Interactions Between Lithium and Alcohol

Lithium is short for lithium carbonate, which treats manic episodes in bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Before taking medication, there are some precautionary measures that you should take, like avoiding alcohol use since it can impact your overall health.

Alcohol intake with any OTC or prescription drugs can cause side effects that range from mild to severe.

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Key Takeaways

Mixing lithium and alcohol is dangerous for your physical and mental health. If you use lithium, it is best to know how it works and interacts with alcohol.

  • Lithium has soothing effects on patients who get agitated or experience manic episodes.
  • Inform healthcare professionals about your medical history and the drugs you take before using lithium.
  • Lithium and alcohol can cause drowsiness and nausea.
  • In severe cases, this interaction may cause lithium toxicity and hypothyroidism.

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How Lithium Works

Lithium is found in nature and is used in medicines to treat mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety. This medication is a mood stabilizer that treats acute manic episodes.

Lithium acts on the central nervous system and alters the release of chemicals in your brain. It strengthens the connection between nerves and regulates an individual’s behavior, thoughts, and overall mood. It takes two to three weeks to experience its positive effect.

Doctors also prescribe lithium to a patient who is having intense suicidal thoughts. This prescription drug reduces destructive thoughts and has euphoric effects on its user.

They provide this medication under medical supervision and perform regular blood tests because it can affect the kidney.

They also evaluate lithium serum levels which also helps detect lithium poisoning in patients. The lithium level in your body must be moderate, meaning it should not be too high or too low.

What to Know Before Using Lithium

Inform your doctor before taking lithium if you had:

  • Breathing problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Heart disease
  • Thyroid disorder
  • Allergic reaction

Moreover, inform healthcare professionals if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Lithium and certain medications can react with each other, leading to the dangerous disease known as serotonin syndrome.

Make sure your doctor knows of any additional medications you use, including stimulant and opioid medicines for anxiety, mental illness, migraines, and severe infections. Avoid lithium if you or your loved one has a substance use disorder.

Lithium may interact with medications you may use to prevent nausea and vomiting. If you vomit or experience the symptoms of diarrhea along with excessive sweating, then get medical help.

People who consume lithium experience such symptoms because this drug causes dehydration. To prevent it, drink extra water and follow a healthcare professional’s instructions.

Lithium and Alcohol

If you are taking lithium to calm your nerves after an episode and drinking alcohol to increase its soothing effects, that might not happen. Alcohol is known to reduce other drugs’ effectiveness and intensify its side effects.

Like lithium, alcohol has mood-changing effects. Alcohol alters an individual’s overall behavior and mood because of the presence of ethanol.

Both drugs affect the brain’s chemical function, leading to mood swings. This combination is lethal, especially for a person with bipolar disorder.

Patients diagnosed with this disorder feel overwhelmed or disconnected from their lives. When their episodes begin, they are often confused and do not know how to act in that condition. To suppress that feeling, they consume alcohol that makes them numb and calm.

Alcohol eases tension, particularly in social situations. It may temporarily lessen the bipolar disorder symptoms, but this is not a suitable cure to overcome the mental disorder.

Prolonged use of alcoholic beverages can lead to alcohol dependence. If you or your family member is dealing with this chronic illness, then The Recovery Team can help you achieve sobriety.

We offer residential treatment and lower relapse risk by providing you with behavioral therapies and counseling. We prioritize your security and well-being.

Effects of Mixing Lithium and Alcohol

Healthcare providers advise patients with mental health conditions to maintain a balanced diet when using lithium. When an individual with alcohol use disorder cannot avoid alcohol intake, they are at risk of experiencing the following serious side effects:

  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty making decision
  • Impaired judgment
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stress
  • Muscle ache
  • Joint pain
  • Lethargy

The misuse of alcohol makes it more difficult to treat bipolar disorder and other mood disorders. Drinking affects judgment, increases impulsivity, and increases the chance of injury. Individuals must avoid driving a vehicle as it may result in death.

Long-term substance abuse can cause liver problems because alcohol destroys liver cells and affects enzymes. This drug interaction also affects your circadian rhythms.

Lithium and alcohol together can raise the risk of suicidal behavior. Patients with bipolar disorder who drink excessively have a higher risk of suicide than those who do not.

Lithium Toxicity

Alcohol and lithium cause dehydration, and mixing them can amplify each other’s effect. Both substances are diuretics and increase urination. When alcohol causes a lack of fluid in your body, it causes a rise in the amount of lithium in your blood, leading to lithium toxicity.

If you are taking this prescription medication and have consumed alcohol, it is vital to know the signs and symptoms of lithium toxicity.

Lithium toxicity can be mild or severe. Some of the symptoms of lithium toxicity are:

  • Passing out
  • Confusion
  • Symptoms of diarrhea
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fainting
  • Hallucinations
  • Cold and pale fingers and toes
  • Seizures
  • Tiredness
  • Vision problems

These signs point to a dangerously elevated level of lithium. When these signs appear, patients should quit lithium and get help immediately.

Lithium poisoning is a potentially fatal condition that has to be treated right away by a medical specialist. Lithium poisoning can be incurable if left untreated.


Too much lithium and alcohol in your body can affect thyroid levels leading to hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is unable to produce thyroid hormone in your blood. A lack of thyroid hormone can slow the metabolism.

Due to hypothyroidism, you may feel more tired than usual and experience numbness in your hands. If you do not seek professional medical advice and treatment, you may gain weight, experience depression, and have high cholesterol levels.

If you or your loved one is dealing with alcohol use disorder (AUD), then The Recovery Team can help you to battle against it. We offer individual therapy that treats AUD and helps patients overcome trauma or any event that hinders them from moving forward.