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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Mood Stabilizers and Alcohol

09/05/2007

Question:

My boyfriend takes Lamictal and Depakote for his anxiety/suspected bipolar. He also takes Trazadone at night. I have noticed that when he drinks alcohol, over the next few days his anxiety levels rise despite the constant dose of meds. He denies this correlation and I`d like to find out if there is some medical basis I can present to him on this. Can alcohol negate the effectiveness of these meds when used for that purpose? Please advise.

Answer:

Alcohol can be considered a "drug" that affects mood, emotions and mental health.  Other medications, such as those prescribed for mental health issues, can interact with alcohol, and the direct effect of alcohol on emotions and mental health must also be considered.

The effect of alcohol is greatly dose dependent -- a glass of wine or a single beer will likely have a minimal effect.  However, when the amount one drinks increases, so does its effect on mental health.   It is also important to consider alcoholism and substance abuse -- separate mental illnesses that often occur along with other mental disorders such as anxiety and bipolar disorder.

It is important for individuals to be honest with themselves (and their health care providers) about the amount they drink.  If an individual is using medications for mental health issues, they need to abstain from alcohol or limit it to only 1 or 2 drinks a day.  If a person cannot limit their drinking to that amount, then a diagnosis of substance abuse should be considered.

Good Luck.

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Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati