Very little research has been done on the risks of combining alcohol and sertraline, but it is generally not advised. This is because both alcohol and sertraline affect the levels of serotonin within the brain, and taking them together could therefore lead to uncontrollable fluctuations, which in turn can cause unexpected emotions. There is also a risk that sertraline could increase the side effects of drinking alcohol, such as slow reflexes and drowsiness.
Sertaline is a medicine used to treat depression, panic disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder. The drug is assumed to work by disrupting the brain’s ability to re-take serotonin. Generally, adults suffering from depression are started on a 50 milligram (mg) dose daily, and it can be increased as needed up to a maximum of 200 mg. This is the same for treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder. Patients suffering from a panic disorder should be started on 25 mg. The drug can cause side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, dyspepsia, insomnia, dry mouth and dizziness.
Combining alcohol and sertraline is assumed to be a bad idea because both of the drugs affect the serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is responsible for many things within the body, such as sleep, memory and mood, so taking multiple substances that affect the levels of serotonin could have many unexpected outcomes. Studies have shown that people who are depressed or suffer from anxiety are twice as likely to be heavy drinkers. This doesn’t conclusively show that alcohol leads to depression, but it lends weight to that argument. As a result, anyone who is taking anti-depressants should really avoid alcohol anyway, regardless of the drug interaction.
Although these factors do seem to make taking alcohol and sertraline a bad idea, the lack of conclusive research on the subject means that drinking small amounts of alcohol while taking the drug is unlikely to cause problems. People taking sertraline should not drink more than one alcoholic drink a day, defined as 12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine. Patients considering drinking alcohol while on the medication should discuss the combination of alcohol and sertraline with their doctor.