Drugs Q & A

Can I Take Effexor (Venlafaxine) and Alcohol?

Throughout the 10,000 or so years that humans have been drinking fermented beverages, they’ve also been arguing about their merits and demerits. The debate still simmers today, with a lively back-and-forth over whether alcohol is good for you or bad for you.

It’s safe to say that alcohol is both a tonic and a poison. The difference lies mostly in the dose. Moderate drinking seems to be good for the heart and circulatory system and probably protects against type 2 diabetes and gallstones. Heavy drinking is a major cause of preventable death in most countries. In the U.S., alcohol is implicated in about half of fatal traffic accidents. Heavy drinking can damage the liver and heart, harm an unborn child, increase the chances of developing breast and some other cancers, contribute to depression and violence, and interfere with relationships.

Because alcohol can adversely interact with hundreds of commonly used medications, it’s important to observe warning labels and ask your doctor or pharmacist if it’s safe to use alcohol with any medications and herbal remedies that you take.

What is Effexor?

Effexor and Effexor XR are brands of venlafaxine, a medication used to treat depression. Effexor XR (long-acting) capsules are also used to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD; excessive worrying that is difficult to control), social anxiety disorder (extreme fear of interacting with others or performing in front of others that interferes with normal life), and panic disorder (sudden, unexpected attacks of extreme fear and worry about these attacks).

Studies have shown that mental disorders are among the leading causes of the global health-related burden, with depressive and anxiety disorders being leading contributors to this burden.

Effexor and Effexor XR are in a class of medications called selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

Both medications are non-addictive. However, psychological addiction is possible and frequent abusers of the drugs may also become physically dependent. On the streets, Effexor is known by the following names happy pills, bottled smiles, miracle drug, and wonder drug.

How should this medicine be used?

Effexor and Effexor XR are available as tablets and capsules to take by mouth. The tablet is usually taken two or three times a day with food. Effexor XR is usually taken once daily in the morning or evening with food. Take Effexor at around the same time(s) every day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take Effexor exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often or for a longer period of time than prescribed by your doctor.

Swallow the Effexor XR capsule whole; do not split, chew, crush it, or place it in water. If you cannot swallow the extended-release capsule, you may carefully open the capsule and sprinkle the entire contents on a spoonful of applesauce. Swallow (without chewing) this mixture immediately after preparation and then drink a glass of water to make sure that you have swallowed all of the medication.

Your doctor will probably start you on a low dose of Effexor and gradually increase your dose, not more often than once every 4 to 7 days. Tell your doctor or healthcare provider how you are feeling during your treatment so that he or she can adjust your dose properly.

 Can I take Effexor (venlafaxine) and alcohol?

No, it is very dangerous to consume alcohol or alcoholic products with taking Effexor (venlafaxine) because it can affect the way the medication works and increase the risk of unwanted side effects such as increased bleeding and frequent bruising.

Alcohol also decreases the effectiveness of venlafaxine in treating depression and anxiety. Nevertheless, studies have shown venlafaxine to be an effective treatment for depressive alcoholic patients because of its ability to decrease the severity of problems related to alcohol use.

What side effects can Effexor and Effexor XR cause?

Effexor and Effexor XR may cause side effects. Call your doctor if any of the following symptoms are severe or do not go away:

•        drowsiness

•        weakness or tiredness

•        dizziness

•        headache

•        nightmares

•        nausea

•        vomiting

•        stomach pain

•        constipation

•        diarrhea

•        gas

•        heartburn

•        burping

•        dry mouth

•        change in the ability to taste food

•        loss of appetite

•        weight loss

•        uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body

•        pain, burning, numbness, or tingling in part of the body

•        yawning

•        sweating

•        hot flashes or flushing

•        frequent urination

•        difficulty urinating

•        sore throat, chills, or other signs of infection

•        ringing in the ears

•        sexual problems in males; decreased sex drive, inability to get or keep an erection, or delayed or absent ejaculation

•        sexual problems in females; decreased sex drive, delayed orgasm, or unable to have an orgasm

•        enlarged pupils (black circles in the middle of the eyes)

Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:

•        rash

•        hives

•        itching

•        difficulty breathing or swallowing

•        chest pain

•        fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat

•        seizures

•        unusual bruising or bleeding

•        small purple spots on the skin

•        fever, sweating, confusion, fast or irregular heartbeat, severe muscle stiffness or twitching, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

•        problems with coordination

•        hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)

•        coma (loss of consciousness for a period of time)

Effexor and Effexor XR may slow growth and weight gain in children. If your child is taking Effexor, your child’s doctor will watch your child’s growth carefully. Talk to your child’s doctor about the risks of giving Effexor to your child.

Effexor and Effexor XR may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch) or by phone (1-800-332-1088).

You May Also Find Useful Information on Wet Finger Method For Effexor Withdrawal


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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