Effexor is an antidepressant used to treat the symptoms of major depressive disorder. The interaction between this and alcohol can be dangerous to one’s health, possibly resulting in far-reaching health implications, addictive effects, and sudden death. Therefore, it is highly advised against mixing these two substances. Always consult your doctor to understand the risks associated with consuming alcohol while on Effexor.
What Is Effexor & How Does it Work?
Effexor (venlafaxine) is an FDA-approved medication for depression and anxiety.1 It belongs to the class of medications called selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and works by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine in nerve cells. This increases levels of these neurotransmitters in the brain, resulting in improved mood, emotion, and behavior.2
Effexor is used to treat the following health conditions:1
Side Effects of Alcohol & Effexor
Alcohol is a depressant that triggers symptoms of depression and anxiety, while Effexor works to manage these. Combining these two substances might worsen symptoms of depression and cause harmful effects on the central nervous system.
The FDA warns of substantial health risks when mixing alcohol with Effexor, including harmful interactions. The substances are not advised to be taken together. This can be especially dangerous for those who experience hangover anxiety (“hangxiety”), or an anxious state that occurs after consuming large amounts of alcohol.3 Hangxiety can lead to a further decline in one’s emotional state. If you think you are at risk of mixing the substances, talk with your doctor to discuss associated risks.
Side effects of Effexor may include:1
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sleeping problems
- Dry mouth
- Changes in weight
- Changes in appetite
Short-term side effects of alcohol may include:
- Impaired coordination
- Blackouts/loss of consciousness
- Alcohol poisoning
- Slow thinking/reaction time
Effexor & Alcohol Interactions
You will likely experience impaired judgment, poor coordination, and decreased motor skills when combining alcohol and Effexor. Also, mixing these substances can increase the risk of drowsiness, causing problems concentrating and overall functioning.
Severe side effects of mixing Effexor and alcohol may include:1
- Worsened symptoms of depression/anxiety
- Sleeping problems
- Heart complications
- Loss of consciousness
- Suicidal ideation
Can You Ever Drink While Taking Effexor?
It is not recommended to consume alcohol while on Effexor, as this can result in severe side effects. Also, skipping an Effexor dose to drink alcohol doesn’t decrease the risk of adverse reactions. Effexor has a half-life of about five hours, meaning that only half of the medication has left the system by 5 hours, but it takes much longer than 5 hours for the other half to be metabolized (broken down and removed from the body).2
Effexor and other medications that affect the nervous system can have effects on the body even days or weeks after the medication is no longer in the body. These medications alter the body’s own neurotransmitters, so alcohol is contraindicated for at least weeks after stopping the medication.
For some people, alcohol consumption can cause physical dependence and addiction, sometimes resulting in one forgetting to take their medication. Effexor withdrawal symptoms may be induced if the medication is stopped abruptly.
Can Effexor & Alcohol Kill You?
Combining alcohol and Effexor can result in sudden death due to a fatal reaction. The severity depends on one’s age, health condition, and tolerance to either substance. In other cases, mixing alcohol and Effexor can raise one’s serotonin to an unhealthy level, increasing the risk for serotonin syndrome. This results in failure of crucial body organs, including the heart and kidneys. Additionally, people who engage in binge drinking are at increased risk for overdose and death.4
Alcoholism & Depression
People consume alcohol for several reasons–sometimes to escape problems, to appear more fun, or to avoid social anxiety. Additionally, many may drink alcohol to ease their depression and still experience the urge to do so after beginning Effexor. People who already have alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence will likely have a hard time quitting even after they start Effexor.
Symptoms of an Effexor & Alcohol Overdose
Overdosing on Effexor and alcohol is a very real possibility. If you are experiencing symptoms of an overdose, you should seek immediate medical assistance.
Symptoms of an Effexor and alcohol overdose may include:
- Abnormal heart rate
- Loss of consciousness
Professional Support for Substance Misuse
It is possible for people to develop substance abuse problems when they begin mixing substances (cross-addictions). These addictions can co-occur or replace each other, making it challenging to address the issue of dependency effectively. Unfortunately, some are more likely to experience substance use disorders, depending on their life experiences and genetic predispositions. If you are suffering from an SUD, consider reaching out for support from a care team, doctor, or therapist.
Questions to Ask Your Health Team
Before taking any medication, it is necessary to understand the risks associated with it. Becoming dependent on Effexor is possible, but it is not the same as a harmful addiction. When it is time to discontinue the medication, your doctor can help you safely do so. Additionally, it is imperative to to understand any possible side effects of mixing Effexor with alcohol.
Questions to ask your care team about mixing Effexor and alcohol include:
- Is there a safe amount of alcohol that I can consume while taking Effexor?
- Is there a medication that does not negatively interact with alcohol?
- What should I do if I drink anyway and have an adverse reaction?
- Are there other substances I should avoid while on Effexor?
- Why should I be concerned if I stopped taking my medication?
- Are there factors that influence the severity of side effects?
- What will happen if I stop my Effexor medication?
Alcohol and Effexor are composed of different chemical structures, and mixing them can result in adverse interactions. Mixing these two substances can lead to harmful interactions and sudden death. If it is impossible to stop alcohol or if a person knows they will not be able to stop, they should inform their doctor so the doctor can prescribe an alternative.