Mixing Alcohol and Paxil: Side Effects And Interactions

The serotonin transporter gene has been linked to anxiety, impulsiveness and alcohol dependence. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like paroxetine (Paxil) and fluoxetine (Prozac) are commonly prescribed by doctors to help treat alcoholism in patients with depression. Paxil should never be mixed with alcohol because it can result in drowsiness, dizziness, increased risk of depression and increased risk of suicidal thoughts. The risk of overdosing on alcohol is higher when mixed with paroxetine due to impaired judgment. This article explains how Paxil functions in the body in relations to alcoholism and alcohol consumption.
Paxil is one of the most widely-prescribed antidepressant drugs worldwide. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are usually the first type of antidepressant that doctors try on new patients. Paroxetine has the highest rates of effectiveness, mild side effects and low risk of complications.

Serotonin deficiency is a common cause of major depressive disorder. Paroxetine treats depression by increasing serotonin activity in the brain. It accomplishes this by temporarily inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin. Serotonin needs to be present in the synaptic gap between neurons to improve feelings of well-being and treat symptoms of depression. Drugs like Paxil allow serotonin molecules to remain in the synaptic gap for an extended period.

Paroxetine was created in 1992 by the pharmaceutical company SmithKline Beecham. Today, paroxetine goes by many names, including Paxil, Deroxat, Aropax and Sereupin.

In addition to treating depression, paroxetine is also frequently prescribed for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PDD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). On rare occasions, doctors prescribe Paxil to women who are going through menopause to reduce the severity of night sweats and hot flashes.

Paroxetine has mild side effects that can usually be managed by adjusting the dose. Common side effects of Paxil include nausea, fluctuations in weight, headache, drowsiness, restlessness, dry mouth, low sex drive and suicidal ideation.

Intense thoughts of hopelessness and suicide are most common among patients under age 25. They are most likely to occur in the first weeks of treatment and at the end of treatment during the discontinuation phase. The discontinuation phase describes the period of withdrawal that most patients go through. Although rare, severe side effects of Paxil can include rapid heart rate, skin inflammation, high fever and seizures.

Paxil (Paroxetine) Mixing It and Alcohol
As mentioned in the introduction, the combination of Paxil and alcohol can cause dizziness, drowsiness, increased feelings of depression and even suicidal thoughts. Mixing alcohol with paroxetine can lead to impaired judgment and increase the likelihood of alcohol toxicity and overdose. This can make relapsing on alcohol extra risky as a recovering alcoholic. While relapsing alone has a negative impact on mental health, the combined effects of using paroxetine can make brain chemistry even worse.

The risk of alcoholics having suicidal thoughts increases during a relapse. Thoughts of extreme hopelessness are also a common side effect in young people who take Paxil. Patients who relapse on alcohol while taking paroxetine should notify their doctor immediately. A doctor who’s familiar with the patient’s history will know the best way to respond. Most likely they’ll adjust the dose or introduce a new medication.

For most people with major depressive disorder who are going through treatment for alcoholism, SSRIs like Paxil help stabilize brain chemistry and alleviate symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. For a small percentage of recovering alcoholics, drugs like paroxetine increase alcohol cravings. The increase in cravings most often returns to normal once paroxetine use is discontinued.

On rare occasions, treatment for depression with SSRIs results in the development of new-onset alcohol dependence. In other words, someone who was not formerly an alcoholic can become one when they begin taking Paxil. In most cases like these, alcohol cravings stop when the patient stops taking Paxil.

While the complications that result from mixing alcohol with paroxetine aren’t as severe as when alcohol is mixed with other substances, combining paroxetine and alcohol is still ill-advised. Mixing alcohol with opiates like oxycodone or benzodiazepines like Xanax can result in a dangerously low respiratory rate, overdose and even death.

Potential side effects of mixing alcohol and Paxil include dizziness, drowsiness, increase depression, and increased thoughts of extreme hopelessness and suicide. The risk of suicidal thoughts increases during the first weeks of treatment and the discontinuation phase.

SSRIs like Paxil are commonly prescribed to alcoholics in recovery. For many, paroxetine reduces both depression and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.