Every time your doctor prescribes a medication, it’s important to consider how it may impact your lifestyle. Are you on other prescription meds? Or do you use any recreational drugs? Think about how they might interact. ie. Lexapro and weed or Lexapro and alcohol.
This article will draw attention to the antidepressant Lexapro and its interaction with weed and alcohol. And here’s why:
- High Prevalence of Depression: Depression is rampant. It is estimated that over 21 million US adults have experienced an episode of major depression. The mental disorder can be especially debilitating and even lead to suicide (The CDC reports over 45,000 depression-related suicide deaths). On the brighter side, 66% of people struggling with depression received treatment in 2020.
- Widespread Use of Antidepressants: As a testament to the high prevalence of depression and the number of people seeking treatment, 2% of adults in America used an antidepressant in the past month. In particular, it’s estimated that over 6 million people in the US use Lexapro to manage depression and anxiety disorders.
- High Prevalence of Alcohol Use and Abuse: Around 6% of US adults have indulged in alcohol consumption at least once. And more than 50% reported drinking in the past month.
- Increasing Marijuana Use: About 6 million people aged 12 or older in the US reported using cannabis in the past year.
Together, these statistics can be interpreted to point to a considerable risk of people mixing antidepressants like Lexapro with weed and alcohol.
If you or anyone you know is on Lexapro, read on as we break down whether it is safe to drink or take marijuana while on the antidepressant.
How Lexapro Works
Lexapro (escitalopram) is part of a class of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It is commonly prescribed to help manage mental health conditions such as major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
Like other SSRIs, Lexapro treats mental health problems by inhibiting the recycling of serotonin (a neurotransmitter believed to act as a mood stabilizer). This helps balance the amount of serotonin in the system, alleviating symptoms of depression in the process.
While Lexapro is a safe drug, it still comes with potential side effects—as do all medications. Some common side effects reported from the use of Lexapro include:
- Dry mouth
- Drowsiness, dizziness, or weakness
- Sleep problems
These side effects are usually mild and often go away in a few weeks. However, it is important to note that Lexapro may interact with other substances or medications. And this can lead to an increased risk of harmful side effects or even reduce the effectiveness of the antidepressant.
We strongly advise you to talk honestly with your doctor about your drinking or substance use if they suggest putting you on Lexapro. The antidepressant is administered as a long-term solution, so it’s important to discuss if- and how often you use weed or drink.
Lexapro and Alcohol
Can You Drink on Lexapro?
If you’re using (or are about to use) Lexapro for anxiety or depression, you might be wondering: “Can you drink on Lexapro?” What harm could a few drinks do?
Well, clinical trials by US Food and Drug Administration have yet to find conclusive evidence that alcohol aggravates the effects of Lexapro. And while more research is needed to better understand the risks of mixing Lexapro and alcohol, this doesn’t mean it is safe or the risks are not there.
While there’s a possibility that you may not experience side effects from the interaction of Lexapro and alcohol, most doctors dissuade their patients from drinking while on antidepressant medications.
Mixing Lexapro and alcohol may put you at risk of the following:
- More severe Lexapro-related side effects, including dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea
- The interaction between alcohol and the antidepressant medication may worsen the symptoms of depression, even potentially leading to an increased risk of suicide in the most extreme cases.
- Increased anxiety, which makes the mental health issue more challenging to manage and treat.
- Alcoholism: The more you drink, the higher your risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.
- Lexapro may not work as well in treating your mental health condition. Alcohol use may counter the effects of the antidepressant, decreasing its efficacy.
The severity and risk of danger from mixing Lexapro and alcohol may vary depending on factors such as dosages, individual response, and susceptibility to the compounds. You might also want to consider the amount of time alcohol stays in your system.
Is Any Amount of Alcohol Safe?
Can you drink a little alcohol while on Lexapro? The answer to this question depends on who you ask. Some doctors are against any form of alcohol consumption, while others think “moderate drinking” is okay if you are at low risk of alcohol use disorder.
According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, drinking in moderation means consuming:
- Two alcoholic drinks in a day for men
- One alcoholic beverage in a day for women
Please keep in mind that US standard drink sizes define “one drink” as 12 ounces of beer (5% ABV), 5 ounces of wine (12% ABV), or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits such as whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum (40% ABV).
It should be noted that the Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol assert that people who “are taking certain medications that can interact with alcohol” should not drink at all.
Long story short, can you drink on Lexapro? It is NOT a good idea. We advise against using harmful habit-forming substances when struggling with a mental health issue.
But if you are at low risk of alcohol abuse and want to drink occasionally while on Lexapro, ALWAYS consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice on what’s best in your circumstance.
Alcohol and Mental Health Issues
In addition to the risks posed by the interaction of Lexapro and alcohol, it is also important to look at the effect of alcohol on depression and other mental health conditions.
When the weight of depression or anxiety is weighing you down, downing a glass of wine, a cold beer, or a cocktail might seem like a good idea to cope or take the edge off. But while the euphoria from drinking may suppress feelings of sadness, anxiety, or isolation—the self-medication is only temporary, and your depressive symptoms may even worsen. Several studies report a causal link between alcohol use and depression.
In one review published in the Addiction journal, the researchers examined studies on the association between major depression and alcohol use disorder from 1980-2011. They concluded: “The current state of the literature suggests a causal linkage between alcohol use disorders and major depression, such that increasing involvement with alcohol increases risk of depression.”
Alcohol use disorder and depression are believed to be co-dependent. The two feed into each other. Studies show that individuals with depression or other mental conditions are more likely to misuse alcohol. And on the flip side, drinking frequently puts you at a higher risk of developing major depression.
You only need to look at how alcohol works to understand why drinking is not a good idea when struggling with depression.
Alcohol is a depressant that can affect the function of your central nervous system and disrupt the natural balance of several brain chemicals. Some effects of excessive alcohol use include:
- Increased risk of depression, anxiety, and self-harm.
- Mood swings.
- Impaired memory and difficulty concentrating.
- Reduced reaction time and coordination.
- Risk of respiratory issues.
- A tendency for aggressive or violent behavior.
- Slurred speech
- Increase the risk of injuries and accidents.
- Chronic health conditions, including heart disease, liver disease, stroke, pancreatitis, and some types of cancer.
Takeaway? Alcohol use is not a good idea if you have depression, anxiety, or any other mental health condition—whether you’re on Lexapro or not. It may exacerbate the symptoms of your condition.
Lexapro and Weed / Marijuana
Can You Smoke Weed on Lexapro?
According to the CDC, marijuana is the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the US. People mostly use pot for experimentation, pleasure, to fit in, or to self-medicate against stresses and underlying mental health issues.
And as marijuana use becomes more prevalent following increased destigmatization and decriminalization in the United States, it’s important to look at its connection to mental health problems and its interaction with medications used to manage the conditions (such as Lexapro).
With nearly 50 million people in the US reporting cannabis use and an increasing prevalence of depression, the question then becomes: Can you smoke weed on Lexapro or any other antidepressant? The short answer: It depends—but you probably shouldn’t.
Research on the interaction of Lexapro and marijuana is largely limited due to the legality of weed. Of the few studies that have been done, there appears to be a negative interaction between weed and SSRI antidepressants—probably because both compounds affect serotonin levels in the brain.
One animal study suggested that using marijuana may reduce the effectiveness of an SSRI, and potentially negate its therapeutic effects. It should be that this study is in no way conclusive on the interaction of Lexapro and weed.
The answer to whether you can use Lexapro and weed can also be found by looking at the health consequences of marijuana and the connection of marijuana to depression.
Marijuana and Mental Health Issues
The connection between mental health conditions and alcohol is well understood. But not so much for weed. But despite the limited research on the connection between weed and mental health issues, the CDC notes, “Marijuana use has also been linked to depression; social anxiety; and thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, and suicide.”
Here are some studies linking marijuana use to an increased risk of depression:
- Findings from a 2020 study appearing in the journal Addiction showed: “The prevalence of cannabis use in the United States increased from 2005 to 2017 among people with and without depression and was approximately twice as common among those with depression.”
- Of particular concern is the risk of depression in adolescents who consume cannabis. A meta-analysis published in JAMA Psychiatry concluded that “the high prevalence of adolescents consuming cannabis generates a large number of young people who could develop depression and suicidality attributable to cannabis.” These findings are supported by a Canadian study that suggested long-term exposure of adolescents to weed may be linked to depression-like and anxiety-like behaviors in adulthood.
Weed directly affects parts of the brain associated with decision-making, emotion, memory, coordination, learning, and reaction time. The CDC warns, “Infants, children, and teens (who still have developing brains) are especially susceptible to the adverse effects of marijuana.”
Some potential effects of cannabis use include:
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Impaired motor coordination
- A sensation of slowed time
- Impaired judgment
- Social withdrawal
- Impaired focus, attention, and orientation to the environment
- Dry mouth
- Tachycardia (abnormally rapid heart rate)
People can also develop marijuana addiction, which can be defined as the compulsive behavior of using weed in harmful ways and continuing to use it despite the adverse effects on physical, social, or mental health.
While there is still a lot to learn about the interaction between Lexapro and marijuana, the risks exist—and you should not ignore them. Why risk it?
But as with Lexapro and alcohol, ALWAYS talk to your doctor before mixing Lexapro and weed—even if it’s just a few puffs.
Help is Available!
- Can you drink on Lexapro? It’s not worth it. Alcohol use is not a good idea in any situation, especially when it could aggravate the mental health issue you’re trying to manage with antidepressants.
- Can you smoke weed on Lexapro? The potential risks outweigh any benefits you may think you are getting from marijuana use.
Most experts are against the idea of mixing antidepressants and recreational drugs due to the chance of negative interactions that negate the effectiveness of treatment, exacerbate side effects of the medications, or worsen the underlying mental health issue.
But if you want to take weed or raise a glass once in a while, do it safely by consulting your doctor. And never stop taking Lexapro or any other medication just to facilitate alcohol or weed use.
If you or a loved one is struggling with depression or anxiety, you are not alone—help is available. Self-medicating with alcohol or marijuana can worsen your symptoms and increase the risk of marijuana addiction and alcohol use disorder.
Move past marijuana/alcohol addiction and mental health disorders by reaching out to an expert at (844) 467-3848.