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Cymbalta and Alcohol

Duloxetine, sold under the brand name Irenka or Cymbalta, is a prescription medication that usually comes as a capsule and taken orally. Doctors usually prescribe Cymbalta to treat either anxiety or depression, but it can also be used to help relieve pain. However, Cymbalta can lead to complications with the liver, so consuming alcohol with the medication can cause liver damage or worsen a pre-existing liver disease.

Cymbalta – The Ins and Outs

According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), Cymbalta can treat the following:

  • Major Depressive Disorder in Adults
  • Generalized anxiety disorder in persons 7 years or older
  • Diabetic nerve pain in adults
  • General muscle pain in persons 13 years or older
  • Chronic pain in the bones, ligaments, tendons, or muscles in adults.

The FDA classified Cymbalta as an antidepressant, but it can also be used to treat a wide variety of pain, both within diabetic patients and patients simply suffering from chronic pain.

Cymbalta works by reducing the brain’s ability to absorb both serotonin and norepinephrine. Serotonin is one of the body’s emotional hormones, and Cymbalta, by preventing its absorption, reduces the severity of emotions a patient will feel. Norepinephrine, on the other hand, is the body’s ‘stress’ hormone, and is produced when the brain determines things are getting stressful.

Cymbalta prevents norepinephrine from being absorbed in the brain, and improves mood as a result. In essence, Cymbalta mainly reduces stress and also reduces severity of emotions. 

However, Cymbalta also causes a number of side effects. The FDA recognized that these side effects were common in patients with major depressive disorder who took antidepressants: 

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability/hostility or aggressiveness
  • Impulsivity
  • Restlessness
  • Bipolarity

The FDA also noted some side effects exclusive to Cymbalta:

  • Liver failure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Increased risk of bleeding
  • Skin reactions
  • Increased blood pressure

So Cymbalta can cause a number of unpleasant side effects, but most of the serious ones are rare, and only likely to cause complications in patients who have a pre-existing condition.

Fortunately, the FDA also determined that people who take Cymbalta don’t develop a dependence on the drug. Since it is non-addictive, it might be a better option than some other antidepressants.

The Impact of Alcohol

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH) clearly outlines how excessive and/or chronic alcohol consumption can negatively affect the body:

  • In the brain: Alcohol interferes with the brain’s regular pathways, and interrupts clear thinking, decision making, coordinated movement, and mood.
  • In the heart: Too much alcohol can lead to a number of heart-related complications, including misshapen heart muscles, irregular heart beat, stroke, and high blood pressure.
  • In the liver: The liver metabolises alcohol, and takes a toll from it in the form of a fatty liver, inflammation, scar tissue, and chronic liver damage.
  • In the pancreas: Alcohol prompts the pancreas to produce toxic substances that damage both the pancreas and surrounding organs.
  • Alcohol has also been studied to put the user at a higher risk of cancer.

Too much alcohol causes a heap of unpleasant symptoms, but the combination of alcohol and Cymbalta can yield particularly nasty side effects. 

Alcohol and Cymbalta – A Dangerous Combo

It may not be inherently obvious that these two substances mix poorly, but if one were to take a look at both lists of side effects, the overlap puts the liver at especially high risk. The FDA noted that Cymbalta should not be prescribed to individuals with pre-existing liver disease or chronic liver damage.

This decision was due to Cymbalta sometimes causing liver damage, and patients who had previously had complications with their liver could suffer severe liver damage. On the other hand, NIH’s breakdown of alcohol’s effects on the liver include some of the exact side effects.

Alcohol can wreak havoc on the liver, resulting in scar tissue forming and chronic liver damage. So, excessive alcohol use leads to the exact conditions that Cymbalta can combine with to cause severe liver damage, or it may aggravate a pre-existing liver disease.

However, Cymbalta can also be used to help patients who are struggling to overcome an alcohol addiction. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) conducted a study in which Cymbalta was prescribed to help mitigate the anxiety-like effects felt by individuals struggling with alcohol cravings.

The participants originally responded well to Cymbalta, showing reduced cravings for alcohol, many patients of the study suffered severe liver damage as a result of the drug.

So, while the drug can help patients overcome alcohol cravings, Cymbalta’s effect on people who had previously suffered from alcohol addiction is primarily negative, and other ways of overcoming cravings are more promising and less damaging to the liver.

Closing Thoughts

Cymbalta, an antidepressant, treats a wide variety of symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. Some of the side effects from it make it dangerous in individuals who have a liver disease, or who consume a large amount of alcohol.

The anxiety-treating aspect of Cymbalta can help decrease alcohol cravings in patients overcoming addiction, but the liver damage that commonly results make it a poor choice for treating the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. To read more about drug combinations or addiction, visit our blog.

If you think you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, contact us today, and we can help you on your journey. Overcoming addiction is difficult, and different for each person, but it doesn’t need to be taken on alone.