Zoloft, or sertraline, is an antidepressant prescription and a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drug used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health conditions. It works by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain. While it can effectively treat many mental health conditions, Zoloft has some potential side effects to be aware of before taking it.
It’s important to know the potential side effects of Zoloft. Only then can you take steps to ensure that your mental health treatment is as successful as possible. Here we’re looking in detail at Zoloft side effects and interactions. Keep reading for a medication guide to learn more about the potential risk of using Zoloft to treat depression or any other mental health condition.
Potential Risks & Warnings of Taking Zoloft
Zoloft is a powerful and effective SSRI antidepressant that should be used cautiously. Make sure you’re aware of the potential risks, warnings, and side effects for Zoloft — and keep in mind, Zoloft isn’t right for everyone. Certain people should not take Zoloft, including:
- People with liver disease, as the drug can cause further damage
- Some pregnant women — some studies found an increased risk for complications in babies whose mothers took Zoloft during pregnancy
- People taking Pimozide for Tourette’s syndrome
- Anyone who’s used an MAO inhibitor within the last 14 days
Side Effects of Zoloft (Sertraline)
Zoloft can be an effective medication for depression, anxiety disorders, and other conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, there are potential side effects to consider before starting treatment.
One of the most common Zoloft side effects is nausea or upset stomach — although research shows it usually doesn’t last. Note that it’s possible to have more severe side effects, though, including suicidal thoughts or behaviors, mania, or serotonin syndrome.
Be sure you tell your doctor about any of the medications you started taking before beginning Zoloft. Certain drugs can interact negatively with Zoloft. Weight gain or loss can also occur, and you should speak to your healthcare provider if either extreme occurs.
“The two most common side effects that my clients on Zoloft (Sertraline) have brought to my attention include impacts to their sex life (decreased sex drive and increased difficulty reaching orgasm) and generally ‘feeling blah.’ The second one they say is hard to describe because it’s not the same as when they feel depressed, but they define it as equally annoying and as generally not feeling like themselves.”– Talkspace therapist Ashley Ertel, LCSW, BCD, C-DBT
Common side effects
As noted, a common Zoloft effect is nausea, but most people find it typically subsides after a few weeks of taking the antidepressant medication. If it persists, though, contact your doctor right away. Other common side effects include:
- Dry mouth — although side effect is less common in people taking SSRIs than some other types of antidepressants
- Drowsiness during the daytime hours
- Sexual dysfunction, such as decreased libido or difficulty achieving orgasm
Serious side effects
More adverse effects may occur in rare cases. This can include an increased risk for suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Other severe side effects from Zoloft can include:
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- Serotonin syndrome which can cause fever, confusion, and muscle rigidity
- Risk of bleeding — a risk with any SSRI
If any of these symptoms occur while taking Zoloft, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Interactions with other medications
Before taking Zoloft, inform your doctor about all medications you currently take, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements, since certain medications may interact negatively when combined with Zoloft.
Less common side effects
Changes in weight
Some people report Zoloft weight gain as a side effect while on this medication. However, it’s generally not believed to be significant enough to warrant concern for most people.
On the flip side, some people also see weight loss on Zoloft. This is likely due to the potential for decreased appetite. If either extreme occurs, speak to your healthcare provider so they can determine if they should adjust your dosage.
Some people have reported tremors after taking Zoloft. However, this isn’t common. These movements usually occur during periods of high stress and, depending on the severity, can interfere with daily life activities. Consult a physician to learn how best to handle involuntary movement issues related to Zoloft dosage.
A note about the side effects of Zoloft during the first week
It can be helpful to look at Zoloft week by week when assessing side effects. When first using it, some people may experience short-term Zoloft side effects like increased anxiety, insomnia, and/or nausea.
- Anxiety: It’s not uncommon for anyone just starting a course of Zoloft to feel more anxious than usual. This is due to the body adjusting to the medication. Most often, anxiety symptoms subside within a few days or weeks. If your anxiety persists or worsens, it’s best to speak with your doctor.
- Insomnia: Insomnia is another common side effect experienced by those beginning treatment with Zoloft. To help, try avoiding caffeine late in the day and establishing a regular sleep schedule as much as possible. If needed, talk with your doctor about trying over-the-counter medications. For example, some people find melatonin helps promote better sleep quality without causing dependency as many prescription sleeping pills can.
- Nausea: Nausea can be a common side effect of Zoloft during the first week of treatment. Try eating smaller meals throughout the day, drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding greasy foods, and taking your medication after meals rather than on an empty stomach whenever possible. If these tricks don’t work, speak to your doctor about trying antiemetic medications that can help reduce nausea.
When taking Zoloft, be aware of potential drug interactions with other medications, supplements, and alcohol. Taking certain combinations can lead to severe side effects or cause even life-threatening and adverse reactions.
Zoloft interactions with other drugs
Some side effects from Zoloft include possible interaction with common prescription medications. Tell your doctor if you’re taking any MAO inhibitors, such as phenelzine (Nardil) or tranylcypromine (Parnate). You shouldn’t take Zoloft within 14 days of these due to the risk of a dangerous reaction called serotonin syndrome.
Zoloft interactions with alcohol
Alcohol can interact negatively with Zoloft. It can increase sedative, making it harder for the body to process the drug correctly. This can lead to an increased risk of side effects, including drowsiness, dizziness, impaired coordination, slowed reflexes, and confusion. It’s usually recommended to avoid drinking when taking Zoloft unless otherwise directed by a healthcare professional.
Talk with a Doctor About Zoloft
Talking to a doctor about Zoloft can help you decide if the antidepressant medication is right for you and your symptoms. Discuss existing medical conditions and current medications so they can determine if this drug is right for you and decide on the appropriate dose. Your doctor will also monitor your progress throughout treatment to ensure that the benefits outweigh any potential risks associated with using Zoloft.
“If you’re experiencing any side effects — no matter the severity — it’s important to speak with the person who prescribed the medication. Sometimes even small tweaks can be incredibly helpful. Also, prescribers are fairly limited in knowing exactly which medication will be the best for each individual, and there is often a period of trial and error. While this may feel frustrating, the benefits often outweigh the challenges.”– Talkspace therapist Ashley Ertel, LCSW, BCD, C-DBT
If you’re struggling with the side effects of Zoloft, talk to a doctor. At Talkspace, we have online psychiatrists available to assess your condition, symptoms, and side effects. From there, they can give you proper guidance and treatment plan recommendations.
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