Curious How Mindful Drinking Can Help You Thrive? 🎉🙌
Click Here
a person holding medicine in one hand and alcohol in the other hand
Alcohol and Mental Health

Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Prozac

Published:
April 6, 2024
·
24 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
April 6, 2024
·
24 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
April 6, 2024
·
24 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
April 6, 2024
·
24 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
April 6, 2024
·
24 min read

Suppressing Our Antidepressant

  • Prozac is a common medication used to treat depression or anxiety disorders. Drinking alcohol while on Prozac can enhance symptoms of depression and side effects of alcohol and Prozac. 

  • Alcohol makes Prozac less effective, but having fewer than two drinks at a time is usually not life-threatening. 

  • Are you wanting to take control of your mental health? Quitting or cutting back on alcohol can help, and Reframe has a wealth of resources to get you started.

It's winter, the days are getting shorter, and it always seems dark. Suddenly, our interests become less exciting, we don’t have the energy to socialize, and everything feels a little dull and gray.

This is an incredibly common scenario — hundreds of millions of people worldwide experience depression every year, and many more go undiagnosed. Luckily, there is a huge variety of treatments to help ease symptoms. The most common medication used to treat depression is called fluoxetine, also known as Prozac. It works quickly: symptoms typically start to improve after a few weeks, and for many of us, the color starts to come back into life.

Let’s imagine that we start taking Prozac, start to feel better, and decide to resume our life. Things are looking up, and we finally feel up to socializing. So, we decide to accept our friend’s invitation to a cocktail party — but is it safe to drink alcohol while we are on Prozac? 

a person holding medicines in one hand and alcohol in the other hand

In this blog, we’ll learn how Prozac interacts with alcohol and worsens depression. Let’s look at the science and explore alcohol-free activities that can help us cope with depression.

What Is an SSRI?

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of medication commonly used to treat depression and anxiety disorders. Common SSRI medications include Lexapro, Prozac, Zoloft, or Paxil. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of SSRIs to treat the following conditions:

  • Major depressive disorder (clinical depression)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

SSRIs work by boosting the effectiveness of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a critical role in regulating our mood, emotions, appetite, memory, sleep, and social behavior. Serotonin is often referred to as the “happy” chemical. That happiness we feel from spending time with a friend or walking in nature is the result of an increase in serotonin in the brain. 

After being produced, serotonin latches onto nearby neurons to trigger signals to different parts of our brain. Our body often produces more serotonin than we actually need, and our brain remedies this surplus through a natural process called reuptake, in which it reabsorbs and recycles the extra serotonin. SSRIs inhibit the reuptake of serotonin, leaving more hanging around to latch onto brain cells and boosting signal triggering.

People with depression and anxiety disorders often have a reduction in serotonin production. By inhibiting the reuptake process, SSRIs help give that smaller amount a chance to bind to nearby cells before reuptake can happen.

What Is Prozac?

Prozac is an SSRI prescribed to treat depression, OCD, and panic disorders. It helps people with mood disorders, but as with all medications, there are trade-offs. Some common side effects associated with Prozac include the following: 

  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Unusual dreams
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, heartburn, or diarrhea 
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight gain or loss 
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Headaches
  • Cognitive issues such as confusion, difficulty concentrating, or memory problems

Not everyone will experience these side effects, although most of us will experience at least one. If they are too unpleasant, our doctor may recommend discontinuing the medication, after which the side effects should clear up.

Minor side effects are common with Prozac, however, there are also some serious potential side effects that require immediate medical attention.


  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or fainting 
  • Seizures
  • Fever
  • Allergic reaction 
  • Fast, slow, or irregular heart rate
  • Serotonin syndrome

Speak with your doctor or pharmacist if you are concerned about the side effects associated with your Prozac prescription — and always be honest about what substances you are taking.

The Link Between Alcohol and Depression 

Coping with alcohol may seem like a good solution because of the temporary relief it provides. However, drinking alcohol will actually make our depression worse! Here are some reasons why: 

  • Stronger emotions. Alcohol magnifies our emotions. If we’re already feeling anxious, irritated, or depressed, these feelings will likely intensify after drinking.
  • Disrupted sleep. Alcohol disrupts normal sleep patterns and leaves us feeling exhausted the next day. Sleep deprivation can make depression symptoms worse.

  • Dopamine roller coaster. Alcohol releases a flood of dopamine in our brain. Dopamine is the “feel-good” chemical associated with pleasure and reward. After drinking, we may find that other rewarding activities don’t feel quite as good as alcohol does, so we turn back to alcohol for the dopamine rush. We may even start losing interest in other areas of our life, a hallmark of depression.

  • Mood swings. With disruptions in serotonin and dopamine, our mood can fluctuate drastically from the neurochemical chaos caused by alcohol.
  • Stimulation fluctuation. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it slows down our nervous system. It does this by enhancing the effectiveness of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that calms and relaxes us. Meanwhile, it dampens the effectiveness of glutamate, a stimulating neurotransmitter. After we sober up, these chemicals rebound, leaving us overstimulated and agitated.

When we drink regularly, our brain compensates for the increased dopamine, GABA, and serotonin. Our brain adapts to this new chemical landscape altering the receptors available to these neurotransmitters, making it harder for us to have those positive feelings. These changes in our brain make us more susceptible to depression (luckily, this effect is reversible!).

All of this neurochemical chaos is more dramatic when we introduce other drugs, including SSRIs.

Dangers of Drinking Alcohol While on Prozac 

When Alcohol and Prozac Meet 

As we’ve learned, alcohol and SSRIs both influence the function of serotonin by making it more effective. Increased serotonin levels in turn can increase levels of dopamine and GABA. When we introduce both substances in the brain, they amplify one another’s side effects, including the following:

  • Confusion
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep disruption 
  • Digestive issues
  • Slowed motor skills or cognitive abilities

While some alcohol-Prozac interactions are merely unpleasant, some can actually be dangerous.

Dangers of Drinking Alcohol While on Prozac 

The combination of alcohol and Prozac may not sound too threatening, but mixing the two can be extremely dangerous at heavy levels of use. As we previously learned, alcohol can enhance the side effects of Prozac. Let’s discover some of the dangers related to using an SSRI and alcohol at the same time. 

  • Increased depression and anxiety. When we take our first few sips of alcohol, we may notice that our symptoms of depression and anxiety decrease. However, this “benefit” is short lived. After only a few hours, they start to come back, and the next day they’re worse than they were before. Drinking alcohol counteracts the benefits of Prozac in the long term and worsens our condition. 

  • Worsened side effects. One of the most concerning potential side effects of Prozac is an increase in suicidal thoughts. Drinking alcohol while on Prozac can further increase our chances of developing such thoughts and feelings. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, call your local mental health crisis hotline (988 in the U.S.) or seek immediate medical attention!

  • Decreased cognition and alertness. The sedative effects of alcohol and Prozac become extreme when taken together. The combination of these substances can impact our decision making, judgment, motor coordination, reaction time, attention, and focus.
  • Extreme drowsiness or sedation. The sedative effects of Prozac and alcohol combined can make us feel extremely tired. Sudden drowsiness can leave us in vulnerable situations and lead to poor decisions. 
  • Increased risk for liver failure. Alcohol and Prozac are both metabolized in the liver. Having them in our system at the same time can strain the liver and increase our chances of liver-related complications.  
  • Risk of serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome is a life-threatening condition that occurs when there is a dangerous abundance of serotonin in the brain. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include agitation, rapid heartbeat, increased body temperature, muscle rigidity, restlessness, seizures, kidney failure, or trouble breathing. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms!

Drinking alcohol while taking Prozac poses a serious risk to our overall health. Since most of these dangers aren’t necessarily life-threatening, is it safe to drink alcohol while taking Prozac?

Should I Drink on Prozac? 

While there’s no warning label on Prozac that says drinking alcohol is an immediate danger to our life, it’s not recommended to drink alcohol while on Prozac. Having a couple drinks while taking Prozac may not be life-threatening, but we might feel drunker faster or develop more intense feelings of depression or anxiety.

Ultimately, we are taking Prozac to improve our depression and anxiety. Alcohol is scientifically proven to increase depression and anxiety. If we want our symptoms to improve, it’s best to take a break from alcohol.

If we do want to drink, there are a few ways to mitigate risks and limit alcohol’s negative effects. 

  • Set limits. Limit yourself to one drink in a single drinking session and build “dry days” into your week so you’re not drinking every day.

  • Stay on a regimen. Do not stop taking Prozac if you are planning to drink! Skipping doses makes the medication ineffective and can cause further neurochemical chaos. Consult a medical professional before going off Prozac, or you could experience withdrawal symptoms. 

  • Stay self-aware. Monitor your symptoms for heightened side effects or signs of serotonin syndrome. Listen to your body and seek medical care if your side effects become severe enough to disturb you.

  • Slow down. Again, listen to your body! Prozac may make you feel drunk quicker, so go slow and consider alternating between booze and an alcohol-free drink such as water, soda, or a mocktail. 

  • Drink mindfully. Choose a drink you know you’ll enjoy so you can get the most out of each sip. 

Following these tips will allow us to enjoy an occasional drink without counteracting the Prozac too much. However, for Prozac to be fully effective, it’s best to stop drinking altogether. Let’s talk about some other ways to unwind or have fun without alcohol! 


Alternatives To Drinking While on Prozac 

As we learned, it is best not to drink alcohol while on Prozac. The good news is, there are still plenty of ways to be social and have fun without alcohol!

  • Try non-alcoholic alternatives. Mocktails are a great way to still enjoy a night in with friends or enjoy a drink at the bar without having to worry. 

  • Exercise or meditation. These activities can raise dopamine and serotonin levels without alcohol. Plus, meditation has been shown to provide some of the same benefits as deep sleep (particularly for older adults!) and exercise increases the amount of deep sleep we get each night. Better sleep means more energy for enjoying life!
 
  • Socialize without alcohol. Go on a hike or walk with friends, plan to meet at a coffee shop instead of a bar, or enjoy a movie. Consider making new, alcohol-free traditions for enjoying holidays, sports events, and celebrations.

  • Take up new hobbies. Start a new hobby such as painting, knitting, or fishing that can fill our days with activities that don’t require alcohol. Plus, learning new skills gives us a steady flow of dopamine! 

Key Takeaways

SSRIs such as Prozac are used to treat depression and anxiety disorders by blocking the reuptake of serotonin. Drinking alcohol with depression or anxiety can worsen symptoms and decrease the effectiveness of Prozac. For these reasons, it’s best to avoid drinking while taking Prozac. Thankfully, there are many ways to thrive without alcohol! 

Summary FAQs 

1. Is Prozac an SSRI? 

Yes, Prozac (a.k.a. fluoxetine) is an SSRI. It’s used to treat depression and anxiety. 


2. Is it bad to drink alcohol when depressed?

Yes! Drinking alcohol when depressed can make your symptoms of depression worse. 

3. What happens if you drink alcohol on Prozac?

Drinking alcohol while on Prozac can lead to drowsiness, poor decision making, decreased motor coordination, and enhanced side effects.  

4. Can I drink a little alcohol while on Prozac?

It is not recommended to drink while on Prozac, but if you stick to fewer than two drinks, avoid binge drinking, and give yourself alcohol-free recovery days, an occasional drink is unlikely to be life-threatening. 

5. Can I skip my antidepressant to drink?

Do not skip your antidepressant medication without consulting your doctor! Abruptly stopping your antidepressant can lead to withdrawal or harmful effects.

Are You Ready To Improve Your Mental Health by Cutting Back on Alcohol? Reframe Can Help! 

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

Call to action to download reframe app for ios usersCall to action to download reframe app for android users
Reframe has helped over 2 millions people to build healthier drinking habits globally
Take The Quiz
Our Editorial Standards
At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
Learn more
Updated Regularly
Our articles undergo frequent updates to present the newest scientific research and changes in expert consensus in an easily understandable and implementable manner.

Table of Contents
Call to action for signing up reframe app
Relevant Articles
No items found.
Ready to meet the BEST version of yourself?
Start Your Custom Plan
Call to action to download reframe app for ios usersCall to action to download reframe app for android users
review
31,364
5 Star Reviews
mobile
3,250,000+
Downloads (as of 2023)
a bottle and a glass
500,000,000+
Drinks Eliminated

Scan the QR code to get started!

Reframe supports you in reducing alcohol consumption and enhancing your well-being.

Ready To Meet the Best Version of Yourself?
3,250,000+ Downloads (as of 2023)
31,364 Reviews
500,000,000+ Drinks eliminated
Try Reframe for 7 Days Free! Scan to download the App