Zoloft Effects, Abuse, and Treatment

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Zoloft is an antidepressant in the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) classification. Zoloft effects and abuse can be of concern in some cases, although it is incredibly helpful for most people it is prescribed for.

This branded version of sertraline is only available with a prescription. Zoloft is used to treat a variety of conditions, including:

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  • Major depressive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder)
  • OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)

Although Zoloft is frequently marketed as a safer alternative than Prozac and similar drugs, although it Zoloft effects may be of concern in some cases. Today’s guide will highlight the risks associated with using Zoloft.

What is Zoloft?

As an SSRI antidepressant, Zoloft stabilizes serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger responsible for regulating emotions.

Like all SSRIs, Zoloft works by preventing neurons in the brain from absorbing serotonin. Resultantly, more of the chemical is available to streamline connections between neurons. This can alleviate the symptoms of disorders that stem from a lack of serotonin in the brain.

If a medication like Zoloft manages to boost serotonin levels, this can:

  • Boost mood
  • Help with sleep
  • Improve energy levels
  • Increase interest in life

Zoloft is a prescription medication that exists in the following forms:

  • Pill
  • Tablet
  • Liquid

Most people who are prescribed Zoloft will take the medication once a day. When taken as directed, Zoloft is considered generally safe and effective

If Zoloft is misused and abused, though, the medication carries the risk of dependence, withdrawal, and overdose.

What is Zoloft used for, then?

Zoloft is primarily prescribed to treat depression. The medication can also be effective for treating panic attacks, OCD, PTSD, and social anxiety disorder.

Less frequently, Zoloft is used to treat PMDD, a severe type of premenstrual syndrome.

Zoloft (sertraline) is prescribed to improve mood, appetite, sleep, and energy levels, as well as restoring interest in everyday life in those reporting symptoms of depression.

When Zoloft is prescribed for individuals with social phobias, the medication may reduce anxiety, fear, unwanted thoughts, and the frequency of panic attacks.

If someone with OCD is prescribed Zoloft, the medication may minimize the urge to perform repetitive behaviors like compulsive counting, touching, or handwashing.

Zoloft Dosage?

Zoloft comes in the following forms:

  • Oral tablet: 25mg, 50mg, 100mg
  • Oral solution: 20mg/mL

Zoloft is prescribed in different doses for different conditions as follows: 

  • For depression: Adults will typically start on 50mg of Zoloft daily. Dosage may be gradually increased to a maximum dose of 200mg per day. Zoloft should not be prescribed to treat under-18s with depression due to a lack of research in this demographic.
  • For OCD: Adults will typically start on 50mg of Zoloft daily. Dosage may be gradually increased to a maximum dose of 200mg per day. Zoloft should not be prescribed to treat children under the age of 6 with OCD. Children aged 6 to 12 will typically start on 25mg of Zoloft daily. Dosage may be gradually increased to a maximum dose of 200mg per day. Children aged 6 to 12 will typically start on 50mg of Zoloft daily.
  • For panic disorder: Adults will typically start on 25mg of Zoloft daily. Often, the dose is increased to 50mg after one week, to a maximum of 200mg daily.
  • For PTSD: Adults will typically start on 25mg to 50mg of Zoloft daily. Dosage may be increased by 25mg to 50mg each week to a maximum dose of 200mg per day.
  • For social anxiety disorder: Adults will typically start on 25mg to 50mg of Zoloft daily. Dosage is often increased by 25mg to 50mg after six weeks to a maximum dose of 200mg per day.
  • For PMDD: Zoloft may be prescribed throughout the menstrual cycle at doses of 50mg daily, to a maximum of 150mg daily.
An image of a distressed man, feeling the side effects of Zoloft abuse

Zoloft Side Effects

Zoloft can trigger some side effects. The most common reported side effects of Zoloft are neither long-lasting nor life-threatening. These include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Indigestion
  • Appetite loss
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Tremors

The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) issued a black box warning for Zoloft, reporting that the medication can provoke or inflame suicidal ideation in children or young adults. Accordingly, Zoloft is not FDA-approved for the treatment of depressive symptoms in children.

If Zoloft is abused, these are the most reported side effects:

  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Headache
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Anorexia
  • Suicidal thoughts

Effects in Women

In women, Zoloft can have both beneficial effects and adverse side effects. Here are some of the most reported effects that Zoloft may have in women:

  • Improvement in depression and anxiety symptoms: Zoloft can effectively improve symptoms of depression and anxiety in women. It can help to reduce feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness, and may also ease anxiety symptoms such as panic attacks and excessive worry.
  • Improvement in PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder): PMDD is a severe form of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) that can significantly affect a woman’s quality of life. Zoloft has been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of PMDD, including mood swings, irritability, and anxiety.
  • Sexual side effects: Zoloft may trigger sexual side effects in women, including reduced libido, difficulty achieving orgasm, and decreased vaginal lubrication.
  • Weight changes: Some women may experience weight gain or weight loss while taking Zoloft.
  • Nausea or digestive issues: Zoloft may cause gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
  • Headaches: Headaches are a common side effect of Zoloft in women and men.
  • Sleep disturbances: Zoloft may cause insomnia or drowsiness.

It is important to note that not all women will experience these side effects, and the severity and duration of side effects may vary. Women should always consult with their primary healthcare provider before starting or stopping any medication, including Zoloft.

Zoloft vs Prozac

Both Zoloft and Prozac are SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which means they both work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. That said, there are some differences between these medications that may make one a better choice than the other for some people.

One difference is the elimination half-life of the medications. The half-life of a drug is the amount of time it takes for the body to eliminate half of the drug. Zoloft has a shorter half-life than Prozac, meaning that it leaves the body more quickly. This can be advantageous for those who experience side effects from medication, as they may be able to discontinue Zoloft more quickly if necessary.

Another key difference between these medications is the dosage range. Zoloft is normally prescribed at doses between 50-200mg per day, while Prozac can be prescribed at doses between 10-80mg per day. This may be a consideration for those who require a lower or higher dose of medication. 

Additionally, some people may find that they respond better to one medication than the other. While both Zoloft and Prozac can be effective for treating depression and anxiety, individual differences in brain chemistry and genetics can make one medication more effective for some people.

Ultimately, the choice between Zoloft and Prozac should be made in consultation with your prescribing physician.

Zoloft and Alcohol

It is inadvisable to combine Zoloft and alcohol. Taking more than one substance heightens the risk of adverse interactions. Alcohol can enhance Zoloft’s side effects, intensifying the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Suicidal ideation

Combining alcohol and SSRI antidepressants like Zoloft may also trigger adverse outcomes that include:

  • Serotonin syndrome: Zoloft is an SSRI that leads to increased levels of serotonin in the brain. Alcohol also causes an increase in serotonin levels. If serotonin levels in the brain become too high, this can trigger serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition
  • Depression: Combining alcohol with antidepressants like Zoloft may worsen the symptoms of depression.
  • Extreme oversedation: Zoloft and alcohol are both depressants of the CNS (central nervous system), slowing and suppressing brain activity. Combining the substances leads to oversedation that may slow breathing dangerously and trigger life-threatening coma.
  • Suicidal ideation: Increased suicidal thoughts are reported as a potential side effect of Zoloft. This can be intensified if the medication is combined with alcohol.

Is Zoloft Addictive?

Like all SSRI antidepressants, Zoloft is not considered physically addictive. That said, the sustained misuse of Zoloft can lead to psychological addiction. 

Some of the most common markers of Zoloft abuse or addiction include:

  • Using someone else’s prescription for Zoloft.
  • Faking symptoms to obtain more Zoloft.
  • Seeing multiple doctors to obtain more than one prescription for Zoloft.
  • Taking larger amounts or more frequent doses of Zoloft than directed.
  • Using Zoloft to self-medicate daily problems.
  • Difficulty functioning normally without the medication.

Can You Abuse Zoloft?

While there is no evidence to suggest that people prescribed Zoloft experience cravings for the medication, it is a psychotropic (mind-altering) drug that can trigger patterns of abuse that may lead to physical dependence.

20% of those prescribed SSRIs like Zoloft report experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuing use. Withdrawal is an indicator of physical dependence.

If you feel that you are dependent on Zoloft or any other medication, we can help you address the issue here at California Detox.

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Zoloft Rehab at California Detox

If you have developed an addiction to Zoloft, kickstart your recovery with a supervised medical detox here at our luxury treatment facility in Orange County.

After a week or so of detoxification, you can transition directly into one of our inpatient or outpatient treatment programs. Choose from the following California Detox treatment programs:

  • Inpatient rehab (residential rehab)
  • Outpatient program
  • Intensive outpatient program
  • Partial hospitalization program
  • Dual diagnosis treatment program
  • Remote rehab

Regardless of the most appropriate treatment intensity, you will have access to the same evidence-based treatments, including:

  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Psychotherapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy

Reach out to California Detox today. Call 949.390.5377 for immediate assistance.


Zoloft may cause weight gain by slowing metabolism and increasing appetite.
Zoloft increases levels of serotonin in the brain, potentially alleviating the symptoms of depression or anxiety. The medication may also improve sleep, energy levels, and appetite.


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