Alcohol makes me depressed, when it didn't before. Aging, or Wellbutrin?
February 1, 2014 9:15 AM   Subscribe

As I age, I've noticed a trend: The older I get, the less it takes for me to feel depressed after a night of drinking. Like, not just hungover, but in a generally terrible mood. In my college days, I would naturally feel hungover after drinking a bit too much at a party, whereas having a glass or two of wine wouldn't make me break a sweat. These days, if go overboard I am basically dead to the world for the next two, even three days; but what surprises me is that even having 1-3 drinks with friends turns me into a mess the next day. It seems that no matter how little I drink I wake up groggy, in low spirits, and don't really feel like doing anything - God forbid I have to work the next day. I am usually a pretty happy person, and it was never this bad even a decade ago. These days, if I get invited to have a drink with friends, I often times turn them down since I know that even one drink could might a mood swing that could last days.

I am on a small dose of antidepressants, but have been since my college days with no problems so I don't know how that would factor in. I was recently put on a different one than before to help with energy (I was switched from zoloft to wellbutrin). Is this a fixable problem, or does this naturally happen to some people as they age? Has anyone solved or learned to live with a similar problem? Or could the Wellbutrin be the problem?
posted by BuddyBoo to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My bet is it's an interaction between the Wellbutrin and the alcohol. Alcohol is a CNS depressant and it makes me depressed as hell even after a glass of wine or bear. Generally, it's a bad idea (or so I've been told my multiple p-docs) to mix ADs and alcohol.

Possible relevant link.
posted by kathrynm at 9:20 AM on February 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

As a person in my late 30s, I have this without any medication, as I can attest after a birthday party two days ago. It can happen after 1-2 drinks. I've spent some time trying to figure it out. Besides being a possible inherent family tendency to have bad hangovers, the mechanism seems to be that it disrupts my sleep cycle, resulting in increased anxiety and just feeling crummy. It has been a big revelation how much fun it is (during and afterwards) to go to parties without drinking anything.
posted by steinsaltz at 9:20 AM on February 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

Such is life my friend. :)

I've noticed the same with me (I am 35) but I think a lot of that has to do with life experiences and what gets under your skin. I've never been on Wellbutrin but my doctor prescribed me Paxil which was equivalent to inviting a demon into my body and mind. I got 'off' of Paxil by vaporizing marijuana and spending more time at the gym.

I 'beat' or rather, learned to tame my depression with exercise (4 days a week) and with Tyrosine and Ashwagandha.

You might also want to look at Theanine. It's great if you also have anxiety ridden depression.

Good luck!

PS. Consider the fact that Alcohol is a depressant. Mixing that with any drug will likely yield bad results. I used to be able to pound 10 beers with no problem the next day. Now I cut myself off after 2. It's just not worth the hangover or any other bs that comes with it.
posted by bostonhill at 9:21 AM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is exactly why I don't drink much anymore. As I get older I just can't recover from it like I used to and yeah, I feel depressed for a day or two afterwards. I don't think it has anything to do with the Wellbutrin.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:34 AM on February 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's just aging. Drink less or drink loads of water with your booze.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:45 AM on February 1, 2014

Also my friend tried to convince me I would be OK if I just drank enough water, but it didn't work for me.
posted by steinsaltz at 9:46 AM on February 1, 2014

Anecdata here, but I am a 35yo Wellbutrin-taking lady (lowest dose, even) and yes, this has been exactly my experience. So, mixture of both age and meds?

One small mixed drink will leave me with a definite case of the blahs the next day. Any more than that and it can take 1-2 weeks to snap back into normal-mode. If I know ahead of time that I'll be drinking, I just won't take the meds that day or for 1-2 days after. (I do this occasionally w/o side effect, but that's just my personal experience.) Also try to drink water before bed and eat well the next day, such as avoid anything that's too carby or sugary. But for the most part, I've basically stopped drinking. I just feel better when I avoid it. I think of it more as a special occasion type of thing these days. Might be less fun, but it definitely keeps me on more of an even keel!
posted by cardinality at 9:49 AM on February 1, 2014

The instructional booklet for your anti-depressant says "don't drink on these" for good reason. Personally, I (late-twenties woman) was completely unable to drink on either Wellbutrin or Zoloft. I would feel depressed with a terrible, unshakeable headache even after a single draft beer. The bar-centered aspect of my social life definitely took a nosedive when I was on SSRIs and Wellbutrin. I'll have a glass of wine occasionally or a light beer, both chased by twice as much water, but anything more than that makes me feel lousy. I use cannabis instead.
posted by theraflu at 10:16 AM on February 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

Age, my dear friend. As my mother told me, dry rot sets in after 30.
posted by maryr at 11:04 AM on February 1, 2014

(That is to say - personally, I can have up to two drinks with food on a weekday evening and be pretty much OK the next, but I'm better if I only have one. I am in my early 30s and have been on Wellbutrin since college as well. Hangovers have consisently gotten worse and worse as I have gotten older. Enjoy the additional anecdota.)
posted by maryr at 11:06 AM on February 1, 2014

I'm sure getting older doesn't help, but it's true that many people have terrible reactions to alcohol on Wellbutrin. For the relatively limited time I was on it (and as someone in my early 30s), it made a huge, immediate difference in the effect of alcohol. I got absolutely no warm buzz, significantly more impaired thinking than usual, and a brutal hangover that began before I even got home.
posted by the jam at 11:48 AM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm also thinking it's a reaction to Wellbutrin. I've been on Wellbutrin for several years. Since I started taking it, if I have one drink - heck, even a sip or two - I get horrible, horrible heartburn.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:41 PM on February 1, 2014

I am 27, on no drugs, and this definitely happens to me. I used to be able to drink like a fish and be in great spirits the next day, so I think it's just age.
posted by queens86 at 2:09 PM on February 1, 2014

I've taken buproprion, as have several friends and family members (some for smoking cessation, others for depression). Every single one of us had very poor reactions when we drank on the stuff.

For me, it was getting way more impaired than I should have (based on the amount of alcohol I drank), blacking out, and basically laying around on my couch for the next day or two.

Given the recent switch from zoloft to wellbutrin, I would be pointing fingers at the wellbutrin, not aging.
posted by nobejen at 6:06 PM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

a few friends of mine have reported this after getting on wellbutrin for depression. seems a common side effect even with a small number of drinks. a couple of them don't drink now.
posted by zdravo at 6:23 PM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not mixing Wellbutrin with alcohol is one of the "do not mix with alcohol" warnings you should actually take seriously. Nothing will make me deeply depressed (sometimes suicidally depressed) faster than drinking even a little bit of alcohol on a day I've also taken Wellbutrin.

I've been off Wellbutrin for the past year and alcohol no longer makes me depressed, so it's not just age. Also, while I was taking Wellbutrin, I found that I could skip taking it for a day or two and drink without problems, so if you want to enjoy a party or winery tour or whatever you could try that. The flip side of Wellbutrin working so quickly compared to other antidepressants is that it also leaves your system pretty quickly.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:24 PM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm 28. Happens to me, too, no medication. It just completely appeared out of nowhere one day (or one hangover, perhaps I should say.) Anything more than a 2-3 of drinks will send my anxiety skyrocketing, and actually getting drunk means one or two days of misery.

Personally, I'm fairly happy to have the enforced sobriety. Because I can still have a couple of drinks, I still do drink and go out with friends, I just limit myself. Honestly, I'm not even sure most people notice that I switch to Coke after a beer or two. Probably once a year I get too drunk because I'm not thinking, and the aftermath basically sets me on the straight and narrow for the next 12 months.
posted by retrograde at 7:52 PM on February 1, 2014

I had this exact experience with Wellbutrin. It got to the point where one drink would have me crawling out of my skin the next morning with anxiety. Unfortunately it took years for me to make the connection and quit drinking. I've since gone off Wellbutrin, but I rarely drink more than a beer or two anymore. Those mornings (and afternoons) were so terrible.
posted by checkitnice at 8:16 PM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Funnily enough, I'm 35, on Wellbutrin and it DOES NOT have this effect on me. Not that I'm encouraging you to go drinking on meds, but just an alternate anecdata point.
posted by aclevername at 10:04 PM on February 1, 2014

Early thirties, I found the depressive hangover was correlated with longer term alcohol intake - two heavy drinking nights in a row (as in 2+ ciders) would set me to couch-ridden wall-staring. If more than half my nights involve alcohol I would get to general moping. If I drink one or two ciders in a week I'm fine. If I have one heavy drinking night in a month I'm okay. If I drink regularly then have a heavy drinking weekend, I'm back in the doldrums.

No anti-depressants, but a history of anxiety, depression and alcoholism.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:22 AM on February 2, 2014

41 here, and this has been happening for a few years now. The first phase of my hangover starts in the middle of the night - 3 or 4 am - and while I sometimes have a headache or stomach upset (the stomach part is usually more about what I ate) in the wee small hours, the pattern I've really noticed is a general sense of completely irrational self-loathing, ruminating over any little bit of awkwardness that transpired that evening as I lay awake in bed. Then I fall asleep again, and when I wake up and get up, that feeling sticks around, although it's not as intense.

I thought it was only me and my history of anxiety and slight depression until a friend gave me a joke copy of what is actually an awesome little book called The Hungoevr Cookbook [sic]: one of the hangover types described (you take a little quiz) is called the "Broken Compass" consisting of a "lack of direction and certainty, and a general air of desperate confusion, restlessness, fear and loathing". Oddly, that helped, knowing that I'm not the only one that feels this way the next day, and I'm able to say "oh, I'm having a Broken Compass hangover again". I take care of the physical symptoms with water, pain killers and comfort food when I feel like eating.

I've always been a lightweight drinker and was the first of my set to get serious hangovers (hence the joke gift of that book from someone who rarely gets them), so I tend to either have one or two drinks max, or decide to go on a bit of a bender, prune some brain cells and hope the fun night memories are stronger than the 2-day hangover I know I'm going to have. But we're talking clearing my calendar completely and really planning it out. And benders for me are what most people call a "having a few drinks".
posted by champagneminimalist at 5:36 AM on February 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

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