Zoloft is a prescription medication that is used in the treatment of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder, PMS, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other conditions.
It belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors work by interacting with the chemicals in the brain that contribute to depression, anxiety, panic, and obsessive-compulsive behavior.
In this case, the predominant neurotransmitter is serotonin, which researchers believe plays a role in depression, anxiety, overall mood, and other areas.
The medication is usually taken once per day, usually in the morning or the evening. It comes in different size capsules: 25 mg, 50 mg, and 100 mg. It is also available in a liquid form of 20 mg/ml. In general, the dosage range is between 50 mg and 200 mg. Your doctor may alter the dosage gradually in weekly intervals.
For adults suffering from depression, the common starting dose is 50 mg once daily. For adults with Panic Disorder, Post traumatic Stress Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder the initial dose is typically 25 mg which is usually increased to 50 mg after one week.
For children and adolescents, a typical initial dose is 25 mg in children aged 6-12 or 50 mg in adolescents aged 13-17. For more information, refer to this handy dosage guide.
Common side effects may include nausea or upset stomach, anxiety, constipation, decreased sex drive, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, vomiting, loss of appetite, sweating, fatigue, insomnia, and weight changes.
More serious side effects may include agitation, aggression, hallucinations, psychosis, confusion, fainting, worsening anxiety, restlessness, panic attacks, severe insomnia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, extreme fatigue, shallow breathing, fever, seizures, coma, or suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
These serious side effects may be an indication of serotonin syndrome, which is serious and potentially fatal. Notify your doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms or any symptoms that seem out of the ordinary.
According to some research, there may be an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors when patients first start taking SSRI antidepressants, particularly in those age 24 and younger. As a result, this medication is not approved for the treatment of depression in children or anyone under age 18 without careful consideration from a doctor. For more information, read this important warning about antidepressants and suicide.
In pregnant women SSRI antidepressants may increase the risk of various birth defects, a serious and potentially life-threatening lung condition called persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), and other health problems. Zoloft in particular may cause harm to a developing fetus if used during the last trimester of pregnancy. Read this important safety warning about antidepressants and pregnancy.
There are possible health risks, including seizures, that can result from combining this medication with alcohol. It is not recommended to drink or operate vehicles or other machinery while taking antidepressants. For more information, read this important safety warning about antidepressants and alcohol.
Pfizer, the manufacturer of this medication, recommends caution to nursing mothers due to concerns about this drug being present in mother's milk and being consumed by nursing babies. The exact risks to nursing babies are not yet known.
As a result, if you become pregnant while taking this medication, or are planning on becoming pregnant, consult with your doctor in order to discuss your options. For more information, read this safety warning about breastfeeding while taking this medication.
Due to the potential health risks that can result from withdrawal, this medication should be discontinued gradually. Withdrawal may result in those who stop taking this medication abruptly (“cold turkey”) or those that miss a few doses.
Signs of withdrawal may include dizziness, nausea, insomnia, tremors or shakiness, confusion, strange dreams, sweating, electric shock-like sensations. Inform your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. To avoid withdrawal, work with your doctor to gradually reduce your dosage and slowly wean off of this medication.
Do not take this medication together with Orap (pimozide) or any MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) such as Nardil (phenelzine), isocarboxazid (Marplan), Azilect (rasagiline), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam), or Parnate (tranylcypromine). Also, wait at least 14 days after stopping an MAOI before taking Zoloft. Similarly, after you stop taking Zoloft please wait at least 14 days before you begin an MAOI.
As always, keep all medications safely stored out of the reach of children. Always take this medication as prescribed under the supervision of your doctor; never double up doses and never share it with others. Meet with your doctor regularly in order to discuss your progress or concerns.