If you were to do a search for the dangers of mixing alcohol with psychotropic medication, you’re not going to find much. Sure, you can look at the labels on the bottles of your medication, and they’re going to say to avoid alcohol and illicit drugs. However, what exactly are the consequences?
If you’re a young adult, you probably face an extreme amount of peer pressure to drink. When the weekend rolls around, it’s time to go out with friends. No matter what teens do together, there’s a very high probability that alcohol will be involved. There is often an excessive amount of drinking that happens among adolescents, which can bring on severe health concerns, especially if you take medication for depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Binge drinking is defined as drinking four or more drinks during one event for females, and for male teens, binge drinking is consuming five or more drinks. Sadly, the rates of binge drinking remain alarmingly high for young adults.
So, what do you do if you take medication? If you know you’re going to drink, perhaps you’ve tried to find information about the effects of mixing alcohol with your meds. The research simply isn’t out there. Many people, young and old, take the risk and drink anyway. Of course, the kind of effects you’re going to experience will depend upon the kind of medication you’re taking.
Opiates, used to manage physical pain, will have a different effect than SSRIs, which are used to manage moods, like depression or anxiety. One bit of research came out last month in the journal Neurology. It was a widely publicized study which pooled data from 16 studies. The study found that people taking SSRI antidepressants like Zoloft or Celexa were 40 percent more likely to suffer a type of stroke caused by bleeding in the brain. And those taking these medications were 50 percent more likely to suffer bleeding in the skull.
This alone sounds pretty severe. And that’s what you’ll find online, that it’s dangerous to mix the two, that drinking while on medications can create severe risks to your health. Certainly, this can be true and there are likely many ways in which mixing meds and drinking simply isn’t safe. Meanwhile, it’s clear that there needs to be more research on the types of medication and how they interact with alcohol. The public needs more information on the specific dangers that arise when consuming both alcohol and meds.
In fact, this information alone can provide the kind of sober help some people need. For instance, if an individual on Zoloft were invited to a party and offered a drink, there might be more courage to say no to drinking if he or she knew that it could cause serious health concerns or even lead to death.
Drinking in and of itself is already dangerous. It affects judgment, perception, memory, and coordination. And of course, drinking heavily, especially on a regular basis, also has medical consequences. The body will begin to deteriorate in a variety of ways. For instance, long-term alcohol consumption can affect nearly every organ in the body. Heavy drinking can create a thiamine deficiency, and other forms of poor nutrition. Alcoholism can lead to illnesses having to do with the heart, such as hypertension and an irregular heartbeat. It can also cause impotence, irregular menstrual cycles, pancreatitis, stroke, confusion, and amnesia.
However, knowing this is usually not enough to stop someone who drinks on a regular basis. Yet, if they knew that mixing alcohol and their medication might cause stroke or even sudden death, there might be more caution when it comes to drinking. Sometimes, the sober help people need is information. Sadly, the specific ways that certain medications interact with alcohol is not yet available. Perhaps in the future, research will be available to outline the dangers of mixing drinking with meds.
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