Sertraline (Oral)

Sertraline, commonly sold and marketed as Zoloft, is an antidepressant of the SSRI class. It is often used to treat mental illness.

Overview

Classified as a selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitor, Sertraline is used primarily as an antidepressant. It treats a variety of mental illnesses, including major depressive disorder (MDD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is the most commonly prescribed medication for outpatients suffering from mental illness, and the second most popular medication for in-unit use (the first being Alprazolam, or Xanax). As an SSRI, it balances mood by allowing for longer and more frequent serotonin activity within the brain.

For people with mood disorders like depression, the absence of serotonin can have devastating effects on mood, behavior, and quality of life. Sertraline is prescribed to combat the brain's faulty chemistry to improve the patient's life and wellbeing. It is available in generic and name-brand forms, and the effect does not differ between these two types of medication. Your dosage may vary depending on a number of factors, so talk to your doctor if you'd like to start a Sertraline prescription.

Sertraline may have side effects that can vary between mild, burdensome, and dangerous. If you react badly to your first dose, tell your doctor right away to see if you need to stop your prescription. It may take time to adjust to a new medication, so trust your doctor if they say to give it time. Your doctor may ramp up your dose if you don't react as planned, and this process is a natural step to finding the right treatment. If your side effects become persistent or painful, talk to your doctor to discuss non-interactive treatments, a new prescription, or a dosage change.

You should not take this medication if your doctor believes it to be unsafe. This drug may interact with existing conditions or other medications, so only take this drug if your doctor prescribes it. Your previous medical history may affect how much of this drug you can safely take. Make sure to tell your doctor about any and all medications you are taking. This includes herbal remedies, over the counter drugs, and other prescription medications.

Take this drug responsibly to avoid harm to yourself or others. If you begin feeling better while taking this medication, don't stop taking it. Chances are, this drug is what is making you feel better, and halting your treatment may cause unwanted side effects. Always talk to your doctor if you want to stop your prescription, and ask them about how you might ramp down your dosage until the treatment's termination.

If you experience suicidal thoughts or ideations while taking this drug, stop taking it and contact your doctor. Do not give this drug to minors unless you are explicitly told to do so by their doctor. Keep this drug out of reach of children, pets, and anyone else who might accidentally take it. If overdose is suspected, contact poison control right away. If you believe yours or someone else's life is in danger, contact emergency medical services immediately.

This drug should only be taken with a prescription. Sertraline may be used in combination with therapy, counselling, or other medications. Like physical illnesses, mental illnesses require treatment. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing serious symptoms of mental illness, and reach out for help.

Conditions Treated

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

Type of Medication

  • Antidepressant
  • Selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)

 

Side Effects

Sertraline may cause side effects, especially if you have never taken this drug before. Some people experience little to no negative side effects, while others may be troubled by their experiences on this drug. If your side effects are painful, persistent, or hinder your daily life, talk to your doctor. They may be able to prescribe additional, non-interactive medications to treat these side effects, or they may recommend that you switch drugs. Finding an antidepressant that works for you may take some time, so do not feel discouraged if one drug doesn't work out.

Here is a list of common side effects that may occur:

  • Mild agitation or irritation, especially in loud environments
  • Abnormal sleeping patterns, including insomnia or sleepiness
  • Increased sweating
  • Dryness of the mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to perform sexually, or a failure to ejaculate
  • Shaking or tremors

These side effects may go away the longer you take this drug. Your body requires time to adjust to every new medication, and these side effects may lessen or disappear over time. If they become worse or become persistent, contact your doctor for advice on how to proceed. None of these side effects should warrant immediate medical attention, so do not stop your medication just because you experience one of these mild side effects. While they may be troublesome, the benefits of treatment may outweigh the negatives.

However, some people may react negatively to Sertraline. In these cases, side effects may be symptoms of a larger problem. Keep an eye on how you react to your medication over the course of the first month, and stop taking your prescription immediately if you experience any of these side effects:

  • Suicidal thoughts or ideations
  • A serious increase in aggressive behavior
  • Violent or dangerous impulses
  • Worsening depression
  • Worsening anxiety
  • Manic or over-excitable behavior

These symptoms should be discussed as soon as possible. They may be a sign that Sertraline is interacting negatively with your brain's existing chemistry. If ignored, these symptoms may escalate and result in serious consequences. If you believe someone is at risk of hurting themselves or others, contact emergency services.

Sertraline may put you at risk for Serotonin Syndrome, a condition in which your body reacts to the serotonin in your brain. This condition can become fatal if left untreated. If you experience any of these side effects, stop taking Sertraline and contact your doctor immediately. If you believe your life is in danger, contact emergency medical services right away. Serotonin syndrome symptoms include:

  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle rigidity, stiffness, or tremor
  • High heart rate
  • Changes in blood pressure

These symptoms should be taken seriously, and should not be ignored under any circumstances. Serotonin syndrome is a serious medical condition, and it can become fatal. Do not continue taking antidepressants, do not begin additional antidepressant prescriptions, and do not ignore the symptoms.

Some people may have an allergy to Sertraline. Allergic reactions can also become fatal if left untreated or ignored. Allergic reactions to Sertraline may include:

  • Hives
  • Closing of the throat/airways
  • Trouble breathing
  • Swelling of the face/tongue/mouth
  • Rash
  • Unexplained fever

If you experience an allergic reaction to Sertraline, stop taking your prescription and contact your doctor immediately. If you believe your life is in danger, contact emergency medical services right away.

Talk to your doctor about the side effects of Sertraline before beginning your medication. It is your responsibility to keep track of your experiences and report them back to your doctor. If you begin feeling strange, or have persistent side effects, discuss your options with your doctor. While some side effects are harmless, others may be a sign that Sertraline is not right for you. Sertraline should only be taken with a doctor's approval.

Dosage

Your dosage for Sertraline may vary depending on a variety of factors, including:

  • Your age
  • How you react to the first dose
  • What you are being treated for
  • The severity of your condition
  • Your other medications or conditions

You should only take however much your doctor prescribes. Increasing or decreasing your dose without their approval may affect how effective Sertraline is for you. If you believe that you need a higher dose, discuss it with your doctor before deciding on a new method of treatment. Sertraline should be ramped up and down to avoid increased side effects.

Sertraline comes in both generic and name brands. The strength of these pills may vary depending on which you are taking. Be sure to look at the label to determine how many pills you should take daily. Sertraline is most often given in oral forms, whether by tablet or solution.

Recommended dosages for varying conditions include:

For Depression:

  • Starting dose: 50mg daily
  • Maximum dose: 200mg daily
  • Dosage should be adjusted every week until the treatment is effective.

For Panic Disorder:

  • Starting dose: 25mg daily, usually adjusted to 50mg after the first week.
  • Maximum dose: 200mg daily.
  • Dosage should be adjusted every week until the treatment is effective.

For Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

  • Starting dose: 25mg daily, usually adjusted to 50mg after the first week.
  • Maximum dose: 200mg daily.
  • Dosage should be adjusted every week until the treatment is effective.

For Social Anxiety Disorder:

  • Starting dose: 25mg daily, usually adjusted to 50mg after the first week.
  • Maximum dose: 200mg daily.
  • Dosage should be adjusted every week until the treatment is effective.

For Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder

  • Starting dose: 50mg every day of your period
  • Maximum dose: 200mg on period days
  • This drug should only be taken on the days of your period, and stopped once your period is over.

This drug should be taken in the morning, and it can be taken with or without food. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember or just wait until your next dose to restart your schedule. Try to avoid missing doses, as it may affect how well the medication works for you. Do not abruptly stop your prescription, as this may worsen your mood and cause unwanted side effects.

Only take this drug as prescribed, and do not allow anyone else to take your prescription. Even if they have the same symptoms as you, they may not react well to the medication. If overdose is suspected, contact poison control and inform them how much was taken and when it was taken. Keep the prescription bottle on hand, and present it to medical services when they arrive.

Talk to your doctor about your Sertraline prescription if you're unsure about its effectiveness. You may need to increase your dose. Do not do this unsupervised. If you take too much or increase your dose too quickly, you may experience aggravated side effects.

Interactions

Sertraline may interact with other drugs to cause unwanted, possibly fatal side effects. Always inform your doctor of what prescriptions you are taking. This can allow them to stop or adjust the dosages of your medications. While interactions should be avoided, some medications can be taken together in small doses. Your doctor may advise that you take less of each medication to avoid complications.

Food interactions include:

  • Alcohol
  • Grapefruit juice

Drug interactions include:

  • Antipsychotics like Pimozide. Taking these drugs in tandem may cause heart problems.
  • Additional psychiatric medications of any kind, including vasopressin and lithium. Discuss with your doctor if you need to take more than one mental health medication at a time.
  • Certain pain medications, including tramadol and rizatriptan, may increase your chances of serotonin syndrome.
  • MAO inhibitors such as phenelzine, isocarboxazid, and tranylcypromine. Wait two weeks after stopping your monoamine oxidase inhibitor to begin your Sertraline prescription. If you take them together, you may experience severe interactions.
  • Blood thinners and NSAIDs may interact with this drug. Discuss your treatment with a doctor if you regularly take heavy doses of NSAIDs like aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen.
  • Cimetidine, also known as Tagamet, is an over the counter heartburn medication that may reduce the passing of Sertraline, resulting in build-up and increased side effects.

Medical interactions include:

  • Bipolar disorder. Sertraline may increase the likelihood of manic episodes, or aggravate them once they have begun. Manic episodes are characterized by increased activity, heightened excitement, and excessive energy. Talk to your doctor if you or a loved one have bipolar disorder. Stop taking this drug if you show signs of mania during your treatment.
  • Diabetes. This medication may affect blood sugar levels, which can become a serious side effect for any patient with diabetes. Talk to your doctor if you have diabetes to discuss a plan of action.

Some of these interactions can become serious if ignored. Always read the labels on your medications, and always consult with a doctor before taking drugs like Sertraline. They are strong, prescription-strength medications, and they can wreak havoc on your body if taken blindly/irresponsibly. While some drugs can be taken together in smaller doses, always be cautious of what medications you are taking at the same time.

This list is in no way exhaustive of every interaction that may occur during your Sertraline treatment. The internet can be a good source of information, but always trust your doctor when it comes to your personal health. Talk to a doctor before beginning any new prescriptions, and make sure to inform them of all your medications. This includes herbal remedies, over the counter drugs, and other prescription medications.

Warnings

Like any other drug, Sertraline comes with risks. If you fall under any specific category, you may be at more risk than another patient. Every person is different, so do not take Sertraline unless you are sure that it will benefit you. While this drug can improve your mental health, lifestyle, and well-being, it is not a catch-all solution for any mental health issue. Talk to your doctor to make sure that Sertraline is right for you, and pay close attention during your first few months of treatment.

The elderly may not be able to process this drug as well as younger people. Get tested frequently to make sure the drug is not building up in your system, and contact your doctor if you experience increased side effects. Older patients may require a lower dose to avoid build-up.

If you experience an allergic reaction to Sertraline, stop taking it immediately. Do not continue your medication, and do not restart your prescription later. A severe allergic reaction can lead to death. Contact emergency services if you have trouble breathing or feel like your life is in danger. Otherwise, stop your prescription and talk to our doctor for more options. While Sertraline is often given as a first-trial antidepressant, that does not make it right for everyone. You may require a different prescription, and you may switch prescriptions several times until you find one that works for you.

If you begin experiencing suicidal thoughts or start feeling the urge to hurt yourself or others, stop taking Sertraline and contact your doctor. This drug has been known to cause and encourage violent or self-endangering tendencies in patients, especially ones below the age of 18. Children and teens are more susceptible to these symptoms than others, but adults should beware as well. If your depression or anxiety worsens while taking Sertraline, stop taking it. There are always other options available, so do not put yourself at risk.

Sertraline should be used in tandem with therapy, counseling, or familial/social support. While it can work on its own to encourage mental health and stability, you may require more help. Practice self-care, take care of yourself and your body and reduce stress where you can. This drug is not a cure-all for anxiety and depression, and should not be treated as so. It is simply a tool to encourage well-being.

Talk to your doctor or psychiatrist if you think you may require a Sertraline prescription. Educate yourself on the risks, side effects, and other important information before beginning your prescription. Keep a close eye on how you react to the drug, and report anything unusual or troubling to your doctor. Many people can take Sertraline without issue, so if you're suffering from depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, Sertraline may be a step in the right direction.

Storage

When storing Sertraline, you should make sure that the drug can't be ruined or tampered with. Only take it out of the prescription bottle when you intend to take it, and do not use weekly pill-counters unless you are living alone or with other adults. Children and pets can easily open and ingest the contents of these containers, so the sealable locks on prescription bottles are a better choice.

Keep this drug away from water, as they will dissolve and lose their form. Do not take ruined pills, since there is almost no way to know how much of the drug you are getting, or if you are getting any active ingredients at all. This drug can be cut or crushed, and it can be taken with or without food. Store this drug at room temperature to avoid heat damage, and do not freeze it. Heating or freezing this drug may affect its potency, and make it less effective during treatment.

If you believe a drug has expired, throw it out. Old medication is likely less effective, so you may be getting the wrong dose entirely. Do not keep extra medication after your prescription has ended. This drug needs to be taken every day over the period of a week to work effectively, so taking one solitary pill won't do anything.

Do not give this drug to anyone else, even if they have similar symptoms. Every person is different, and where you might benefit from a Sertraline prescription, another person may react adversely. If a friend or loved one needs an anti-depressant, recommend that they visit a doctor or psychiatrist to get a prescription.

If you need to throw this medication away, put it in its original bottle or seal the extra pills in a ziplock bag. Label it before throwing it away in an opaque garbage bag, and throw it away with the rest of your garbage. Do not give this drug to anyone else, and do not throw loose pills into the garbage. Children or pets could accidentally consume it and harm themselves.

Summary

Sertraline, introduced by Pfizer as 'Zoloft' in 1991, was a giant step in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It has been used to treat a number of additional conditions since then and has proven to be a reliable and successful form of treatment. While there are still a number of studies into mental health, it has never been easier to get help and medication for mental illness. Even if Sertraline does not work for you, there are a number of other antidepressants that may work better.

Sertraline may cause side effects that vary from person to person. Many people can take Sertraline without issue, but some may react adversely to the drug. If a side effect you are experiencing is troubling or persistent, contact your doctor. While few experience serious or life-threatening side effects, do not hesitate to report anything unusual. Your doctor is there to help, and you should always be aware of how your body is reacting to medications.

Avoid interactive medications while taking Sertraline, and discuss new prescriptions with your doctor before beginning them. Keep a list of your medications, and don't leave anything out when talking to your doctor. If you must take interactive medications while taking Sertraline, discuss the dosage with your doctor, or consider switching medications.

Do not stop your Sertraline prescription abruptly. This may result in unwanted side effects, a drop in mood, or other unexpected results. If you wish to stop taking Sertraline, talk to your doctor about ramping down your medication to avoid withdrawal. Likewise, do not start on a strong dose if you haven't taken Sertraline in a long time. Always follow your doctor's orders regarding dosage, and do not take more or less than recommended. If you have questions about how Sertraline works, or just have concerns about how it's working for you, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

While the internet can be a good source of information, always discuss your health decisions with your doctor. They have your medical file and are there to help you, so keep them updated on what and how much you're taking. If they advise against a treatment, think seriously about following their advice. Take your medications responsibly, and always be aware of the risks and warnings for each drug.

Sertraline can reduce mood swings, increase your mood, encourage productivity, and reduce depression. While you may also require support from family and friends and therapy/ counseling, antidepressants can pave the way for a smoother recovery. If you have experienced a long (over a month) spell of depression, try talking to your doctor about antidepressants. On top of improving your mood, they can also allow you to enjoy life and function normally.

Your brain chemistry should not hinder you every step of the way. Reach out and get help, and don't hesitate to try medication if you think it might benefit you. Research the pros and cons, and talk to your doctor before making a decision.

 

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Last Reviewed:
January 30, 2018
Last Updated:
February 10, 2018