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Mixing Alcohol and Zoloft: Effects, Risks, and Getting Help

Zoloft (sertraline hydrochloride) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant medication used to treat psychiatric disorders as well as many off-label uses.1

While Zoloft is generally safe when taken as prescribed by a medical professional, the drug’s label discourages drinking alcohol while taking Zoloft.1

Zoloft can cause drowsiness, headaches, insomnia, and suicidal ideation.1 Alcohol is a depressant and can lead to calming effects such as drowsiness and feelings of relaxation. It can also decrease reaction times, affect decision-making skills, and lower inhibitions.2 When Zoloft is combined with alcohol, the potential for sedative effects from both medications in addition to the risk of suicidal ideation, although uncommon, can be enhanced.3

What Is Zoloft?

Zoloft is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant medication prescribed by medical professionals to treat anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and more.1

The most common side effects of Zoloft include:1

  • Fatigue.
  • Anxiety.
  • Suicidal ideation.
  • Diarrhea, indigestion, or nausea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Sleep issues.
  • Sweating.
  • Shaking or tremor.
  • Sexual issues (e.g., decreased libido).

What Happens When You Drink Alcohol While Taking Zoloft?

Alcohol and Zoloft both affect the central nervous system (CNS).2, 4 Alcohol is a CNS depressant that facilitates the activation of the primary inhibitory CNS molecule, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This leads to calming effects on the brain and body causing drowsiness and feelings of relaxation. Alcohol also stimulates the transmission of dopamine, impacting a person’s behavior, coordination, and mood.2

Zoloft affects the CNS by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, which causes serotonin to accumulate. Serotonin is a chemical messenger that plays a role in regulating mood, personality, and wakefulness.4

SSRIs like Zoloft are less sedating than other types of antidepressants.3 Unlike tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), studies show that no serious interactions occur when SSRIs are combined with moderate doses of alcohol, however, per the drug’s label, it is still not recommended to binge drink or drink heavily while taking Zoloft.3

If you have any concerns or questions about combining your medication with alcohol, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Alcohol and Mental Health Disorders

Many people turn to alcohol in unhealthy manners to self-medicate their symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. However, alcohol may induce or worsen pre-existing mental health conditions.7 For people who are prescribed Zoloft, this means that drinking alcohol can make your underlying mental health diagnosis worse, which can be particularly dangerous if you experience suicidal behavior.

People with anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders may also be at higher risk of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD).8 AUD is the clinical term for alcohol addiction and is characterized by the inability to control or stop drinking despite experiencing negative consequences.9 Studies show when these disorders occur at the same time, people experience greater severity, increased risk of suicidal behavior, and a worse prognosis for both disorders.8

Getting Help

The best way to avoid any potentially dangerous effects of combining alcohol and Zoloft is to not use them in combination with each other at all. If you have a Zoloft prescription and wish to drink alcohol, you can talk to the doctor or pharmacist.

If you think that you or someone you care about may have a problem with alcohol, it may be time to seek professional help. For those who struggle with alcohol use and a mental health disorder, dual diagnosis treatment may be available at a rehab center near you or out of state. While programs vary, dual diagnosis treatment generally incorporates a combination of group and individual counseling, behavioral therapies (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy), and medications to help patients address both disorders at the same time.10

American Addiction Centers (AAC) offers dual diagnosis treatment programs throughout the U.S. You can call our free, confidential helpline at for more information about rehab and easily verify your insurance online.

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