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Celexa and Alcohol: Understanding the Risks

Angela Sheddan

Medically reviewed by Angela Sheddan, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 8/7/2022

Anytime you start taking a new medication, it’s important to find out how that medication might interact with alcohol. This is especially true if you are taking an antidepressant

Celexa is one such antidepressant. This medication has been found to help with depressive disorder (along with other conditions), but mixing it with alcohol may not be the healthiest move.

To learn more about how Celexa interacts with alcohol, keep reading.

What is Celexa Used For?

Celexa, also sold as the generic citalopram, is part of a class of antidepressant drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). It works to treat depression by adjusting levels of serotonin. Citalopram can be found in tablets or a liquid and is generally taken once a day.

It is a prescription medication, so you’ll need to get it from a healthcare provider. Often you will be started on a lower dose to see how you react before working with your healthcare provider to slowly increase your daily dose. This will help you find what’s right for you and your body chemistry.

Citalopram isn’t just used to address depression symptoms. It can also be used to treat generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder or panic attacks, social anxiety disorder, eating disorders, alcoholism and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

There are some common side effects associated with citalopram. These adverse effects include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, stomach pain, sexual side effects like low libido, weight loss and more. If you experience any of these and they do not go away, reach out to a healthcare provider. You should also let your healthcare provider know if you are on any other medications, as citalopram can have negative drug interactions. 

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In addition to the above, you should get medical attention immediately if you notice any of the following more serious symptoms — chest pain, irregular heart rate, shortness of breath, seizures, unusual bleeding, dizziness or fainting. They may be signs of a medical emergency. 

If you have any side effects of citalopram or you want to stop taking it for another reason, you need to work with a healthcare provider to slowly wean yourself off of it. If you stop out of the blue, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.

What Are the Risks of Drinking Alcohol on Celexa?

For the most part, you should not drink alcohol while taking citalopram. Here’s why — both antidepressants and alcohol can make you drowsy, so combining them can amplify that effect. 

That said, many healthcare professionals understand that giving up alcohol entirely may not be something that patients want to do. Some will okay a small amount of alcohol consumption while on citalopram. This means one drink a day for a woman or two for a man.

You should also know that alcohol in and of itself is a depressant. So, drinking while taking an antidepressant for the treatment of depression can minimize its effectiveness.

On the flip side, one study suggests that citalopram may help curb their drinking when taken by certain heavy drinkers, specifically those who drink at least six drinks per day.  

Alcohol and Celexa: The Bottom Line

Citalopram — also sold under its brand name, Celexa — is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. It is most commonly prescribed as a way of treating symptoms of depressive disorder, as well as used to treat other mental health conditions like anxiety disorders or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Finally, in a small subset of heavy drinkers, it can be used to treat alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism.

Common potential side effects of citalopram include nausea, dizziness, drowsiness and more. There are also more serious side effects like abnormal heart rhythms and seizures.

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Because of the drowsiness Celexa can cause, it’s generally not advised to mix antidepressant medications with alcohol. Because both alcohol and antidepressant medications can cause drowsiness, the combined effects can be an issue. The effects of alcohol can make your depression worse. 

If you have questions about alcohol use and taking antidepressants or about depression symptoms in general, it’s best to speak with a mental health provider. Hers offers online consultations with trained medical professionals to make it easy to get your questions answered. 

5 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Citalopram. Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a699001.html
  2. Chu, A., Wadhwa, R., (2021, May 10). Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. Stat Pearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554406/
  3. Citalopram. National Alliance of Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Citalopram-(Celexa)
  4. Medication Frequently Asked Question. National Alliance of Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/FAQ/Mental-Health-Medication-FAQ/Can-I-drink-alcohol-while-taking-antidepressants
  5. Balldin, J., Berggren, U., Engel, J., et al., (1994). Effect of citalopram on alcohol intake in heavy drinkers. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7847595/

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

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