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Paxil and Alcohol: What Are the Risks

Kristin Hall

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 7/9/2022

If you’re dealing with anxiety or depression, taking an antidepressant can help. One such antidepressant? Paxil® (also known as generic paroxetine). Paxil is a mostly safe and effective treatment for symptoms of depression and anxiety, but like most medications, there are some things you should be aware of — especially if you’re a fan of an after-work cocktail or glass of vino. Simply, Paxil and alcohol don’t make a good mix.

We’ll get to the “why?” in a little bit, but first, let’s look at what Paxil is and why it’s so popular in the mental healthcare community.

What Is Paxil? 

Paxil, also known by its generic name paroxetine, is a type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It must be prescribed by a healthcare professional. 

SSRIs work by increasing serotonin levels (also known as the happy hormone) in your brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has been connected to depression and anxiety. 

Paroxetine is commonly prescribed for a number of mental health issues, including major depressive disorder, various anxiety disorders and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. It is available in tablet, liquid and extended-release forms. 

Like any medication, there are common side effects associated with paroxetine. Some of them are: 

  • Dizziness

  • Headaches

  • Confusion and forgetfulness

  • Weakness

  • Vomiting

  • Constipation

  • Joint pain

  • Heartburn

  • Weight loss or weight gain

If you’re taking this antidepressant and notice persistent side effects, you should contact your healthcare provider.

There are a few more serious side effects associated with paroxetine, too. They include chest pain, trouble breathing, irregular heart rhythm, fainting and more. Speak to a medical provider immediately if you experience any of these. 

If you start taking paroxetine and decide you want to stop, don’t quit cold turkey. Instead, work with a healthcare professional to lower your dosage slowly until it’s safe for you to stop. By doing this, you’ll avoid withdrawal symptoms. 

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Is It Safe to Drink Alcohol and Take Paxil? 

Generally, it’s not advised to drink while taking antidepressants, including paroxetine. 

Here’s why: drinking and taking paroxetine could decrease the benefits on the medication and increase your chances of experiencing side effects. For example, a side effect of drinking while taking this antidepressant is that you may feel more sedated.

Because many people refuse to give up alcohol completely while taking antidepressants, some medical professionals will okay one drink a day for female patients and two drinks a day for male patients. 

However, it is very important to speak with your personal healthcare provider, as everyone’s situation and medical history are different. 

No matter what, you should not start drinking until you know how Paxil makes you feel. If you are experiencing side effects like dizziness or drowsiness, alcohol will only make these things worse.

But the conversation around paroxetine and alcohol is a bit more complicated and nuanced. 

One small study looked at people with social anxiety disorder and alcohol use disorder — specifically, people who misused alcohol to make them feel more comfortable in social situations. 

The results suggest that taking paroxetine helped people feel more comfortable in social settings and curbed alcohol use.

Of course, it’s worth noting that this was just one study, and the sample size was extremely small and involved just 15 people.

On the flip side, taking SSRIs (like paroxetine) has been linked in some research to inducing alcoholism. 

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Taking Paxil and Alcohol

Paroxetine (or the brand name Paxil) is an antidepressant medication that is used to treat things like major depressive disorder and various anxiety disorders — specifically generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety (aka social phobia), panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

Drinking while taking paroxetine is, for the most part, not recommended. If you do drink, you may find it enhances the adverse reactions of this antidepressant.

There is some research that found that people with social phobia who take paroxetine may find they don’t feel the need to imbibe in alcohol consumption since their anxiety symptoms are alleviated.

That said, there’s other research that suggests alcohol abuse or alcohol cravings may increase when taking SSRIs. With Paxil and alcohol interaction being so iffy, it really is best to avoid it if you can.

If you have questions about alcohol and paxil, it’s a good idea to speak with a mental health provider

7 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. Paroextine. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Paroxetine-(Paxil)
  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. Paroextine. Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a698032.html
  4. Frequently Asked Questions. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/FAQ/Mental-Health-Medication-FAQ/Can-I-drink-alcohol-while-taking-antidepressants
  5. Randall, C L., Johnson, M R., Thevos, A K., et al., (2001). Paroxetine for social anxiety and alcohol use in dual-diagnosed patients. Depress Anxiety. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11754136/
  6. Brookwell, L., Hogan, C., Healy, D., Mangin, D., (2014). Ninety-three cases of alcohol dependence following SSRI treatment. Int J Risk Saf Med. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24902507/
  7. Chu, A., Wadhwa, R., (2021, May 10). Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. Stat Pearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554406/

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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