Alcohol can be dangerous when combined with drugs, including antidepressants like sertraline (Zoloft). Since both alcohol and sertraline interact with the brain, drinking wine with the drug can increase side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, and lightheadedness.
Drinking alcohol with sertraline can not only cause the medication to be less effective in treating depression, but also worsen depression symptoms. It’s therefore best to avoid all alcohol, even a glass of wine, if you are taking sertraline.
What is sertraline?
Sertraline is the generic name of an antidepressant that is commonly marketed under the brand name Zoloft. It is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which means it increases serotonin levels in the brain, which play a role in regulating emotions, mood and behavior. The drug is used to treat conditions such as:
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Social anxiety disorder
People with depression and anxiety disorders tend to have low levels of serotonin in the brain. Sertraline works by preventing serotonin from being reabsorbed into nerve cells in the brain after it has been released. This helps prolong the effects of sertraline, which helps boost mood and relieve depression over time.
Sertraline usually takes 4-6 weeks to be effective. So, if you have just started sertraline and do not feel as if the drug is working, it is a good idea to stick with it for the full 6 weeks and see if you start to feel better.
What are possible side effects of sertraline?
Sertraline can cause several side effects ranging from minor to severe. Serious side effects should be discussed with your doctor as soon as possible.
Here are 7 of the most common side effects and how to deal with them:
- Diarrhea: Stay hydrated and take small sips of water throughout the day. You may also find taking oral rehydration solutions beneficial.
- Nausea: If you have nausea, take sertraline with or after food, and avoid anything spicy.
- Tiredness: Taking sertraline just before going to bed can help minimize drowsiness during the day.
- Difficulty sleeping: If you have trouble sleeping, take sertraline first thing in the morning to allow time for the side effect to wear off by the time you go to bed at night.
- Headache: Rest and drink plenty of water. If you want to take a pain reliever, ask your doctor or pharmacist to recommend one that can be taken alongside sertraline. Consult your doctor if your headaches do not go away after a week or if they become more severe.
- Dizziness: When you feel a bout of dizziness coming on, find a quiet place to sit and rest while you wait for it to pass.
- Dry mouth: If you have a dry mouth, eat sugar-free candy or chew sugar-free gum.
When to call a doctor about sertraline side effects
Some side effects are serious, and you should see a doctor right away if you notice them:
- Thoughts about self-harm or suicide
- Severe headache or headaches that last more than a week
- Trouble focusing or memory problems
- Chest pain or shortness of breath
- Severe dizziness or fainting
- Euphoria, excessive excitement, or agitation
- Unexpected changes in your weight
- Yellow skin or eyes
- Erections that are painful and last for more than 4 hours (priapism)
- Bleeding that is not normal, such as bloody stools or unexplained bruises
Possible allergic reactions to sertraline also require immediate medical treatment:
- Skin rash (for example itchy, red or swollen skin)
- Tightness in the chest or throat
- Trouble breathing or talking
- Swelling in the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat
Sertraline is available in pill and concentrated liquid forms and is typically taken once daily, with or without food. You can dilute the concentrated liquid with water, ginger ale, orange juice, lemon or lime soda, or lemonade. Drink the diluted mixture right away. This medication should not be diluted with any other liquid.
Your doctor may adjust your dosage until they find one that works for you. Keep in mind that you should take this medication as prescribed by the doctor, even if you begin to feel better.
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Jamrozy K. Sertraline and Alcohol Interactions. Alcohol Rehab Help. https://alcoholrehabhelp.org/interactions/sertraline/
Singh HK, Saadabadi A. Sertraline. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547689/
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