Effexor is a drug that’s used to treat depression. As a prescription drug, it can significantly affect your body, and it’s important to know how it will affect you when you’re looking for relief from a mood disorder. As a depression medication, Effexor can be used for long periods of time. In some cases, it may be taken for six months or more, which means it can become a normal part of your life for a long time. 

In that case, it’s important to know how you will need to adjust to the drug. One of the most important factors to consider is drug interactions. When you visit your doctor, you may have to fill out a form that asks about current prescription medication. This helps your doctor know what drugs may interact with any prescription they give you. They may also ask about alcohol use.

Alcohol is another important factor. Drinking can interact with many prescription drugs, and it’s important to check your prescription label or speak to a doctor or pharmacist before drinking while on a prescription. Since Effexor can be taken for long periods, will that mean abstaining from alcohol for that long? Is drinking on Effexor potentially dangerous? Learn more about the effects of mixing Effexor and alcohol. 

What is Effexor?

Effexor is a brand name for a drug that contains venlafaxine, which is used to treat mood disorders like depression. Effexor is in a drug category called selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSNRI). These drugs work to increase the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in your nervous system. These important neurotransmitters are involved in mood, energy levels, and reward. People that have mood disorders like depression may have a problem that’s caused by low levels of serotonin and other reward chemicals. Effexor may help alleviate depression symptoms by increasing the levels of these chemicals in the brain. 

SNRIs are considered to be generally safe and well-tolerated by people that take them as directed. They also don’t usually cause dependence, and they have a low addiction liability. But even drugs that are safe to use and have mild side effects can cause serious complications when mixed with other drugs. An overdose of venlafaxine may be slightly more dangerous than other antidepressant medications like SSRIs. The Food and Drug Administration has said, “Published retrospective studies report that venlafaxine overdosage may be associated with an increased risk of fatal outcomes compared to that observed with SSRI antidepressant products…” Still, you and your doctor may find that Effexor is a good option to treat your mood disorder. But it’s important to pay attention to your dose and potential drug interactions.

Pfizer, the manufacturer of Effexor XR (extended release), warns that alcohol should not be combined with the drug.

Drinking alcohol while taking Effexor can increase mental impairment and mood swings and trigger physical side effects. It can even lead to a potentially life-threatening overdose.

Small amounts of alcohol may be tolerable while taking Effexor, but your doctor should weigh in here. If you’re taking the medication, talk to your doctor before you drink alcohol.

Drug Interactions

A serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), Effexor (venlafaxine) is an antidepressant medication that interacts with moods and energy levels by altering brain chemistry. Levels of serotonin and norepinephrine are increased due to the interaction of Effexor.

Combining other drugs or substances that also increase levels of serotonin in the brain can have hazardous drug-drug interactions, including the onset of the fatal serotonin syndrome. Other mood-enhancing medications, such as MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors), can have serious negative interactions with Effexor as well.

Effexor should not be combined with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs, such as aspirin, or the anticoagulant drug warfarin, as it can lead to increased rates of bleeding. Alcohol is also a mood- and mind-altering substance that alters brain chemistry.

Interactions of Alcohol with Effexor

Both alcohol and Effexor can have sedative and mind-altering effects. The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) warns that drinking alcohol while taking Effexor can make you drowsier than either substance might on its own.

Other Side Effects of Effexor Can Also be Increased by Drinking Alcohol. Among Them Are:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Balance and coordination issues
  • Nausea
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Blood pressure irregularities
  • Restlessness
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

Alcohol is also a depressant substance. It can potentially worsen symptoms of depression that you are likely taking Effexor to regulate. Consuming alcohol while taking Effexor may then interfere with the effectiveness of the medication and lead to heightened depressive symptoms, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) explains.

When taking Effexor, even small amounts of alcohol may lead to significant mental and memory impairment. Mood swings, diminished reflexes, changes in behavior, increased risk-taking, lowered inhibitions, and a heightened risk for drug dependence are also possible.

When you drink alcohol, the potential for falls, making unsafe decisions that can have adverse and lasting consequences, impaired driving, injuries, and accidents increases. In some cases, this impairment may last longer or be more severe if you are also on antidepressants.

Is There a Safe Amount?

There is conflicting information when it comes to drinking alcohol while taking Effexor. While the prescribing information warns against alcohol use while on the medication, it also states that alcohol-related impairment was not increased in studies where the two substances were mixed.

Moderate or light alcohol consumption may not have serious effects when taking Effexor, but any use of alcohol while taking an antidepressant medication can cause unpredictable side effects.

It is important to take Effexor for long enough to know how the drug affects you before introducing alcohol. Discuss the situation with your doctor before consuming any substance when taking Effexor.

When two substances like Effexor and alcohol interact in the bloodstream, they can more quickly overwhelm the system than when one is taken by itself. Even if you drink much less than normal, the impact can be greater than usual if you are also taking other substances.

Despite the conflicting reports, since the drug manufacturer warns against concurrent use, there is no safe amount of alcohol that should be taken with the drug. Again, you should discuss the combination further with your doctor if you want to drink socially while taking antidepressants.

Signs of Overdose

One of the most dangerous consequences of mixing alcohol and Effexor is overdose. According to the FDA, cases of dangerous Effexor overdose often involve other substances like alcohol. They say, “…overdose with venlafaxine has occurred predominantly in combination with alcohol and/or other drugs.” Overdose can involve symptoms like tachycardia, seizures, vomiting, loss of consciousness, hypertension, and liver problems.

Symptoms of an Effexor Overdose Can Include

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Fluctuation between sweating and chills
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Muscle pain
  • Tingling, numbness, or burning sensations in the feet and hands
  • Irregular heart rate and pulse
  • Mental confusion
  • Delirium
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness or coma

Another potential serious reaction related to an Effexor overdose involves delayed seizures, which can occur eight to 12 hours after the last dose of the drug. Mixing alcohol with Effexor may increase the risk for this adverse reaction.

An overdose is a medical emergency. Call 911 immediately.

Drinking alcohol while taking Effexor can also complicate overdose treatment. Make sure emergency responders are aware of all substances that have been consumed.

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