Cymbalta and Alcohol: Are They Safe Together?

Medically reviewed by Aleah Rodriguez, PharmD on October 13, 2016Written by James Roland and Tim Jewell

About Cymbalta

Cymbalta is a brand name for the drug duloxetine, a selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SSNRI). SSNRIs help boost the action of brain messenger chemicals called serotonin and norepinephrine. Cymbalta is used to treat many conditions, including:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • diabetic peripheral neuropathy
  • fibromyalgia
  • chronic musculoskeletal pain

Cymbalta is a potent medication. It can have serious effects on your body, especially when mixed with other substances such as alcohol. On their own, alcohol and Cymbalta can each cause liver damage and depressive symptoms. Combining them can make these effects worse.

Liver damage

Your liver’s job is to break down the substances that you consume and to help your body remove the leftover waste and toxins.

Alcohol can be a threat to your liver, especially if you drink too much. If you drink too much alcohol over a long period of time, your liver can become damaged. This is because alcohol produces a lot of toxins when it breaks down. Your liver can become overworked from having to remove these toxins all the time.

Cymbalta can also potentially cause liver damage. Drinking while you take Cymbalta could increase this risk. This is especially true if you drink heavily. Heavy drinking is usually defined as three or more alcoholic drinks per day.

Talk to your doctor about whether you can have an occasional drink while you’re on Cymbalta. If your doctor allows it, you should discuss how much is a safe amount of alcohol while you take this drug.

Increased depression

One of the conditions that Cymbalta treats is depression and the symptoms that go along with it. However, this drug can sometimes also cause depression and anxiety symptoms. These symptoms can include:

  • panic attacks
  • thoughts of suicide
  • irritability
  • sleep problems
  • unexplained changes in mood

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it can make your depressive symptoms worse. It can also make your anxiety worse. Alcohol can also affect the quality of your sleep, which can contribute to worsening depression.

Further, long-term heavy alcohol use while taking an antidepressant such as Cymbalta can make your antidepressant less effective. As a result, your treatment may take longer or be compromised.

Talk to your doctor

Talk openly with your doctor about Cymbalta and alcohol. Ask your doctor about whether it’s okay for you to drink alcohol and take Cymbalta. Your doctor may need to assess the answers to one or more of the follow questions before giving you advice:

  • Do you or family members have a history of liver disease?
  • Will you be taking Cymbalta for depression?
  • Do you or your family members have a history of alcohol misuse or addiction?

Listen closely to your doctor’s recommendation. Following your doctor’s instructions is important to your success with Cymbalta treatment.

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