Lexapro is an antidepressant. It’s the brand-name version of the generic drug escitalopram oxalate. Specifically, Lexapro is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It’s prescribed to help treat:
Like other SSRIs, Lexapro affects your brain by blocking the reuptake of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter known for its effects on mood. SSRI drugs are among the safest classes of antidepressants, so they’re often doctors’ first choice for treating depression.
Still, like all drugs, Lexapro comes with risks. Mixing Lexapro with alcohol could make symptoms of your condition worse. It can also lead to other unpleasant side effects. Find out why combining the drug with alcohol is not a good idea.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, clinical trials have yet to show with certainty that alcohol increases the effects of Lexapro on the brain. This doesn’t mean the risk isn’t there, though. Instead, it means that more research is needed to understand how Lexapro and alcohol interact with each other in your brain.
This also doesn’t mean that it’s safe to take Lexapro and drink alcohol. Any time you drink while taking Lexapro, you put yourself at risk for potentially serious side effects. If you drink alcohol at all, it’s best to drink in moderation during treatment with the drug. If you take Lexapro, talk to your doctor before drinking any alcohol.
Not all people who take Lexapro will have side effects from drinking. But it’s important to understand the way these two strong substances can affect each other. Drinking alcohol while on Lexapro may cause the following:
- decreased efficacy of the medication (it may not work as well to treat your condition)
- increased anxiety
- worse depression
- liver problems
There is also a danger that alcohol may increase the risk for Lexapro-related side effects. These are side effects that the medication causes that may become more severe when you mix the drug with alcohol. Side effects of Lexapro include:
Lexapro can also increase the risk of suicide. This risk is especially high in children, teens, and young adults. It’s also more likely to happen during the first few months of treatment and when your doctor changes your dosage. Because alcohol can make your depression worse, it can also lead to increased suicide risk.
The danger of alcohol may also be greater depending on the dosage you take. If you take the maximum dosage for depression—20 mg of Lexapro—your risk of effects from Lexapro and alcohol may be even higher.
What to do
Lexapro is a long-term drug. Most people should not drink alcohol during treatment with the medication. However, if the drug works to manage your condition well, your doctor may say that it’s safe to have a drink from time to time. Keep in mind that everyone’s situation is different. Your doctor may tell you to avoid drinking altogether while you’re on Lexapro. Always check with your doctor before you have even one drink.
If you have a mental health condition, drinking alcohol is likely not a good idea, regardless of whether or not you take a drug like Lexapro. Alcohol is a depressant. That means that it can make your condition worse. It can increase the following symptoms of anxiety:
- intense worries that get in the way of your daily life
- frequent irritability
- insomnia or restlessness
It can also make depression worse. Symptoms can include:
- frequent sadness
- feelings of worthlessness
- loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- suicidal thoughts
Both Lexapro and alcohol alter the way your brain works. To avoid dangerous side effects such as drowsiness and liver problems, it’s best not to use alcohol while you take Lexapro. Alcohol may also keep Lexapro from working as well as it should.
With or without a drug, alcohol may aggravate your symptoms of anxiety and depression. Each person’s situation is different, though. Talk to your doctor before you have a drink to see what’s safest for you.