Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 8/2/2022
Antidepressant users and people with mood disorders have a lot to juggle. Between the realities of a mood disorder like depression or anxiety and the potential negative effects of a prescription antidepressant like amitriptyline, there’s enough to manage without having to worry about the implications of your social life — particularly when it comes to the relationship between amitriptyline and alcohol. And yet, that risk is real, regardless.
If you’re concerned about your drinking and how it may affect your time using amitriptyline, there’s a good chance that you’re worried you may have to stop drinking entirely. For people with an alcohol-friendly social life or career path, that may even be a dealbreaker.
The good news is that amitriptyline and alcohol isn’t a dangerous combination, when you’re responsible. The bad news is that you may have to make some adjustments, depending on how serious your side effects are.
Let’s start this conversation with the recreational part of this duo: alcohol.
Alcohol is many things, but most of us consider it a beverage first. As a beverage, it is also a central nervous system depressant.
Alcohol essentially depresses — or slows down — your brain activity, which can change your behaviors, alter your mood and even reduce your self control.
And that’s before we get to the dangerous stuff — coordination problems, where after several drinks your ability to walk a straight line (and not fall) is greatly diminished.
Oh, and there’s the whole short-term memory issues thing, because alcohol affects how you store memories.
The number of drinks you consume is a major factor in how severe these symptoms will be. Moderate drinking for women is considered just one drink a day, so most social drinkers are already a couple past the recommendation.
TCAs help your brain treat the symptoms of depression and anxiety by balancing serotonin levels and norepinephrine levels — two neurotransmitters that regulate mood. You need these to keep from hitting those depressive “bottoms,” and these medications help your brain build a surplus.
Amitriptyline, unfortunately, comes with some serious side effects, in part due to its age (it was released in the 1950s).
Muscle stiffness and spasms can occur, as can urinary retention, eye pain and blurred vision related to pressure build-up.
Your risk of serotonin syndrome — a potentially fatal condition — increases on this medication, as does the danger of uneven heartbeat.
Seek medical attention from an emergency provider or a health care professional if you experience these dangerous side effects.
So, what happens if consumed both at the same time? The common side effects that come aren’t all that different — they’re just typically more intense.
Amitriptyline and alcohol in combination basically take the adverse effects of alcohol consumption and magnify them.
Alcohol and amitriptyline can essentially make a person who would be under the legal limit have the motor skills of someone way over the legal limit for driving.
Antidepressant drugs like amitriptyline will take some time to adjust to generally, not to mention when your drinking habits are considered. So, if you’re new to amitriptyline, take this advice: do not drive.
In the most literal sense, this drug interaction isn’t deadly.
But the severe hangovers, the falls and bruises, the risk of driving while impaired — yes, it can be extremely dangerous. If you’re taking amitriptyline, adjust your alcohol intake accordingly.
Poorer motor skills and worse decision making are going to be a problem, as if you had a couple of rounds that you forgot to count. What this means on the most essential level is that, no, you should not mix amitriptyline and alcohol. It’s just not safe.
In the best-case scenario, you still want to avoid the late-night junk food and texts to your ex, right?
The withdrawal symptoms of suddenly stopping your amitriptyline are considerable, so if you’re going to stop anything, it should be the booze. Is it necessary, though?
Typically, it’s not recommended to combine alcohol and amitriptyline.
Everyone’s drinking habits, tolerance and reaction to amitriptyline (and other medications) are so different. That’s why it’s so important to talk to a healthcare provider about your concerns with this and other harmful effects of drinking on amitriptyline.
Medical advice is what’s going to keep you safe and healthy in the long term.
Alcohol consumption while using antidepressant drugs isn’t recommended. When it comes to alcohol and amitriptyline specifically, it’s not inherently fatal to mix the two, but we definitely wouldn’t recommend it.
Drinking isn’t something that should limit your mental health treatment, though, and if you’re seeing just that sort of conflict, talk to a healthcare provider about whether your treatment plan is really working for you.
It may be the case that TCAs aren’t working for you. In which case, a mixture of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), therapy and lifestyle changes might be better for your long-term mental health.
Neither we nor you will know what’s going to work best until you discuss it with a healthcare professional.
So, if you’re asking questions, reach out to someone who can give you answers. You can access online mental help now to learn more about whether or not antidepressants like amitriptyline may be a good fit for you.