Zoloft is an antidepressant medication that is used to treat a range of mood and mental disorders. Because of the way it works on the brain and body, doctors advise against drinking alcohol while taking Zoloft. Alcohol can have potentially dangerous and even life-threatening interactions with antidepressants like Zoloft.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What is Zoloft?
  • What happens when you drink alcohol while taking antidepressants
  • The dangers of mixing alcohol and Zoloft
  • The relationship between depression and alcohol abuse

What is Zoloft (Sertraline)?

Zoloft is the brand name for sertraline, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medication. It works by blocking serotonin receptors in the brain and allowing more serotonin to circulate in the system. Serotonin is a “feel-good” hormone that can help regulate mood, reduce depression, and treat anxiety.

People who suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental health conditions often benefit from taking sertraline.[1] It may be prescribed to treat:

  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

Zoloft is taken by mouth, usually in pill form, once a day. Common side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Nervousness
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

Zoloft is meant to be taken long-term. People must take it consistently every day to get the benefits of it. However, abruptly stopping the use of it may result in antidepressant discontinuation syndrome.

Symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal may include mood swings, headache, fatigue, sleep changes, and “brain zaps” or an electric sensation in the brain.[2] These symptoms can be prevented by reducing the dose gradually.

Can You Drink Alcohol When Taking Zoloft?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against consuming alcohol while taking Zoloft. Doing so may cause unwanted side effects, including:

  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Sedation
  • Fainting

Drinking alcohol can worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety–which Zoloft is prescribed to treat. As a result, your doctor will likely advise against drinking alcohol while on the medication.

What Happens if You Consume Alcohol on Antidepressants?

Consuming alcohol impacts the central nervous system (CNS), comprising the brain and spinal cord. It slows down CNS activity, altering information processing and inducing the sensation of intoxication. Potential alcohol-induced effects include drowsiness, slurred speech, and occasional short-term memory impairment.[3]

Antidepressants like Zoloft also influence the CNS by elevating serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter crucial for mood regulation, sleep, and memory. However, fluctuations in serotonin levels may trigger adverse reactions like nausea and disruptions in sleep patterns.

Since both alcohol and SSRIs impact the CNS, combining alcohol with such antidepressants can exacerbate their side effects. Moreover, alcohol consumption can amplify depressive symptoms, reducing the efficacy of medications like Zoloft.

Dangers of Drinking Alcohol While Taking Zoloft

Mixing alcohol with antidepressants like Zoloft can be harmful to your health.[4] Alcohol can cause:

  • Reduced effectiveness – Any amount of alcohol can reduce how well antidepressants work. If you drink alcohol regularly, it may make your depression worse because the medication can’t work as it is supposed to.
  • Serotonin syndrome – Zoloft works by blocking the uptake of serotonin in the brain which causes an increase in serotonin levels. Under normal circumstances, this can help reduce depression and anxiety. However, alcohol can also boost serotonin in the brain, so drinking while taking antidepressants can lead to dangerously high serotonin levels. This can lead to a potentially life-threatening condition known as serotonin syndrome, which causes rapid heart rate, hallucinations, coma, and death.
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors – Like other antidepressants, Zoloft can increase suicidal thoughts and tendencies in some individuals. As a result, there is an increased risk of suicide when a person drinks alcohol.
  • Sedation and respiratory depression – Zoloft and alcohol are both central nervous system depressants that slow activity in certain areas of the brain. Mixing the two can lead to oversedation and respiratory depression. People may experience drowsiness, loss of coordination, and difficulty breathing. Accidents and injuries can also occur.
  • Overdose or toxicity – Both Zoloft and alcohol are processed by the liver. People who drink too much alcohol may overwhelm their liver, making it unable to fully process all of the toxins from alcohol. This can result in liver damage, toxicity, or alcohol poisoning.

Speak with your doctor before drinking alcohol if you are taking an antidepressant or any other medication. Better yet, avoid drinking alcohol completely if you are taking medications for a mental health condition or are in addiction recovery.

Other Substances That May Interact With Zoloft

Zoloft can interact negatively with numerous medications, including:[4]

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)–a class of antidepressants
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)–another class of antidepressants
  • Warfarin (Coumadin) and digitoxin (Crystodigin)–blood thinners
  • Pimozide (Orap)–an antipsychotic used to treat Tourette’s syndrome

If you are prescribed Zoloft, be sure to let your doctor know whether you are taking any other medications or supplements.

Understanding the Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Depression

Alcohol abuse and depression have a very close relationship. People who are depressed are more likely to abuse alcohol and suffer from an alcohol use disorder (AUD), and alcohol abuse can cause or exacerbate depression, so people with AUD are more likely to suffer from depression and other mood-related conditions.

Approximately 22% of people who suffer from depression struggle with AUD each year.[5] Up to 63.8% of people who are physically dependent on alcohol have depression. Similarly, research shows that the more a person drinks, the more likely they are to develop depression.[6]

Those who struggle with both conditions require comprehensive treatment approaches that address both depression and alcohol misuse simultaneously. By addressing these co-occurring conditions together, individuals can receive the necessary support to break free from the cycle of alcohol abuse and alleviate their depression.

Treatment That Works

Treatment for depression and alcoholism requires a comprehensive, integrated approach. At First Step Behavioral Health, our dual diagnosis treatment programs address substance abuse and mental health at the same time.

We craft personalized dual-diagnosis treatment plans aligned with each client’s distinct needs and aspirations. Treatment is tailored to each individual’s pace, while education on addiction, recovery, and relapse prevention equips them with essential life skills. Just as every client is unique, so is each treatment plan.

To learn more about our treatment programs or get started with a confidential, risk-free assessment, please reach out to First Step Behavioral Health today.


  1. National Alliance on Mental Illness: Sertraline (Zoloft)
  2. National Institutes of Health (NIH): Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome
  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Alcohol’s Effects on the Body
  4. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Zoloft (sertraline hydrochloride) tablets
  5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Mental Health Issues: Alcohol Use Disorder and Common Co-occurring Conditions
  6. National Institutes of Health (NIH): The Association between Alcohol Dependence and Depression before and after Treatment for Alcohol Dependence

Jump to a Section

Call (855) 425-4846