Alcohol can cause dangerous side effects when mixed with many medications. One medication that is commonly prescribed and may create problems when mixed with alcohol is Lexapro.

Lexapro, also called by its generic name escitalopram, is an antidepressant medication that works by increasing the levels of a chemical called serotonin in the brain. When Lexapro and alcohol are mixed, it can create adverse and sometimes dangerous side effects.

Side Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Lexapro

Lexapro increases levels of the chemical serotonin in the brain. Alcohol also affects serotonin, creating an initial increase followed by a prolonged decrease in its levels. Because both substances affect serotonin levels, the combination can create several harmful side effects.

Mixing alcohol and Lexapro will both increase each other’s effects on the body, which leads to an increase in the side effects typically experienced with both. This drug combination may cause increased:

  • Drowsiness and dizziness
  • Impairment in coordination
  • Feelings of intoxication (which may be even more severe for older adults)
  • Risk of overdose
  • Risk of alcohol addiction
  • Risk of serotonin syndrome
  • Worsened depression

One potential danger that occurs when alcohol and Lexapro are mixed is that the risk of an overdose increases. Both substances enhance the effects of the other, and this can lead to safe amounts of one substance to suddenly become unsafe when combined with the other.

Risk of Serotonin Syndrome

One potential overdose condition that can happen is called serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome occurs when there is too much serotonin in the brain. Initially, alcohol causes an increase in the serotonin levels which, when combined with Lexapro, can lead to this dangerous condition.

Possible symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:

  • High body temperature
  • Agitation
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Breakdown of muscles
  • Long-term kidney damage

Anyone who is experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical help.

Worsened Depression

Another negative side effect of mixing Lexapro and alcohol is the increased probability of depression. Even though Lexapro is an antidepressant, it can still cause or worsen depression. When combined with alcohol, which can worsen depression, Lexapro may be more likely to create deep depression and hopelessness. Mixing these two substances could even raise the risk of suicidal thoughts or actions.

Key Points: Lexapro and Alcohol

Mixing Lexapro and alcohol can lead to several dangerous, and sometimes deadly, side effects. These may include:

  • Increased side effects of both substances
  • Increased dizziness
  • Fatigue or increased drowsiness
  • Overdose
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions

While there has been some research into using medications similar to Lexapro to treat alcoholism, this type of treatment should only be done under the direction and supervision of a doctor.

Medscape. “Escitalopram (Rx).” Oct. 2018. Accessed April 9, 2019.

Mohanty, Mailtreyee & Slattum, Patricia. “Alcohol, Medications, and Older Adults.” Age in Action, 2011. Accessed April 9, 2019.

National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medicines.” 2014. Accessed April 9, 2019.

Pettinati, Helen M., et al. “Sertraline Treatment for Alcohol Dependence: Interactive Effects of Medication and Alcoholic Subtype.” Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research. May 30, 2006. Accessed April 9, 2019.