The Mixing of OCD Medications and Alcohol

Medications for obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, have helped thousands of people escape the trap of this anxiety-related condition. But drinking heavily while you’re taking OCD meds could undermine the positive effects of these prescription drugs and interfere with your treatment goals. If you have a problem with alcohol, you may need rehab to help you overcome substance abuse and build the life you really deserve.

OCD and Alcohol Abuse

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 1 percent of American adults have had OCD at some point in their lives, and that half of these cases could be considered severe. People who live with OCD are plagued by intrusive thoughts and compulsive, ritualistic behaviors. They are obsessed by images or fears that they can’t control, such as the fear of germs, disease or injury to themselves or someone they love. To help manage their anxiety, they engage in complicated, time-consuming rituals, like counting objects, washing their hands or checking locks repeatedly.

These thoughts and behaviors can make it impossible to lead a normal life. OCD can affect your ability to form relationships, hold down a job or even go out in public. As a result, a significant number of people who suffer from OCD turn to alcohol or drugs to help them keep their symptoms under control. The Stanford School of Medicine reports that patients admitted to inpatient or outpatient alcohol rehab programs have a higher rate of OCD than the general population, indicating that there may be a link between this anxiety disorder and alcohol abuse.

Initially, having a drink may seem to soothe your OCD symptoms, but over time, alcohol abuse can make your condition worse. Heavy drinking can lead to social isolation, depression and suicidal thoughts. If you’re trying to treat your OCD with psychiatric medications, drinking may counteract their benefits.

Medications Used in Treatment

Psychiatric drugs combined with talk therapy have given new hope for people who suffer from OCD. The medications most commonly used to treat OCD belong to a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Popular SSRIs used in OCD treatment include:

  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Effexor (venlaxafine)
  • Luvox (fluvoxamine).

Tricyclic antidepressants and antipsychotic medications are also used, in some cases, to help patients manage this anxiety disorder.

Side Effects of Alcohol and OCD Meds

Mixing alcohol with antidepressants can have harmful consequences. MIT Medical cautions that drinking alcohol while you’re taking an antidepressant may aggravate your symptoms and increase the risk of self-destructive or suicidal behavior. Mixing your OCD meds with alcohol may also cause the following side effects:

  • Slow thinking and poor judgment
  • Sleepiness and sedation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • An increased risk of alcohol addiction

The combination of alcohol with antidepressants in the class known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) can cause dangerous drug interactions. These medications, which include Nardil (phenelzine) and Marplan (isocarboxazid), can trigger sudden elevations in blood pressure when you consume alcohol, potentially leading to a brain hemorrhage.

Getting Treatment for Alcoholism and OCD

If you often drink heavily to calm your repetitive, anxious thoughts and control compulsive behaviors, you may have a dual diagnosis of alcohol abuse and OCD. Getting into an alcohol rehab program that offers treatment for anxiety disorders will help you recover from both conditions.

Because OCD has such a profound effect on your thoughts and perceptions, people with a dual diagnosis need help from mental health professionals who are cross-trained in addiction therapy. This debilitating anxiety disorder can pose a number of obstacles to rehab:

  • Difficulty focusing during therapy sessions
  • Fears about interacting with others in group therapy
  • Increased denial about the negative consequences of drinking
  • Poor motivation to complete rehab

At Axis, we understand the unique challenges you face when you’re trying to build a sober, healthy life, and we have the resources to help you reach your goals. Call us to learn more about our individualized treatment programs for anxiety disorders and substance abuse. When you’re ready to reach out to a team of compassionate addiction specialists, we’re here to offer hope.