The FDA approved Zoloft, or sertraline, in 1999, and it can be very effective in treating people with major depressive disorder (MDD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Nonetheless, Zoloft carries the risk of side effects and, sometimes, abuse.
What Is Zoloft, and What Does It Do?
Zoloft is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that helps to balance serotonin, a neural transmitter in the brain that is responsible for balancing emotions. People with low levels of serotonin are prone to depression; SSRIs prevent the brain from absorbing serotonin, which allows it to build up and make more connections with your brain’s neurons.
Depression and anxiety disorders are incredibly common conditions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 5% of the world’s adults suffer from depression, and 301 million people suffer from some type of anxiety disorder. Additionally, depression is one of the leading causes of suicide.
When taken correctly, Zoloft can decrease anxiety, unwanted thoughts and fear, reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks and lessen the desire to perform repeated tasks that get in the way of everyday life, such as excessive hand washing or counting.
Zoloft Side Effects
Like most drugs, Zoloft can cause side effects. If your doctor has prescribed you Zoloft, it’s because they believe that the benefit to you outweighs the risk of side effects. Still, you should keep an eye out for mild or severe side effects and coordinate with your doctor accordingly.
Mild Side Effects
When you begin taking Zoloft, it is relatively common to experience:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Upset stomach
These side effects are generally short-lived and inconsequential, but you should let your doctor know if they get worse or last for a long time.
Serious Side Effects
Rarely, sertraline can also cause some serious side effects. You should alert your physician immediately if you experience:
- Easy bleeding or bruising
- A decrease in sexual desire or performance
- Muscle cramps or weakness
- Significant and unexpected weight loss
Furthermore, you should seek immediate medical attention if you experience any extreme side effects, which include vomit that has the appearance of coffee grounds, rapid or irregular heartbeat, black or bloody stools and vision changes, such as blurred vision or seeing halos around lights at night.
Zoloft Addiction, Dependence and Overdose
While Zoloft is not addictive in the same way that nicotine, alcohol or illicit drugs are, it does change your brain chemistry, which can lead to dependence and, if you stop taking it, withdrawal symptoms.
It’s unlikely that you’ll ever crave Zoloft, but that doesn’t mean your body won’t become dependent on it. If you’re taking Zoloft and discover that you can’t feel normal or get through the day without it, your body has likely become dependent on the drug.
When you stop taking Zoloft, there’s a chance you’ll develop withdrawal symptoms. This is known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome and affects about 20% of people who quit taking an antidepressant.
If you’re going to experience withdrawal symptoms, they usually manifest within a day or two. Symptoms of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Vivid dreams
- Flu-like symptoms, such as chills or muscle aches
- Electric shock sensations
- Reemergence of depression symptoms
This is not an exhaustive list of withdrawal symptoms; you should keep your doctor informed about any and all symptoms you experience. Withdrawal symptoms typically last from one to three weeks.
It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between withdrawal symptoms and the return of depression symptoms. Because of this, your doctor may opt to reduce the amount of Zoloft you take gradually. They might also prescribe a different, short-term antidepressant while Zoloft works its way out of your system. It’s important to heed your doctor’s advice even if you think you could quit cold turkey.
Sertraline overdose is extremely rare, but it’s not impossible. For the most part, taking too much Zoloft can be uncomfortable, but it’s usually not serious. Typical symptoms arising from a Zoloft overdose include agitation, dizziness, shaking, nausea and tiredness.
While incredibly rare, a serious Zoloft overdose can be life-threatening, a condition called serotonin syndrome. If you’re on Zoloft and miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember; if it’s already close to time to take your next dose, skip the dose you missed. Never take a double dose in an attempt to catch up.
You should get help immediately if you feel like you’re going to lose consciousness, and experience muscle rigidity, hallucinations, delusions, or seizures.
How Long Should People Take Zoloft?
Sertraline is a long-term drug, so there’s no harm in taking it for months or even years. In fact, it generally takes four to six weeks for Zoloft to build up adequate levels in your body.
Many believe that once they begin taking an antidepressant, they’ll take it forever. This isn’t true; generally speaking, you should take an antidepressant for one-and-a-half times as long as the duration of your depressive episode. After that, your doctor will likely begin weaning you off the drug, a process known as tapering.
Can Zoloft Cause a High?
Because Zoloft is not a narcotic, it’s very unusual for it to cause feelings of euphoria. Nevertheless, some people have reported feeling high when taking sertraline. Some people may take more than directed, mix Zoloft with other substances, crush the tablets, and snort the powder to achieve more powerful or immediate effects.
Treatment for Zoloft Addiction
Although Zoloft may not be addictive in the traditional sense, the serious nature of the underlying depression is to cause enough to get help if you need it.
It’s understandable to feel apprehensive about getting help for an addiction, but you shouldn’t hesitate to do so. Addiction is incredibly common across the world. In fact, about 21 million people struggle with addiction in the United States alone. Globally, that number is at least 35 million people, and that’s likely a conservative estimate; many addictions go unreported and untreated.
If you’re asking yourself whether you need help getting off Zoloft, managing withdrawal symptoms, or dealing with another form of substance abuse, there’s a decent chance that the answer is yes.
If you live in or around Long Island, then Long Island Interventions can help you regain control of your life. Addiction doesn’t discriminate; it doesn’t care if you’re rich, poor, Black, or white. It’s a big step to begin treating addiction, and it’s never easy. Unfortunately, waiting around to get help doesn’t make it easier. It makes it harder.
For many people struggling with addiction, it’s hard to believe that life could ever be fun or enjoyable once they get sober. This is a very common feeling, and it’s one that’s shared by nearly everyone in the throes of substance abuse. It’s also completely, utterly false. There’s definitely life after substance abuse, and it’s a far better one.
Take the first step toward freedom from dependence. Call Long Island Interventions today. You’ll be so glad you did.