Johns Hopkins Health Alert
Mixing Wine With Antidepressants
Is it safe to drink wine or another alcoholic beverage if you take antidepressant medication? In this Q and A, Dr. Karen L. Swartz responds to a reader’s question.
Q. I have been drinking wine with my dinner for more than 30 years. Now that I am taking an antidepressant for the first time, my wife has told me that I should not drink any more wine. Although my doctor never mentioned this, my wife’s brother (who takes antidepressants) told her that alcohol of any sort could interfere with the antidepressant. Is there an interaction between antidepressants and two glasses of wine a night? Frederick, MD
A. Alcohol does not mix well with mood disorders for a variety of reasons. Although there is not a hard and fast rule about how much alcohol is safe to drink while taking antidepressants, generally it is recommended that alcohol consumption be kept to a minimum.
Alcohol is a chemical depressant that can worsen or destabilize one’s mood. Some patients report that alcohol seems to alleviate anxiety or even helps their depressive symptoms. While alcohol may provide “an escape” from feeling bad temporarily, evidence shows that it significantly worsens the course of all mood disorders in the long run. Alcohol can essentially negate the effect of antidepressants and mood stabilizers. When a person is diagnosed with major depression, it is always a good idea to stop drinking alcohol entirely for several months to see how this affects mood. Many individuals who stop drinking alcohol completely find that this alone improves their mood dramatically.
In addition to affecting one’s mood, alcohol significantly disrupts sleep. Individuals who drink alcohol regularly have abnormal sleep studies with more periods of wakefulness and less restorative, slow-wave sleep. Disrupted, restless sleep is not only a symptom of depression, but it also makes anyone feel weary and worn out. Thus, because consistent, good sleep is imperative to the treatment of mood disorders and to vitality in general, it is important to limit alcohol consumption to prevent sleep problems.
Posted in Depression and Anxiety on March 12, 2008
Reviewed September 2011
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