Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Zoloft?

Zoloft, also known as sertraline, is a prescription antidepressant used to treat mental health disorders such as major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and social anxiety disorder. It is natural to ask whether this common antidepressant can be mixed with alcohol. It turns out that Zoloft can negatively interact with alcohol, and can cause severe side effects. It is recommended to avoid alcohol consumption while on Zoloft.
Frederika Malichová

Frederika Malichová

Neuroscientist at the University Of Cambridge.

A blue image with text saying "Zoloft and Alcohol"

What Is Zoloft?

Zoloft, also known as sertraline, is an antidepressant medication. It belongs to a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and is available as an oral tablet and an oral liquid solution. Zoloft works by influencing serotonin levels in the brain, a neurotransmitter responsible for maintaining mental balance. It does this by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, thus allowing more of it to be available.

This prescription drug is usually used for a variety of mental health conditions in adults, including depressive disorders such as major depressive disorder, social anxiety disorder, and other anxiety disorders. In addition to treating mental health conditions in adults, it is approved for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder in children aged 6 and above [1, 2, 3].

While Zoloft is not primarily sedative, it aims to improve mood, appetite, energy levels, and sleep quality, while also reducing anxiety, fear, and compulsive behaviors [1]. However, Zoloft does have potential side effects. Common side effects of Zoloft are headache, nausea, fatigue and constipation. More severe side effects include suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Another possible side effect also includes altered sexual activity [4, 5].

Can I Drink Alcohol While Taking Zoloft?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises strongly against mixing Zoloft and alcohol [6]. Both Zoloft and alcohol affect your brain function and the combination of the two can lead to unwanted side effects. Even a small amount of alcohol, such as a single drink can cause issues.

From a biological perspective, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. When you mix alcohol and Zoloft, there is a potential risk of a negative interaction that can worsen your depression. Other possible side effects of this potentially dangerous mix include [6]:

  • dizziness
  • suicidal thoughts
  • anxiety
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • diarrhoea
  • drowsiness

Therefore it is best to avoid drinking alcohol while on Zoloft. Should you have an alcohol addiction or a history of excessive alcohol use, it is a good idea to inform your clinician beforehand.

What Will Happen If I Take Alcohol While Taking Zoloft?

Combining alcohol with Zoloft increases the risk of negative interactions. This can manifest as an increase in drowsiness or worsening of depressive symptoms.

In case you have consumed alcohol while taking Zoloft, monitor your symptoms closely. Should you observe any side effects, contact your healthcare provider as you may require immediate medical attention.

Interactions Of Zoloft With Other Substances

Other substances such as St. John’s Wort (a plant used in health supplements for treating depression), grapefruit and benzodiazepines may also interact with Zoloft.

For instance, the combination of Zoloft and the herb St John’s Wort increases the risk of serotonin syndrome. The serotonin syndrome occurs when there's an overabundance of serotonin activity in the body, leading to symptoms such as fast heart rate, muscle stiffness, vomiting, increased muscle tension, and restlessness.

While alcohol is known to negatively interact with Zoloft, increasing the risk of side effects, it is interesting to note that there is currently no evidence to suggest an interaction between Zoloft and cannabis or related products. [6, 7]

Is Zoloft Addictive?

Zoloft, a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, is not considered to be addictive. In fact, most antidepressants are not considered to be addictive. That being said, people can become dependent on antidepressants, and may experience antidepressant withdrawal symptoms. However, this is not the same as being addicted. [8]

Frederika Malichová

Frederika Malichová

Frederika is a postgraduate researcher at the University of Cambridge, where she investigates new biomarkers for Frontotemporal Dementia and other tauopathies. Her research has been published at prestigious conferences such as the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2023. She obtained her BSc in Biomedical Sciences from UCL, where she worked closely with the UK Dementia Research Institute.