for better mental health

Antidepressants

Explains what antidepressants are, how they work, possible side effects and information about withdrawal.

Should I ever avoid antidepressants?

All drugs carry levels of risk in different circumstances, and can affect different people in different ways. However, there are some general circumstances in which you should be particularly cautious about taking antidepressants.

These include:

For specific risks associated with individual antidepressants you can look up the name of the drug in our antidepressants A–Z.

What if I'm taking other drugs?

You should tell your doctor about any other drugs you are taking before taking an antidepressant, including any illegal drugs and anything you have bought over the counter.

This is important because of:

  • Possible drug interactions – antidepressants interact with a number of other types of drugs, and some interactions can be dangerous.
  • More severe side effects – if you are prescribed several interacting psychiatric drugs together, it can make the side effects of each individual drug worse.

You can find out details of known interactions for individual antidepressants in our antidepressants A–Z.

What if I'm under 18?

If you are under 18, you should be aware that:

  • Antidepressants are not tested clinically on young people under 18 years old, so there's less information available about the possible risks.
  • Antidepressants are not licensed to treat depression in children under 16.
  • If your doctor does prescribe you an antidepressant while you are under 18, they should be very cautious about the dose and take your physical size into account.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) produces guidelines on depression in children and young people, which gives recommendations about which antidepressants can be given to children and who can prescribe them.

What if I want to drink alcohol?

You should be very careful about drinking alcohol while you are taking antidepressants, and check with your doctor or pharmacist whether it's safe with the drug you've been prescribed.

Drug interactions

Alcohol does interact with most antidepressants. This can:

  • make you feel more drowsy than you would from taking the drug on its own
  • affect your ability to perform skilled tasks, such as driving
  • (for older people) make you more prone to falls and confusion

Alcohol can cause low mood

Remember: alcohol itself is a depressant. Drinking alcoholic drinks might be one of the things that’s causing you to feel depressed in the first place, without you realising it.

See our information on food and mood, for more information on how the things you eat and drink can affect the way you feel.

This information was published in 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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