Zoloft (sertraline) is a prescription antidepressant drug. It belongs to a group of antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This medication is often used to treat depression experienced by adults and teenagers. This medication may also be used to treat adults and teenagers who experience panic attacks, posttraumatic stress, social anxiety, premenstrual dysphoric issues, and obsessive compulsive thoughts and behaviors. Zoloft may help to control the emotions, thoughts, and actions that sometimes accompany these mental health conditions, but it will not cure the conditions.
- How should I take this medication?
Zoloft comes in both tablet and concentrated liquid form and is usually taken once per day, with or without food. The concentrated liquid must be diluted with water, ginger ale, orange juice, lemon lime soda, or lemonade. Drink the diluted mixture immediately. Do not dilute this medication with any other liquid. Your healthcare advisor may adjust your dosage until he or she finds the best dosage to relieve your symptoms. You may need to take this medication for several weeks before you begin to feel the effects of this drug. It is important to continue taking this drug as prescribed by your healthcare advisor, even after you begin to feel better.
- What should I do if I miss a dose?
As soon as you remember it, take the dose you missed. If it will soon be time for your next regular dose, skip the missed dose altogether. You should not take a double dose to make up for missed medication. Taking two doses over a short period of time may lead to an overdose.
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Call a poison control center, call your healthcare provider, and seek urgent medical attention immediately. An overdose of this medication may be fatal. Symptoms of overdose include vomiting, dizziness, seizures, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, hallucinations, breathing difficulties, fainting, and coma.
- Who should not take this medication?
People who are allergic to sertraline should avoid this medication. Allergic reactions may include difficulty breathing, rashes or hives, and swelling of the lips, tongue, eyes or face. Elderly people should not take this medication unless it is being used to treat obsessive compulsive behavior. Children should not be given this drug. Individuals who take medications such as pimozide, Antabuse, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), or those who have used an MAOI in the past two weeks should not use Zoloft as serious or life-threatening effects may occur. Do not share your medication with other individuals, even if they have been diagnosed with the same health issues.
- What are some ways to get the most out of my treatment with this medication?
Zoloft is prescribed by doctors and psychiatrists for many mental health conditions that also benefit from treatment with psychotherapy. While this medication may allow you to receive better treatment in the face of debilitating symptoms, it will not teach you positive coping skills, help you understand what you are experiencing, or help you develop a healthy self-care routine. Finding a therapist or counselor to work with may help you fill in some of the gaps that occur from treating mental health conditions with drugs alone. Additionally, a mental health professional may help you develop healthy lifestyle changes that facilitate better, longer-lasting mental health outcomes.
- How should I store this medication?
Zoloft should be tightly sealed in its original container when not in use. Store the container at room temperature. Avoid locations that are exposed to excess heat or moisture (such as a bathroom or kitchen).
Teenagers and young adults may experience an increase in suicidal thoughts and actions, particularly during the first few months of treatment. Similar effects may be experienced when the dose is adjusted.
Long-term use of this medication has been linked with a severe and potentially fatal condition called serotonin syndrome. Symptoms of this condition include muscle twitching, muscle rigidity, fast heartbeat, excessive sweating or fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drastic changes in mood, agitation, hallucinations, and loss of consciousness.
Before taking any psychotropic medication, including Zoloft, it is important to discuss your complete health history and medication use with your doctor. You should also mention any serious reactions you may have had to other similar medications. If you drink alcohol on a regular basis, talk to your doctor about interactions this drug may have as a result of your alcohol use.
Zoloft may interact with other medications or supplements, including but not limited to:
- Antabuse (disulfiram)
- Medications for sleep issues
- Natural herbs, especially St. John's wort
- Medications for pain relief
- Medication for issues with blood pressure
- Migraine medications
If you are taking any prescription drugs or regularly taking supplements, consult with your physician before beginning treatment with this drug.
SSRIs carry significant risks of which to be aware. If you are prescribed this drug, your doctor and/or pharmacist should share the following warnings with you:
- If you are pregnant or become pregnant while taking Zoloft, ask your doctor if there are other treatments that would work for your condition. This drug may cause problems in newborns if taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
- Zoloft can make you extremely drowsy. Try to refrain from driving or operating heavy machinery or engaging in intense phsysical activity until you know for sure how this drug affects you.
- Alcohol may intensify the potential side effects of this medication.
- If you are scheduled for surgery or plan on having surgery, be sure to let your surgeon know that you are taking this medication. This warning includes oral surgery.
Side effects from Zoloft will be different for each person. Some people who take it experience no side effects at all. Serious side effects from this medication may include:
- Unclear vision
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Abnormal bleeding, bruising, or blistering
- Auditory or visual hallucinations
- Stiff muscles
- Flu-like symptoms such as fever or excessive sweating
Less serious side effects of taking this drug can include:
- Dry mouth
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Stomach issues, gas, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation
- Low sodium levels in blood
- Pain or tingling in extremities
- Noticeable differences in sex drive or ability
- Unwarranted tremors or shaking
- Sore or tight throat
People who are taking Zoloft should not stop taking the drug all at once. Formulate a plan with your doctor before reducing or discontinuing this medication altogether. You can reduce the symptoms you feel during withdrawal by slowly reducing this medication in your system. Possible symptoms of withdrawal may include:
Speak with your doctor about any negative symptoms that you experience when you stop using this medication.
- Citizens Commission on Human Rights International. (2012). The side effects of common psychiatric drugs. Retrieved from http://www.cchrint.org/pdfs/The_Side_Effects_of_Common_Psychiatric_Drugs.pdf
- Drugs.com. (2014). Zoloft. Retrieved from http://www.drugs.com/zoloft.html
- Medline Plus. (2014). Sertraline. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a697048.html
- RxList. (2014). Zoloft. Retrieved from http://www.rxlist.com/zoloft-drug.htm
- United States Food and Drug Administration. (2012). Medication guide: Zoloft. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/downloads/drugs/drugsafety/ucm089832.pdf
Page content reviewed by James Pendleton, ND.