Prozac and Alcohol: Can you drink alcohol while taking Prozac?
Can you drink on Prozac? No, you shouldn’t. These two drugs don’t mix well and should never be taken together. This means no alcohol within a week of the last dose of Prozac and only if your doctor has cleared you to stop this medication. Prozac can produce unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and should never be stopped suddenly, especially without medical supervision.
Prozac, generic name fluoxetine (pronounced flu-OX-eh-teen) has a very long half-life. A drug’s half-life refers to how long it takes the body to break down or metabolize half of an ingested dose.
Most drugs have a half-life measured in hours. Prozac’s half-life is one to four days. This is why medical experts recommend waiting a week or more for Prozac to completely leave the system. The longer you’ve been taking it, the longer it may take for your body to metabolize the fluoxetine left in your body.
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What is Prozac?
Released in the mid-1980’s by big pharma company Eli Lilly, Prozac was hailed as a miracle cure for depression. It would turn out that while effective for many people, Prozac had a number of serious side effects. However, it’s true that Prozac works to relieve depression much more directly than older antidepressant drugs like TCAs and MAOIs did and with relatively fewer serious side effects, too.
Prozac belongs to a class of drugs known as SSRIs. This stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. To understand how SSRIs work to help people with depression, you must first understand what serotonin is and how this chemical messenger or neurotransmitter works in the brain.
Serotonin is sometimes called the happy chemical. This critical neurotransmitter is essential to feelings of happiness and well-being. Low brain levels of serotonin have long been linked to depression. It’s interesting to note that most of the body’s supply of serotonin is manufactured in the gut, not in the brain.
How Neurotransmitters Work
There are a number of neurotransmitters besides serotonin, including dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine is involved with feelings of pleasure and reward and not surprisingly thought to be involved in the drug addiction process.
All brain cells communicate with each other through various neurotransmitters. These brain chemicals begin their journey from one brain cell or neuron to the next through spaces in between the neurons called synapses. One neuron releases the neurotransmitter through the synapse and then almost immediately takes it back in a process called reuptake.
This allows just enough of the neurotransmitter to flow through the neurons without flooding them. However, if there is a shortage of a certain neurotransmitter like serotonin, depression may result.
Prozac works to relieve depression by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin in the synapses of the brain. This means that it stops or inhibits the neuron from the reuptake process, making more serotonin available to the brain as a whole.
Prozac works very well for many people who try it, providing they take it as directed, don’t miss any doses and understand that it may take up to several weeks to see full results. Prozac isn’t like aspirin; you don’t get relief in an hour. It takes time for the drug to exert its full effect and restore normal serotonin levels in the brain.
Before the advent of Prozac and other SSRIs, drugs for the treatment of depression were mostly limited to tricyclic antidepressants or TCAs and monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAOIs. These drugs carry significant side effects like profound drowsiness for TCAs and dangerous food interactions for MAOIs.
Although it’s possible for Prozac to interact in an adverse way with tyramines, which are protein building blocks found in chicken liver, beef, soybeans and aged cheeses, this risk is lower than with MAOIs.
Prozac also works more directly on the brain’s serotonin system and tends to be more effective.
Prozac Side Effects
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Sexual dysfunction
- Weight gain
- Serotonin syndrome
- Suicidal thinking
Problems with the gastrointestinal system occur mainly because there are many serotonin receptors located there.
Although fluoxetine is intended to relieve depression, it may have the opposite effect and cause an increase in suicidal thoughts in some people.
Serotonin syndrome is a dangerous condition that can occur in people taking more than one drug that affects serotonin levels. Symptoms include agitation, sweating, dilated pupils, diarrhea and tremors and will likely require emergency medical treatment.
Prozac and Alcohol
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts
It’s not advisable to drink alcohol while taking Prozac. It’s also a bad idea to stop the Prozac so you can drink. Remember, fluoxetine has a very long half-life. It will take many days for the blood levels of this drug to drop significantly. Not only do you risk your depressions symptoms returning, suddenly stopping fluoxetine may result in withdrawal symptoms:
Your doctor can provide you with a tapering schedule to avoid these withdrawal symptoms when it’s time to stop taking Prozac.
For someone dependent on alcohol, suddenly stopping this substance can cause life-threatening symptoms like grand mal seizures and delirium tremens. Never try to withdraw from alcohol without medical supervision.
The Relationship Between Depression and Drinking
A very high percentage of substance abusers have an undiagnosed mental condition. These people typically don’t know this and drink or use other drugs in an attempt at self-medication and to feel better.
Depressed people may not realize they’re clinically depressed and will drink to blunt negative feelings.
Of course, this never works. Alcohol and other drugs only add the risk of addiction and overdose to the already toxic situation of a mental disorder like depression or anxiety. Although using alcohol, opioids, stimulants or what have you may temporarily appear to blunt the disorder’s symptoms, in the long run they will only get worse.
This kind of self-medication never works and will eventually lead to some type of crisis. Substance abuse treatment centers are aware of this problem and call it dual diagnosis. A quality treatment center will screen clients for a dual diagnosis condition so that the substance abuse and the mental disorder can be treated properly at the same time.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
In addition to depression and anxiety, dual diagnosis treatment may include other mental conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, both of which can involve actual breaks from reality. In the manic phase of their disease, those with bipolar disorder may not be able to contact with reality very well.
Those with schizophrenia may hear and see things that are not there. They may display signs of unwarranted paranoia or think that beings or aliens are living within their minds and telling them what to do. Schizophrenia is a terrifying condition, and we know this from people with the disease who can afterwards describe their psychotic break.
Schizophrenics are particularly subject to alcoholism and drug abuse, but dual diagnosis treatment may be able to help. Effective medications and specific types of therapy are available for those with this mental disorder.
Certain drugs can also cause a psychotic episode, especially stimulants like the amphetamines and hallucinogens like LSD. Although most people return to reality after LSD wears off, the combination of repeated amphetamine use and lack of sleep can cause profound hallucinations to these users.
They may think their house is being watched by law enforcement or see 100 people in purple t-shirts standing outside. They may call the police on themselves to report that little people are living in their basement and sleeping in their beds or eating all their food.
These things may sound funny, but they really aren’t. There is nothing funny about losing control of your mind.
Stimulant-induced paranoia and hallucinations typically stop when the drug use does and normal sleep patterns resume. However, a single dose of amphetamines can overload the heart and kill.
Long Island Interventions
It can be very difficult to convince someone to enter substance abuse and dual diagnosis treatment. Threats rarely work, may destroy your relationship with this person forever and are not recommended. You may have failed to talk someone into entering detox and rehab because you’re too close to the situation. This is not your fault.
This is where intervention professionals can work their magic. While they cannot guarantee success in every situation, they have a much better chance at getting a loved one into treatment than you do. They’re trained in the best methods, and they’re not emotionally involved, so they can remain calm and objective in ways that you cannot.
A professional intervention is always worth a try, and Long Island Interventions is here to serve you.
Can Prozac and Alcohol kill you?