home, it is also a good idea to have a trusted person help you get there.

Treatment Options

If you abuse anti-depressants and/or alcohol, you will need to seek treatment and probably medically assisted or guided treatment.

The reason for this is if you do not detox off of alcohol and anti-depressants properly, you will experience a range of withdrawal side effects that can be quite dangerous.

Below is an explanation of some of the most common treatment options.

  1. Detox: No matter what the treatment is, the first step will probably be detox. This is the period of time where all traces of the substance or substances leave your system. Alcohol detox is typically all at once, while often doctors will slowly take you off of anti-depressants to minimize possible adverse side effects. Detox is when a person experiences the worst of the withdrawal symptoms
  2. Medication-Assisted Treatment: Medication-assisted treatment is just what it sounds like. A doctor prescribes one or more medications to help a person cope, minimize withdrawal symptoms, and treat any co-occurring disorders which are typically prevalent when dealing with Zoloft and alcohol abuse. Typically, a person will also receive other forms of therapy and treatment while they are on the medications
  3. Behavioural Therapy: Behavioural therapy is a term that encompasses a variety of other, more specific forms of therapy. This form of treatment is designed to help people identify and treat a variety of different problematic behaviours, thoughts, and habits. The goal is to help people replace negative learned behaviours with positive learned behaviours. It can be used to treat both substance abuse and mood disorders
  4. Co-occurring Disorders Treatment: Co-occurring disorders are when a person deals with multiple disorders at one time and therefore needs treatment for various disorders at one time. For example, if a person has both depression and anxiety or substance abuse problems and depression. If a person starts abusing alcohol while they are on Zoloft, they are almost guaranteed to have co-occurring disorders because they need treatment for the substance abuse along with whatever the Zoloft was prescribed to treat. Co-occurring disorders treatment is a really broad term that encompasses any and all therapies and treatments that are used to treat multiple disorders at once. This could be things like talk therapy, behavioural therapy, hypnotherapy, and more. If you are dealing with depression, anxiety, or another mental disorder on top of substance abuse, you have to seek treatment and help for both if you want to get better because they quickly become interconnected. Even if you go to rehab or therapy for just one, the other is going to be brought up, and you will need to deal with it
  5. Support Groups: Support groups are another great treatment option. This is when a person will go to a meeting of their peers that will either be lead by a trained counsellor or simply one of the people in the group. Support groups give people the space to talk and learn with people that understand what they are going through because everyone in the group deals with similar problems. Support groups can be great to treat both mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders. A common example of support groups is AA or alcoholics anonymous, but there is a wide variety of different kinds

What Else Can’t You Mix Zoloft With

Alcohol is not the only substance that can interact badly with Zoloft.

Below is an explanation of some of the other more common things that you should be aware of if you are taking Zoloft, but it is in no way a full list or explanation, which is why it is so important to talk openly with your doctor.

First of all, you want to avoid taking MAO inhibitors such as isocarboxazid, methylene blue, phenelzine, safinamide, and tranylcypromine as these substances can interact with Zoloft in some reasonably severe or fatal ways.

It is generally recommended not to take Zoloft within two weeks of taking MAO.

That means you have to stop all MAOs two weeks before starting Zoloft and wait two weeks before taking more after you stop taking Zoloft.

You should be careful about combining multiple substances that all increase serotonin. This includes other prescriptions and street drugs like ecstasy.

When you take multiple drugs that all increase serotonin, you put yourself at an increased risk of developing serotonin syndrome, which can be fatal.

Other drugs that you should talk to your doctor about include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Aspirin which can increase the risk of bleeding
  • Marijuana
  • Antihistamines
  • Sleep or anxiety medications
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Opioid pain and cough relievers.
  • Any allergy, cough, and cold medication
  • Most any substance with qualities that could increase drowsiness

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Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.