Antidepressant medications are designed to help those diagnosed with depression regulate their moods better. They’re complex by nature as they are among the few types of prescription drugs that traverse the blood-brain barrier. This critical protective layer protects the brain from harmful bacteria, viruses, and other potentially dangerous substances. Due to the way they work, healthcare providers prescribe strict doses to ensure they work effectively and don’t harm the patient in any way.
Since they can reach the brain, it’s best not to take them when you intend to drink heavily. In fact, healthcare providers recommend avoiding drinking altogether when on a course of antidepressant medication, as it can result in troubling complications that can put your health at risk. One antidepressant that does not mix well with alcohol is Effexor.
What are the Dangers of Mixing Effexor and Alcohol?
Effexor and alcohol should never mix. Although medication must not be combined with alcohol, this is especially true for antidepressants, including Effexor. Patients must take the antidepressant with food and not alcohol, or else the risk of sedation increases, especially when taken on an empty stomach. While Effexor can effectively treat some types of alcoholism, like depressive alcoholism, it must be administered within strict, specific guidelines. However, it can be used to treat depression and alcoholism safely.
When taken with alcohol, Effexor leads to higher levels of sedation. Feeling extra sedated can be dangerous in certain situations, such as driving, operating machinery, or performing activities that require focus to be done correctly. Some research suggests a correlation between alcohol consumption combined with Effexor and the increased risk of overdose and suicide. For these reasons, it’s best not to drink alcohol at all while taking Effexor.
Another reason to avoid mixing Effexor and alcohol is that suicides and overdoses using antidepressants typically include alcohol. Regardless, Effexor continues to be effective and safe for treating depression as long as the user takes it within the prescribed specifications.
What is Effexor?
Effexor XR is one of the many brand names for the prescription drug Venlafaxine, which is an antidepressant medication belonging to the serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor or SNRI class. It is prescribed to adults diagnosed with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder, with or without agoraphobia or the fear of being in places where you may be trapped or feel helpless.
The XR in Effexor stands for the extended-release form of the drug, which gradually releases the active ingredient over an extensive period. It is available in capsule form and is often taken orally once a day. It is meant to improve mood and energy levels and help restore interest and enthusiasm in day-to-day life. The drug must not be given to anyone younger than 18 years old without a doctor’s consultation, as it is not approved for use in children.
How Does It Work?
As an SNRI, Effexor increases and moderates the levels of norepinephrine and serotonin, two different but essential neurotransmitters in the brain. Norepinephrine is the hormone that governs stress, impacting areas of the brain concerned with attention and response. It spikes heart rates, stimulating the release of glucose and increases blood flow. On the other hand, serotonin helps regulate other processors in the brain, such as mood, sleep, memory, appetite, and anxiety. Effexor aims to leave more serotonin in the body to improve a person’s sense of well-being.
However, Effexor is sometimes prescribed for off-label uses to treat patients with migraines, hot flashes, and diabetes. The capsule must be taken at the same time each day to reduce the risk of side effects. It is also important not to chew, split, or crush the capsule.
Is Effexor Addictive?
Effexor is not a physically addictive drug. However, the user can develop a psychological dependence on the drug through continued abuse. An Effexor addiction occurs when someone abuses the drug to experience an intense euphoric sensation, known as a high. Taking high doses of Effexor may lead to unwanted side effects like stomach cramps and memory problems.
What are the Side Effects of Effexor?
Like other medications, Effexor can cause mild or severe side effects. Common side effects include dry mouth, loss of appetite, sleepiness, erectile dysfunction, nausea, abnormal ejaculation, loss of libido, weakness, dizziness, constipation, sweating, and insomnia. These typically resolve on their own once you have gotten used to the drug, going away after a few days or weeks. However, if they persist, do not hesitate to inform your doctor right away.
Effexor’s serious side effects aren’t widespread, but they may occur. If they do, call your doctor right away or 911 if you feel that your symptoms are life-threatening or you think that you have a medical emergency.
These side effects include the following:
- High blood pressure (which includes symptoms of headache and shortness of breath)
- Abnormal bleeding (bruising easily, nosebleeds, coughing up blood, vomit that resembles coffee grounds, a bloody stool or black or tarry stool)
- Hyponatremia (low sodium levels, inducing headaches, weakness, feelings of instability, fainting, seizures, and difficulty focusing)
- Lung disease and pneumonia (shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, fever)
- Serotonin syndrome or high levels of serotonin in your brain (anxiety, shakiness, fever, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat, seizures)
Some people may have an allergic reaction to Effexor. These symptoms include itchiness, skin rashes, and flushing, or warmth and redness on your skin. It is possible to experience a severe allergic reaction, including swelling in your eyelids, lips, feet, hands, tongue, mouth, and throat, and trouble breathing. If you have a severe allergic reaction to Effexor, stop using it right away and call 911.
Clinical studies have found weight gain and loss to have occurred in patients taking Effexor XR. However, it is currently unknown how prevalent these side effects are. It may help to note your weight before and during a course of Effexor XR to see if the medication is affecting your metabolism. If you notice any changes, be sure to inform your doctor.
Although Effexor XR is formulated to reduce feelings of hopelessness and renew interest in life in people with depression, there is also an increased risk of suicidal behavior and thoughts in young people who take the drug. The risk increases with those who have major depressive disorder or other psychiatric conditions. For this reason, young people or those up to 24 years old must be monitored by their doctors when starting a course of Effexor for signs of worsening depression, suicidal behavior and thoughts, or strange behavior.
Effexor is an excellent medication used to address a variety of psychiatric conditions. However, it is best to take it only as prescribed by the doctor, especially if it is recommended for its off-label uses. Regardless, antidepressants like Effexor must never be mixed with alcohol, leading to dangerous and life-threatening side effects, such as the increased risk of suicide.