Taking antidepressants with alcohol is typically not recommended, as patients can experience a variety of problems if they do so. One of the risks is that the alcohol will make the medication less effective, and therefore will lead to increased depression. Antidepressants can also intensify the intoxication caused by alcohol, and using them together may even lead to blackouts. Both can lead people using them to feel drowsy, and taking both at the same time can make this effect even more pronounced. Combining alcohol with certain types of antidepressants can also potentially be fatal.
The usual reason people take antidepressants is to help control depression and anxiety, and combining antidepressants with alcohol can interfere with this. Alcohol can counteract the effects of the medication, decreasing its beneficial effects. This can cause the patient's depression to increase, defeating the purpose of the drugs.
Another risk of taking antidepressants with alcohol is increased intoxication. Antidepressants affect the same chemicals in the brain as alcohol; when they are used together, the decrease in judgment, attention, and control of the body normally associated with alcohol use becomes more pronounced. This can increase the chance of patients making poor decisions or getting into risky situations.
Blackouts can also be a problem when antidepressants are combined with alcohol. Patients may experience periods of time where they do not remember what they said or did. This is another effect of the two drugs acting on the same neurotransmitters in the brain.
Extreme drowsiness may also be a problem when using antidepressants with alcohol. Sleepiness is a common side effect when taking antidepressants, and it can also occur when using alcohol. When the two are combined, particularly if the antidepressants are the tricyclic type, this effect may be exacerbated, making it difficult if not impossible for the patient to not fall asleep. This can cause problems for people engaged in activities that require them to be alert, and may even be dangerous if they are doing things like driving.
Using antidepressants with alcohol can not only cause some unpleasant effects, it can also be fatal. This is particularly true if the patient is taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MAOIs. Combining these drugs with alcohol can cause a significant increase in blood pressure. This can in turn potentially lead to a stroke, which can have a wide range of physical impacts including death.