“Just Water” – What Happens When You Can’t Drink Thanks to Your Anti-Depressants

The other day I made an obnoxious crack about having never entered a Wine Cave (see the Democratic primary debate for more info, or better yet…don’t):

That tweet inspired this thread:

So, let me expand on this, because I think it’s an important topic – particularly if you are wondering if and how to drink when you take anti-depressants.

I didn’t start drinking until after I started anti-depressants, which was the start of my 2nd semester, Freshman year. Even in college, I wasn’t much of a drinker, but seriously, half a beer, and WEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. As I grew up that changed a little bit, but never much. On my best day, it was never more than two drinks before I got a decent buzz going. I didn’t mind all that much, since alcohol was never much of a part of my life.

As I grew older I came to appreciate drinking for the taste . I’d go out, have a glass of wine and enjoy my night. Unfortunately, at some point in my early 30s, that went out the window: I had one drink AND FELT LIKE SUPER DEATH.

There was no cause for it: One drink, and massive hangover. I guess that’s what happens when you get older. As a result, I cut alcohol out of my life completely. I haven’t had a drink in two years.

Am I alone in this experience? Hardly. Most SSRIs (the type of anti-depressants I have always taken) are known for causing issues when it comes to alcohol. According to the Mayo Clinic, alcohol can cause problems for people on anti-depressants and may result in an enhancement of symptoms or a greater than expected intoxication. I was never more depressed when I drank, but I absolutely had a lower tolerance.

Furthermore, I always felt like different parts of me would get drunk at different levels. There would be times where my hand-eye coordination was clearly off, but my mind felt sharp as ever, and other times where the reverse was true. It always felt like different parts of me got drunk at different rates, and I always wondered if that was just me or a result of the interaction between the booze and the anti-depressants.

All of this has led to a bit of an “other” experience for me, and me saying “Just water” at more banquets and dinners than I care to think about. Yes, I do feel a bit apart from others at social events. I won’t lie about that, and it is a bit isolating. Thankfully for me, my wife doesn’t drink at all (no reason – she just doesn’t have a taste for alcohol), so we hang out together, stone cold sober.

Do I wish it wasn’t like this? Yeah, I do. I wish I could go to the bar and have drink. I wish I could have  glass of wine with dinner. But, that’s the price you pay for taking medication which saves your life. Sure, I wish it was otherwise, but it’s basically a question of this: Would I rather drink, or would I rather not want to die?

I’ll add that my experience is not necessarily going to be yours, or even likely. You should absolutely talk with a doctor before mixing alcohol and anti-depressants – mine told me that everyone’s experience was different and I should use caution. I never had any experience with alcohol until after I started my anti-depressants, so maybe I would have had a different experience if it had been otherwise. I also never drank much as I got older, so perhaps my experience would have been different if I had.

It’s a shame, but it is what it is. No question – it’s worth it.

Any similar experiences to share? I’d love to hear them – let us know in the comments!