What is Zoloft?
Zoloft is the brand name of the generic medication sertraline. Zoloft is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)—a type of medication typically used to treat depression and often is prescribed for anxiety.
Zoloft is used to treat:
- Major depressive disorder (MDD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder (PD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
- Social anxiety disorder
Zoloft is also used “off-label” for:
- Binge eating disorder
- Bulimia nervosa
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
“Off-label” use—taking a medication for a condition other than one it has been approved to treat by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—is a common and acceptable practice among healthcare providers.
So, how does Zoloft work? SSRIs—including Zoloft—increase the amount of a neurotransmitter in your brain called serotonin (which affects feelings of satisfaction, optimism, and contentment) by stopping it from being reabsorbed into brain nerve cells (or neurons).
Zoloft (sertraline) is available in tablet and liquid forms:
- 25 mg
- 50 mg
- 100 mg
- 20 mg/mL
Your doctor, prescribing nurse, or Minded professional may have you begin on a low starting Zoloft dosage for anxiety or depression, such as 25 mg or 50 mg, daily. Then, if necessary, they may increase your dose, gradually, over several weeks. The maximum recommended dose in most cases is no more than 200 mg daily, though some people need a higher dose for symptom relief.
Zoloft is a once-daily medication that can be taken in the morning or the evening, either with or without food.
If you accidentally miss a dose of Zoloft, you will want to either: take the missed dose as soon as you remember to—or, if it is closer to when you would take your next dose, just go ahead and take the next dose like you normally would.
For more information:
- Lexapro vs Zoloft: What’s the difference?
- Zoloft vs Prozac: Which antidepressant is better for me?
- Renewing and refilling your Zoloft (sertraline) prescription online
Zoloft side effects, warnings, and drug interactions
Zoloft side effects
Common side effects of Zoloft include:
- Increased sleepiness
- Loss of appetite
- Sexual problems (such as decreased sex drive or sexual dysfunction)
Zoloft side effects in women and Zoloft side effects in men tend to be similar. As with most SSRIs, many side effects tend to decrease during the first few weeks of taking Zoloft, with the exception of sexual side effects, which may continue while you are on this medication.
Talk to your prescribing doctor, nurse, or Minded professional if you experience these or any other new or worsening side effects.
Rare or serious Zoloft side effects include:
- Angle-closure glaucoma (symptoms include: pain in your eye, vision changes, or swelling or redness in or around your eye)
- Low sodium levels in your blood (symptoms include: headaches, feeling weak, or having a hard time concentrating or remembering things)
- Serotonin Syndrome (symptoms include: shivering, diarrhea, confusion, severe tightness in your muscles, fever, or seizures. Serotonin Syndrome is a very serious condition that can be fatal if it is not properly diagnosed and treated.)
- Teeth grinding
SSRIs, including Zoloft, can increase your risk for potentially life-threatening bleeding in your stomach, intestines, nose, or gums. This risk is further increased if you are also taking certain other medications, such as:
- Anticoagulants (such as Eliquis or Warfarin)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen)
If you experience these or any other serious side effects, seek medical attention immediately.
Zoloft comes with an FDA “Black Box” warning. This means that the FDA has identified certain serious safety risks that may arise from taking this medication. While Black Box warnings should be taken seriously, the actual risk may be very low or rare.
The Black Box warning for Zoloft says that antidepressant medications may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors in children and young adults (under 25 years old).
Zoloft and pregnancy
As with other SSRI medications, taking Zoloft during pregnancy or while breastfeeding can affect your baby. Always discuss your treatment plan with your prescribing doctor, nurse, or Minded professional if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to do so.
Zoloft withdrawal symptoms
If you need to stop taking Zoloft for any reason, it is important that you work with your doctor, prescribing nurse, or Minded professional to develop a plan to carefully and gradually do so in order to avoid antidepressant medication withdrawal symptoms.
Zoloft withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Paresthesias (a prickling and/or tingling sensation on your skin)
While some people experience mild symptoms that only last a week or so, others experience more severe symptoms that last weeks or even months. Developing (and following) a plan with your prescribing provider can help you avoid these symptoms.
Always let your doctor or a Minded professional know about any other medications and/or supplements you are taking to determine if Zoloft might have any negative interaction with them.
Zoloft may interact with:
- Antabuse (disulfiram)*
- Coumadin (warfarin)
- Medications that may cause bleeding, such as Advil and Motrin (ibuprofen), aspirin, or naproxen.
- Migraine medications (triptans)
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs—another type of antidepressant medication)
- Orap (pimozide, an antipsychotic medication used to reduce involuntary movements)
- Other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Some pain medications, such as Ultram (tramadol)
- Zyvox (linezolid)
*This medication specifically may interact with the liquid form of sertraline (Zoloft).
Zoloft and alcohol
You should not drink alcohol while you are taking Zoloft. Even though alcohol may seem to temporarily improve your mood, in the long-term alcohol can increase anxiety and depression symptoms. Alcohol can also increase the negative side effects of medications like Zoloft while decreasing their benefits. Additionally, there is a risk of unintentionally overdosing on Zoloft if it is taken with alcohol.
Zoloft and other SSRIs need to be taken regularly both in order to be effective and to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Do not skip doses of Zoloft to drink alcohol.