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If You’re on SSRIs, Non-Alcoholic Cocktails Could Be Dangerous

The ‘calming’ ingredients in products like Kin or Recess could have some severe interactions with your medications, including something called ‘serotonin syndrome’

I enjoy my SSRIs, and I enjoy alcohol. They’re an okay combination — generally not advised, but still relatively safe. 

Say I wanted to cut back on drinking, though. With adaptogen and CBD-based canned cocktails and 0 percent ABV aperitifs increasing in popularity, there are a plethora of solid options available for people looking to limit their booze intake while still getting the sense of relaxation from a happy-hour drink. The issue is, the calm-promoting ingredients in them can be potentially dangerous for people on certain common prescriptions. 

One of them is SSRIs. 

SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are the most widely prescribed form of antidepressant medication. In 2017, the American Psychological Association reported that 12.7 percent of Americans over the age of 12 take antidepressants. As their name suggests, SSRIs work by selectively raising and managing serotonin levels. Unfortunately, many of the active ingredients in products from companies like Kin or Recess can impact that process. 

More specifically, Kin and Recess use a variety of herbs, adaptogens and nootropics to create their products. Some of the commonly appearing ingredients include CBD, 5-HTP, ginseng and GABA — all of which could potentially interfere with SSRIs. “SSRIs are metabolized through CYP450 hepatic enzymes,” explains June Chin, chief medical officer of Yesterday Wellness. “CBD and other herbal products have been known to modulate cytochrome P450 enzymes as well.”

According to Chin, CBD remains a relatively safe supplement to consume alongside SSRIs, though you’ll want to be careful with your dosage and space out when you take your medication and when you consume CBD. But that’s not necessarily true of many of the other ingredients in these non-alcoholic beverages. In particular, changes to the CYP450 enzyme can cause the brain to over-produce serotonin, potentially leading to a condition called serotonin syndrome, which can be fatal if left untreated. Milder cases usually involve diarrhea, confusion and muscle rigidity. 

Notably, serotonin syndrome can occur from a variety of drug and herb interactions. Nutmeg, tobacco-addiction medications, certain painkillers and even cold medicines have been known to potentially cause serotonin syndrome. 

It’s worth mentioning that both Kin and Recess make it clear on their websites that you should consult with your doctor before drinking their products if you have any medical conditions or are on any medications whatsoever. “Do not drink euphorics with alcohol or any other mind- or mood-altering substances,” the Kin FAQ page reads. “If you have any health conditions, take any medications or have any health questions, consult with your doctor before consuming Kin.” 

It’d be easy, though, for someone to ignore these warnings without knowing the potential consequences, and it’s unlikely that doctors will know to warn patients about such products. Mine didn’t even warn me about not consuming grapefruit

And so, as always, it’s important to do your research and consult with medical professionals before trying out any consumable intended to help you relax. After all, you’ll probably be better able to enjoy your CBD spritzer knowing that you won’t be chasing it down with a trip to the hospital.