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Alcohol and Mental Health

Should I Drink Alcohol While Taking Antipsychotics?

October 15, 2023
18 min read
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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.
October 15, 2023
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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.
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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.
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18 min read
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Reframe Content Team
October 15, 2023
18 min read

Madison is looking forward to a Friday night out with her friends: letting her hair down, enjoying a glass of wine or two, and catching up on the latest gossip. But there’s a twist. Madison has recently been prescribed antipsychotic medication to manage her bipolar disorder. She wonders, “Is it safe for me to have that glass of wine?” And then she has a troubling question: “Can you OD on antipsychotics if you have a drink?”

This dilemma related to alcohol and antipsychotics isn't unique to Madison. Many people prescribed atypical antipsychotic medications face this very question. Let's shed some light on the world of atypical antipsychotics, their side effects, and the impact of mixing alcohol with these medications.

Antipsychotic Drug Treatment Facts

a person holding an alcohol glass in one hand and medicine in another hand

We perceive, react, and engage with the world, in all the typical ways, thanks to our neurotransmitters and neural pathways. However, sometimes our chemical balance goes awry, leading to severe mental health conditions. Atypical antipsychotic medications alleviate many of the most troubling symptoms of these disorders. Their regular use plays a crucial role in restoring balance and allowing people to lead more normal lives.

Atypical antipsychotic drug treatments are most commonly used for the following three conditions.


Despite what you may have seen in the media, schizophrenia isn't just about hearing voices or having hallucinations. It's a profound disorder that can profoundly disrupt a person’s cognition, emotion, and behavior. People with schizophrenia may struggle to distinguish between reality and imagination, which makes daily functioning, holding a job, and maintaining relationships challenging. They might experience delusions, hallucinations, thought disorders, and movement disorders. 

With regular use, atypical antipsychotics help manage these symptoms, enabling many people with schizophrenia to engage in society with more ease.

Bipolar Disorder

Imagine riding an emotional roller-coaster every day, with peaks of extreme euphoria and troughs of debilitating depression. That's the reality for many people with bipolar disorder. This condition isn't just about mood swings; it involves episodes of mania, in which someone might feel overly elated, irritable, and energized, contrasting with periods of depression characterized by hopelessness and despair. 

Without intervention, these episodes can disrupt daily life and relationships, and they can even lead to self-harm. Atypical antipsychotic medications, often in combination with other treatments, help stabilize these mood fluctuations, offering a chance at a higher quality of life.


Beyond just feeling “blue” or “down,” clinical depression is a pervasive and debilitating condition. People with depression often experience a profound sense of hopelessness, a lack of interest in daily activities, fatigue, changes in appetite, and even suicidal thoughts. 

While antidepressants are the primary medication for depression, atypical antipsychotics can be prescribed when standard treatments are ineffective or when there are mixed symptoms of psychosis. These medications can alleviate some of the more severe manifestations of the disorder, giving people the strength to engage with therapy and other interventions.

Antipsychotic Medications: The Side Effects

Atypical antipsychotic medications are as varied as the conditions they treat. Each has its unique chemical composition — which means each has a distinct set of side effects. Let's break them down.

1. Aripiprazole (Abilify)

Aripiprazole stands out for its unique mechanism of action, differentiating it from other atypical antipsychotics. It helps modulate dopamine and serotonin levels, two vital neurotransmitters in the brain. While it offers therapeutic benefits, potential side effects like dizziness and drowsiness can impair daily tasks. The weight gain associated with aripiprazole is also noteworthy, as it can lead to long-term health challenges, including an increased risk of diabetes.

2. Latuda

Latuda, another atypical antipsychotic, offers hope, especially for those with bipolar depression. However, its side effects, such as restlessness and potential movement disorders (like tardive dyskinesia), require regular monitoring. These movement disorders can sometimes be irreversible; prompt medical attention should be sought if symptoms arise.

3. Olanzapine (Zyprexa)

Olanzapine is effective, especially for conditions like schizophrenia — yet its side effects can be challenging. Weight gain and increased appetite sound fairly benign, but they can lead to significant health issues, including elevated blood sugar levels, tipping some individuals into the diabetes spectrum.

4. Quetiapine (Seroquel)

Quetiapine is known for its sedative properties, making drowsiness a common side effect. Moreover, because it can disturb cholesterol levels, routine blood monitoring is essential. This ensures that any potential cardiovascular risks are identified and addressed.

5. Risperidone (Risperdal)

Risperidone is another commonly-prescribed antipsychotic. While effective, side effects like increased saliva production can be uncomfortable. More seriously, potential tremors and movement-related symptoms underscore the importance of being vigilant about any new or worsening symptoms.

While antipsychotics offer significant therapeutic benefits, understanding their side effects is crucial. This knowledge allows those using them to make informed choices and seek timely medical attention when needed.

Alcohol and Antipsychotics: A Closer Look

Alcohol, a central nervous system depressant, has long been known for its ability to alter perception, mood, and various cognitive functions. When combined with atypical antipsychotic medications, which also influence the brain's chemical balance, the implications can be multifaceted and concerning.

For starters, both alcohol and atypical antipsychotics can independently cause dizziness and drowsiness. When consumed together, these effects can multiply. This heightened drowsiness can severely impact a person’s alertness and cognitive functioning. Rudimentary tasks (such as driving, operating machinery, or even walking down a staircase) can become hazardous. We mustn’t overlook the risk of accidents or injuries in such scenarios.

Moreover, alcohol clouds judgment and decision-making abilities. When this is paired with the potential cognitive effects of atypical antipsychotics, the result can significantly impair a person’s ability to make safe choices. This might manifest as risk-taking behaviors, poor judgment calls, or an inability to recognize potentially dangerous situations.

Additionally, alcohol can interfere with the metabolism and efficacy of certain medications, including atypical antipsychotics. This interference of alcohol and antipsychotics can lead to unpredictably increased blood levels of the drug, intensifying both its therapeutic effects and side effects. On the other hand, alcohol might also reduce medications’ effectiveness, diminishing therapeutic benefits and potentially leading to a resurgence of psychiatric symptoms.

Another noteworthy concern is the potential for alcohol to magnify some of the emotional side effects of atypical antipsychotics. For instance, both substances can independently contribute to depressive feelings or thoughts. When combined, the risk for profound depression or even suicidal ideation may increase.

Combining alcohol and atypical antipsychotics can lead to a myriad of undesirable effects and implications. While either on its own can pose challenges, together, they can create complications ranging from inconvenient to downright life-threatening. Being informed about these risks and taking preventive measures is crucial for anyone on atypical antipsychotic medications.

Alcohol and Antipsychotics: Who Faces Greater Risks When Mixing?

Alcohol and atypical antipsychotics are a dangerous combo for everyone. However, some groups may face heightened challenges when mixing alcohol and atypical antipsychotics.


People aged 65 and older often experience heightened sensitivity to alcohol’s effects. As we age, our body undergoes transformations, leading to potentially elevated blood alcohol concentrations, even if our consumption matches that of our younger selves. Consequently, there's a larger amount of alcohol circulating in our system, posing increased risks when interacting with medications, such as atypical antipsychotics.

Individuals Assigned Female at Birth

Those assigned female at birth often face an increased susceptibility to alcohol-related challenges. Generally, they possess lower amounts of body water than those assigned male at birth. This distinction means that, similar to seniors, individuals assigned female at birth can exhibit elevated blood alcohol concentrations after consuming alcohol, placing them at an enhanced risk for experiencing alcohol-induced side effects and potential medication interactions.

Comprehensive research is currently limited regarding the associated risks for transgender, intersex, and non-binary individuals. People within these groups are advised to engage in discussions with their healthcare practitioners to understand the potential implications of alcohol on their medications and overall well-being.

Side Effects of Antipsychotic Medications

Alcohol and Antipsychotics: Is an Occasional Drink Safe?

Much of our discussion thus far pertains to regular or consistent alcohol consumption. The occasional indulgence during a holiday or a happy hour might seem relatively harmless.

Yet, the research landscape remains unclear about any definitive safe limit for alcohol intake when on atypical antipsychotic medications. This ambiguity stems from the fact that each of us exhibits varied reactions to alcohol depending on factors like genetic makeup, age, and health history.

For those of us on atypical antipsychotic medications, it's imperative to consult with a medical professional before making any decisions about even sporadic alcohol consumption.

Alcohol and Antipsychotics: Putting Health First

If you’re currently taking atypical antipsychotics, the following tips can help you stay safe and make wise choices for your well-being.

Building Awareness

When it comes to medication management, knowledge truly is power. If you take multiple medications and supplements, start by documenting each one. List the dose you take and the frequency at which you take it. A comprehensive list not only serves as a quick reference but also aids in ensuring no accidental overlaps or missed doses.

Moreover, acquainting yourself with each medication’s side effects helps us distinguish between typical bodily responses and potential medication-induced symptoms. 

Finally, an open dialogue with your healthcare provider is paramount. Directly addressing any uncertainties about alcohol's interaction with your medications equips you with accurate, personalized information. In this era where information is abundant yet sometimes ambiguous, tailored advice from a trusted medical professional is invaluable.

Embracing Mocktails

Mocktails let us enjoy socializing without the risks arising from mixing alcohol and atypical antipsychotics. These non-alcoholic beverages capture the flavors and feels of their alcoholic counterparts without the potential pitfalls. By choosing a mocktail, you’re not only prioritizing your health but also allowing yourself the pleasure of a crafted drink. 

Mocktails’ vibrant flavors and creative combinations offer an enriching taste experience, keeping you from feeling left out in social scenarios. With a plethora of recipes available, from fruity delights to fizzy concoctions, there's a mocktail for every palate. So the next time you're tempted by a drink, remember the colorful, safer, and equally delightful world of mocktails.

Discovering New Social Horizons

Socializing is a vital human need, but it doesn't always have to revolve around traditional settings like bars or parties. Alternative social avenues offer enriching experiences without the pressures of alcohol-infused environments. Consider joining a hobby group, participating in community service, or enrolling in a workshop or class. Not only do these activities foster meaningful connections, but they also promote personal growth. 

Outdoor enthusiasts can find camaraderie in hiking groups or community sports leagues, while those inclined towards the arts might find joy in local theater or craft circles. Digital platforms (like Reframe!) offer a plethora of virtual groups centered around shared interests. Venturing into these new social domains ensures you remain connected, engaged, and enriched, all while prioritizing your well-being. 

Alcohol and Antipsychotics: The Takeaways

Life is full of moments of joy in simple pleasures, like a night out with friends. But when it comes to mixing alcohol with atypical antipsychotic medications, it's essential to proceed with caution. Mixing the two can lead to severe consequences, and it’s not worth putting our health at risk for a momentary indulgence. 

By taking proactive steps and seeking guidance from healthcare professionals, we can make informed decisions, ensuring our safety and well-being.

Summary FAQs

1. Why are antipsychotics prescribed?

Atypical antipsychotics are primarily used to manage severe mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression.

2. What are some common side effects of antipsychotics?

Side effects can range from dizziness, drowsiness, and weight gain to more specific issues like elevated blood sugar levels or movement disorders. 

3. Is it safe to drink alcohol while on antipsychotics?

Combining alcohol with atypical antipsychotics can amplify side effects, particularly drowsiness and dizziness, and can lead to dangerous situations.

4. Are some people more at risk when mixing alcohol and antipsychotics?

Yes, older adults and those assigned female at birth might experience heightened risks due to various physiological reasons.

5. Can I have an occasional drink while on medication?

While the impact of sporadic alcohol intake is unclear, it's always best to consult with a healthcare provider before making any decisions.

6. What is a mocktail, and how can it help?

Mocktails are non-alcoholic beverages that capture the essence of cocktails. They offer a flavorful alternative to alcohol, reducing the risks associated with mixing drinks and medications.

7. How can I socialize without relying on traditional settings like bars?

Exploring alternative social avenues, such as joining hobby groups, participating in community service, or enrolling in workshops, can offer enriching experiences and connections outside traditional settings.

Take Charge of Your Well-Being With Reframe!

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