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Is consuming alcohol everyday to overcome feelings of depression while on Lexapro for anxiety advisable?

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Posted on Sun, 11 Apr 2021
Question: It's been a while since I checked with you about my anxiety disorder and being on Lexapro. I've started taking the full 10 mg Lexapro daily since about 3 weeks ago, and for a while it seemed like I was steadily improving. But suddenly in just the last week, it seems like I've suffered a setback and now I'm beginning to have trouble controlling my anxieties during the day, even though I am getting regular and sufficient sleep at night. I will be honest and say that when things have gotten tough and I needed to function, I would get myself a half shot of gin, but until about last week, I was keeping the drinking very limited, about 2 drinks a day or less. It's probably not a coincidence that I'm finding myself drinking more lately because I'm experiencing more trouble in the past week, and now once again I'm working to cut back my drinking---and I have to try to avoid stressful situations in order to cope, thus limiting what i can do. I know alcohol only provides very temporary relief and is very bad when used regularly.

It does not seem like Lexapro is providing me with any relief from anxiety, such as helping me calm down in the evening when it's time for me to go to bed. Alcohol doesn't provide that either, it just disrupts my sleep. I've heard that Lexapro is actually a stimulant, and reverses feelings of depression. Well, I don't need to be stimulated, I need to find calm. While I believe I've improved considerably in the past 8 weeks, I'm still a long ways from how I used tro be.

Do you have any advice about this, now that I'm at the 8 week mark? I need to have a talk with a doctor about this.


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Okay, that's a clear answer, stop drinking, and so I will. Because of the fact that it now seems hard to avoid wanting to have some alcohol just about every day tells me that I do have an alcohol dependency. However, I am still confused about Lexapro. You said that it is an anti-depressant, but my problem is not depression, or at least it's not as serious as my anxiety disorder, where I have racing thoughts and feeling of unease. Which is why I take half shots of alcohol! If the Lexapro was helping me feel more calm, then I wouldn't need to be drinking alcohol. So my question now is, if I were to stop drinking alcohol, will I in due time feel more calm and not have such a need have drinks for that? And about how long is it likely to take me to feel better in that way, after I've stopped drinking?

Please keep up the dialogue. Once again, you're the only doctor that is talking to me about this. I hadn't been talking to you in the past couple of weeks or so, because I HAD been steadily improving and was feeling encouraged. Now I am having a setback, and I think it's because of my drinking, due to stressful things in life that are happening to me now.
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Answered by Dr. Alexander H. Sheppe (53 minutes later)
Brief Answer:
Consultation

Detailed Answer:
Hello, and thanks for your question.

"About 2 drinks a day or less" is not "limited" drinking. This level of drinking is consistent with alcohol addiction. Lexapro is not a stimulant, it is an antidepressant, and it has not been working because alcohol is a depressant, and it cancels out what Lexapro is doing. My advice is talk to your doctor about your drinking. Your alcoholism needs to be treated before Lexapro will start working.

Dr. Sheppe




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Brief Answer:
Followup

Detailed Answer:
"And about how long is it likely to take me to feel better in that way, after I've stopped drinking?"

It will take 4-6 weeks with no alcohol whatsoever to feel the maximum anti-anxiety effect of Lexapro.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Raju A.T
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Follow up: Dr. Alexander H. Sheppe (2 days later)
Okay, I've had less than one drink yesterday, and none today. Now I'm starting to shake and my anxiety is getting difficult once again. Is this alcohol withdrawal? How much longer could this take? And what can I do to help cope with this, other than relaxation, proper breathing, and CBT?

Once again I'm holing up in my office, being a recluse, trying to avoid stress, and alcohol.
doctor
Answered by Dr. Alexander H. Sheppe (57 minutes later)
Brief Answer:
Followup

Detailed Answer:
It could be a mix of alcohol withdrawal and anxiety. It make take weeks for this to go away. You chose to resume drinking, which I advised against, and these feelings are the result of your choice to drink alcohol. Now you will have to work hard to remain sober.

Dr. Sheppe
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Yogesh D
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Follow up: Dr. Alexander H. Sheppe (21 hours later)
I hear you, and I don't doubt that alcohol has made things worse for me. Okay, 2nd day with no alcohol, and the going is tough. Just to set the record straight, I hadn't had any alcohol from Nov 2017 through Mar 2017, except for very few occasions. Nevertheless, I'll try very hard to stay off alcohol completely.

In looking back in recent years, I do recall that I had increasing intolerance for stress, certain kinds of stress. Some kinds of stress I could handle, others I was increasingly having problems and lack of patience with. Now I believe it was a harbinger of things to come, and I was not recognizing the danger signs. If I stay on Lexapro, can I expect or hope for improvement beyond my severe anxiety disorder which developed sometime after November 2017?

I have some friends and family that tell me that I need to get off Lexapro, saying it's the reason why I am having problems. The trouble with Lexapro, unlike alcohol, it doesn't give me any sense of relief when I take it, so I keep wondering, "is it really doing me any good?", and the temptation to find relief can get large. And then I start doubting things. That's why I need to keep talking to you, when things aren't going well.
doctor
Answered by Dr. Alexander H. Sheppe (2 hours later)
Brief Answer:
Followup

Detailed Answer:
1. If I stay on Lexapro, can I expect or hope for improvement beyond my severe anxiety disorder which developed sometime after November 2017?

Yes, if you refrain from drinking alcohol entirely.

2. I have some friends and family that tell me that I need to get off Lexapro, saying it's the reason why I am having problems.

This is absolutely not true. Alcohol and underlying anxiety are the main problems. Lexapro does not work right away, it takes 4-6 weeks at the maximum dose, in the absence of alcohol and other substances. None of those criteria have been met yet. Give it time.

Dr. Sheppe


Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Yogesh D
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Dr. Alexander H. Sheppe

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Practicing since :2014

Answered : 2240 Questions

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Is consuming alcohol everyday to overcome feelings of depression while on Lexapro for anxiety advisable?

Brief Answer: Consultation Detailed Answer: Hello, and thanks for your question. "About 2 drinks a day or less" is not "limited" drinking. This level of drinking is consistent with alcohol addiction. Lexapro is not a stimulant, it is an antidepressant, and it has not been working because alcohol is a depressant, and it cancels out what Lexapro is doing. My advice is talk to your doctor about your drinking. Your alcoholism needs to be treated before Lexapro will start working. Dr. Sheppe ------------------------------------------- Brief Answer: Followup Detailed Answer: "And about how long is it likely to take me to feel better in that way, after I've stopped drinking?" It will take 4-6 weeks with no alcohol whatsoever to feel the maximum anti-anxiety effect of Lexapro.