Lexapro and Alcohol

Estimated reading time: 24 minute(s)

Depression remains one of the most common psychiatric illnesses of all time. Given its rising prevalence, experts have been constantly investigating different medications to keep depressive symptoms under control. Lexapro, or escitalopram, is one of these antidepressant medications known to help millions of people keep their depression under control. [1] Despite being one of the safest medications for depression, users must practice certain precautions to minimize its side effects. For instance, mixing Lexapro and alcohol is not recommended as it may lead to various adversities.

Can You Drink on Lexapro?

Experts generally warn people not to drink while taking Lexapro as the combination can increase the risk and severity of specific side effects, such as dizziness and drowsiness. This intensification is usually due to the soothing effect of both substances on a user’s body. Following are some other potential risks of combining the two:

Heightened risk of injury

Since Lexapro and alcohol have sedative properties, using them together can cause severe impairment of coordination and judgment. Consequently, a user may be at an increased risk of engaging in activities that cause them injury without realizing it.

Interactions with other medications

Alcohol interacts with all significant medications a person may take simultaneously, leading to various side effects. Hence, a person must always talk to a doctor before drinking if they have been started on Lexapro.

Hangovers and dehydration

Lexapro and alcohol have dehydrating properties, which may lead to symptoms similar to a hangover. Some of these alcohol and Lexapro hangover symptoms include headaches, nausea, and fatigue, which may occur even after having a small amount of alcohol.

Possible Lexapro and Alcohol Interactions

Not everyone who uses Lexapro will experience side effects while drinking alcohol simultaneously. However, it is imperative to remember that both are potent substances that can profoundly affect each other’s functioning and overall mechanisms. Combining them may force a person to face the following issues:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Liver issues
  • Drowsiness
  • Worsening depression
  • Alcoholism

Some experts also believe alcohol can increase the risk of experiencing side effects secondary to Lexapro. These side effects are the ones that Lexapro typically causes, and their severity may increase when you mix it with alcohol. Some examples of the adverse effects include the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness
  • Diarrhea

Though uncommon, using Lexapro can also enhance the risk of suicide in some people. This risk is particularly heightened in teenagers and young adults and is likely to peak during the first few months of receiving treatment, as this is when the doctor is constantly changing the drug dose until the maximum benefits have been achieved. Since alcohol worsens depression, it may also increase the overall suicide risk.

The dangers associated with Lexapro and alcohol can be more significant depending on how much of each substance you take. For instance, if you are on a maximum dosage of Lexapro for depression, i.e., 20 mg, the risk of Lexapro interactions with alcohol is higher.

Alcohol and Lexapro: How the Combination Affects Mental Health

Alcohol consumption can significantly worsen the symptoms of anxiety and depression. While the substance causes temporary relaxation and improves mood, it may also have serious side effects on mental health, especially for a person with pre-existing psychiatric issues. Alcohol can also mess up the natural chemical balance in the brain while interfering with the central nervous system. Additionally, consuming too much alcohol can:

  • Make a person aggressive or violent
  • Increase their risk of getting into injuries and accidents
  • Cause slurring of speech
  • Impair reaction time and coordination
  • Trigger respiratory difficulties
  • Affect concentration and memory issues

Considering the long-term effects, alcohol can also trigger anxiety and depression while increasing the risk of suicide and self-harm. Moreover, as a person continues to become dependent on alcohol, their excessive use may cause many social issues, such as homelessness, divorce, and unemployment.

Long-term use of alcohol can also lead to the following physical health issues:

  • Different types of cancer
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis

When combined with Lexapro, especially in higher doses, the problems mentioned above may magnify by several folds, making life difficult.

Lexapro Side Effects With Alcohol: The Risk of Alcohol Use Disorder

Experts generally advise cutting back or avoiding alcohol for as long as they are on an antidepressant medication, such as Lexapro. The primary reason behind this advice is the host of side effects the combination can bring. Another reason both substances should not be used is the risk of developing an underlying addiction. Both alcohol and antidepressant medications can sedate the mind and produce a high feeling. While this excessive sedation is generally unsafe and puts a person at various risks, some people may start enjoying it. Others may deliberately mix Lexapro and alcohol to achieve these effects to suppress their depressive thoughts more. Moreover, research also states that SSIs like Lexapro may cause people to drink more, increasing the risk of addiction. [2]

Regardless of why a person chooses to mix Lexapro and alcohol, the combination can lead to addiction. Following are some symptoms that you can assess in yourself or a loved one suspected to have developed a habit.

  • Taking a substance more or for longer than originally prescribed
  • Spending a lot of time acquiring, using, or recovering from the effects of a substance consumption
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down or stop its use
  • Feeling strong cravings for a substance
  • Continuing to abuse a substance despite facing social problems caused by the excessive use
  • Failing to fulfill responsibilities at school, work, or home due to excessive use
  • Reducing or completely stopping important work, social, or recreational activities because of substance use
  • Continuing to use a substance even though it is bringing adverse effects on health
  • Continuing to use substances in physically dangerous situations
  • Having withdrawal symptoms once you stop using it
  • Developing a tolerance to the underlying substance

According to the professional criterion, noticing two to three symptoms mentioned above may indicate mild depression, whereas four to five signs count as moderate depression. People with six or more symptoms mentioned above may suffer from severe forms of depression. Remember that only a mental health expert or psychiatrist can give you a formal diagnosis of depression.


Can I have an occasional drink while in Lexapro?

Alcohol in any amount can negatively impact the ongoing depression treatment for a person. For those already on an SSRI antidepressant medication like Lexapro, taking a small amount of alcohol occasionally may be a safe idea. However, they must always discuss this with a doctor to minimize the possible risks. Doctors generally recommend drinking one unit for women and two units for men per day with no exceeding the limit for a safer experience. Remember that even in moderation, the risks associated with alcohol may be pretty unpredictable.

Can using Lexapro and alcohol together increase the risk of an overdose?

According to experts, taking both substances together can put a person at risk of an overdose. Such an overdose often brings fatal consequences for users. Following are some symptoms of a Lexapro overdose, with or without the use of alcohol:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Dizziness
  • Coma
  • Insomnia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Drowsiness

Can I experience serotonin syndrome if I take too much Lexapro with alcohol?

Lexapro and alcohol may put a person at risk of experiencing serotonin syndrome, especially when both substances are taken in high doses. The following are some symptoms of serotonin syndrome:

  • Seizures
  • Agitation
  • Rapid changes in heartbeat or blood pressure
  • Tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Muscle rigidity

If you suspect that you or someone around you is developing serotonin syndrome, seek emergency help, as the condition can quickly progress to become life-threatening.

How long after stopping Lexapro can I start drinking

Once you have stopped using Lexapro, you may ideally start drinking once the medication has been out of your system and is no longer affecting your behavior and thoughts. Lexapro generally has a half-life of 27 to 33 hours, which means that a regular dose of this medication takes up to six days or a little more to leave the body entirely. Remember that if you wish to drink, do not stop using Lexapro alone. The idea must always be discussed with a doctor to avoid side effects.


[1] Landy K, Rosani A, Estevez R. Escitalopram. InStatPearls [Internet] 2022 Oct 24. StatPearls Publishing.

[2] Gimeno C, Dorado ML, Roncero C, Szerman N, Vega P, Balanzá-Martínez V, Alvarez FJ. Treatment of comorbid alcohol dependence and anxiety disorder: review of the scientific evidence and recommendations for treatment. Frontiers in psychiatry. 2017 Sep 22;8:173.

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