People who suffer from depression often drink a lot more (and more often). Numerous studies have supported this finding, with depression occurring in 68% of all instances of alcohol dependence. Regardless of which caused the other, the presence of depression can negatively impact the efficacy of alcohol addiction treatment and contribute to higher rates of relapse or a lower likelihood of completing a treatment program. As such, antidepressants are often utilized in alcohol addiction treatment to fix a neurochemical imbalance that can be both a cause and symptom of this condition.
Zoloft is a popular brand of such medications. Although it certainly has the potential to do a lot of good for recovering alcoholics, it also increases the potential of alcohol being combined with a prescription medication (which is always a bad idea). Whether such an occurrence is accidental or the deliberate mixing of drugs, the combination of Zoloft and alcohol can have a number of adverse interactions that compound either conditions’ existing physical and mental health side effects.
What Is Zoloft & How Does Work?
Zoloft is the brand name of the generic drug, sertraline, and a type of antidepressant known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (more commonly referred to as an SSRI). SSRIs prevent serotonin from being reabsorbed into the body, a mechanism that counteracts the effects of a serotonin deficiency. To understand why this function is important, one must understand the role that serotonin plays in mental disorders like depression.
Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter involved with mood stabilization and motivation. A shortage of which can be directly attributed as the cause of several types of psychological issues. Drug use can cause or exacerbate a serotonin deficiency and is why depression and anxiety are common side effects of drug addiction.
By preventing serotonin from being reabsorbed, this chemical remains in the synaptic gap which allows its feel-good effects to last longer. This ability is why Zoloft (sertraline) is used to treat an array of mental disorders including panic attacks, social anxiety disorder, PTSD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Many of these disorders can cause or occur because of alcohol abuse, and thus, makes it a vital part of any dual diagnosis addiction treatment process.
When Zoloft And Alcohol Use Goes Wrong
Just because Zoloft is used to help improve alcohol addiction treatment and can sometimes ease alcohol cravings, it’s by no means safe to take with alcohol.
Blackouts & Extreme Intoxications
When taken together, alcohol can increase Zoloft’s effects to a dangerous degree and exacerbate the risk of incurring side effects, primarily those of sedation. Alcohol can increase feelings of dizziness or drowsiness as well as induce a quicker onset of those Zoloft symptoms. Even more concerning is that alcohol can also affect a person’s alcohol tolerance, resulting in extreme intoxication despite a person drinking as they usually would. These incidences are known as pathological intoxication or in more common terms, a Zoloft and alcohol blackout.
Another major potential risk of combining alcohol and an SSRI antidepressant is that it can actually worsen alcohol cravings. Individuals with certain types of serotonin receptors are more sensitive to stimulation. SSRIs result in greater serotonin activity which can then trigger dopamine release and activate the reward pathway of the brain. If alcohol is consumed while an SSRI induces this reaction, it can strengthen the association between alcohol and pleasure or in some cases, result in the formation of the association that was otherwise absent before.
Dealing With Co-Occurring Alcoholism & Depression
Alcohol and depression are a match made in perfect dysfunctional harmony. Depression can drive people to consume large quantities of alcohol (an act known as self-medication), and yet alcohol consumption itself can directly result in the development of this debilitating mood disorder. It’s a dangerous cycle that can be hard to stop once it’s underway. Dual diagnosis addiction treatment recognizes the comorbidity of these issues and how vital it is to address both conditions simultaneously. If you or a loved one suffers from a substance use disorder and mental illness at the same time, finding a dual diagnosis treatment center offers your greatest chance of achieving recovery.