Bipolar & Sobriety

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Before I was diagnosed with bipolar II and anxiety, I did a lot of partying. I may have been hypomanic — I don’t know for sure. I felt more confident as soon as I had my first shot and a beer, and I bellied up to the bar as soon as I walked in. Jägermeister and Miller Lite were my go-to’s. When Mind Erasers became popular, I’d down several in one night. For maximum effect, you drink these particular shots quickly through a straw. I also smoked pot and did coke. This was in my early 20s. Once I was diagnosed at age 25, I quit hitting the bars. I quit partying altogether.

Presently, I seldom drink, but I do drink. On the few occasions we go out to dinner, I may have a glass of wine — 2 at the most, which is rare. Sometimes, I’ll have a mixture of Malibu Rum and orange juice. Malibu contains half the alcohol as other spirits, such as vodka. I’ve also realized that I don’t even like beer, and yet I drank it for years!

The psychiatrists I’ve seen regularly (#s 3 and 6)  have never told me not to drink, nor have they suggested it. But I’ve often considered quitting drinking because of my meds.

According to an article on the Mayo Clinic website, you may become drowsy if you mix antidepressants with alcohol, or feel “more depressed and anxious,” among other things. Mixing alcohol and benzodiazepines, according to this article on the American Addiction Centers website includes “a reduction in cognition,” which in turn, “can result in . . . a loss of inhibitions [and] impaired judgment,” as well as other other undesirable effects. And yet, a PDF factsheet from states that taking mood stabilizers doesn’t mean that you “have to stop drinking alcohol completely. But you should try not to have more than one or two drinks a day.” Finally, according to this article on the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health website, if you’re on an atypical antipsychotic, “Having one or two drinks on occasion should be okay — but remember that one drink may have the effect of two or even three drinks.”

I take all of these types of medications. Yet the articles leave me bewildered because some strongly suggest not to drink, while others say that it’s okay, as long as you only have a couple. I’ve never experienced drowsiness or loss of inhibition when I drink these days, but the articles concern me. There’s no reason I need to drink at all, so I’m thinking I should stop. On the other hand, a part of me thinks it’s okay, as long as I only have a drink or two while socializing. So confusing.

Do you think it’s okay for someone taking these types of meds to have a drink once in a while? Why or why not?

via Daily Prompt: Bewildered

18 thoughts on “Bipolar & Sobriety

  1. I would completely discuss it with whoever is prescribing the meds. Everyone’s mileage may vary, and what somebody else on the internet gets away with without obvious harm may not work for me or you. I think the articles are trying to not prescribe because legally they can’t, and they make vague statements that may apply to different people. I take only Tibetan medicine and half a breathing pill at night, and I just discovered that drinking the herbal detox tea I was drinking made me feel really weird with the other stuff, so I stopped. All these things are really hard on the liver and other organs, so I would check with whoever your doctor is and get good advice there, if you trust that person.

  2. You should talk to your doctor. A lot of medications wreak havoc on the liver, and drinking just adds to it. Not to mention, sometimes alcohol combined with certain medications has an adverse effect.

  3. I think just like everyone is individual in how they respond to meds, everyone is individual in how they respond to meds. The only times I’ve ever had problems with drinking and meds was when I’ve been somewhere hot and the heat plus alcohol has made me dehydrated, and then I get side effects from lithium.

    1. I think so, too, but I think I’ll ask my doc, anyway. I can see what you mean by drinking in hot weather.

  4. I (read: my mother) have been having the same concerns lately. None of my doctors have ever made it a priority to tell me not to drink, and so the rare times that I do drink, I have learned how to tell whenever I need to stop. I’ve noticed that my medicines make me more vulnerable to intoxication; basically, I get really drunk, really fast. Like I said, I’ve learned when my body’s had enough, along with the help of my loving boyfriend. I know I don’t need to drink, but as a young adult with bipolar II, sometimes I just want to do something normal young adults would do.

  5. Oh what a dream…. to only have one or two drinks!!! It was the bottle for me but we both know I’m an alcoholic. I think if you are only having the occasional beverage it should be fine and you monitor yourself which is very responsible. If you are wanting to cut it out because you fear the effects of the combo, cut it out so you aren’t taking chances. I think because you do so in a social setting, you will be ok and I am an over-protective grandma these days!!! haha…but if you are drinking nightly, at home, I see your reason for concern. My first go round on mental meds, I mixed with alcohol, a lot of alcohol, and it only effected me when I switched this one time but it was a very scary incident, psychosis. I think it is your decision whichever you see fit to do, just be careful.

    1. I don’t drink at home, only when we’re out, and even then I might not drink. I think I’ll talk to my doc. Thanks for your input, Eve. 😊

  6. I drink, but I keep in mind that alcohol might have a more sedating effect for me given the meds I’m taking. I’ve never been able to drink very much, and I hardly ever drink, but after years of being on meds, I’ve come to trust my instincts. There’s only one med I’ve been on (Latuda) that gave me a horrible reaction to alcohol. I think sometimes doctors say not to drink on meds because of the depressive effect of alcohol more than anything.

  7. I think because you are use to drinking and you have been taking meds for quite some time, it probably doesnt affect yo as much as someone who’s not use to it. After a couple of drinks, I would think it is affecting you more than you realize. You are probably getting numb to the effects after a couple of drinks. I think it would be wise to cut back to at least only one, max two. That’s just my opinion. Alcohol definitely affects me more now than before I took meds. I can only handle two at the most and I wont drive at all if I’ve had even one.

  8. For me its about the impact on your mood and wellness. I’m not suggesting you should drink or not – but being MORE depressed or MORE manic is not what you or I need. I’ve decided not to.

  9. Personally, I don’t mix alcohol with benzo’s because they suppress the respiratory system. People can accidentally kill themselves mixing the two. This is especially true if you take a pain medication on top of it. I stopped drink years ago because it made me feel like crap after I started my BPD regimen.

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