Updated on April 3, 2024
5 min read

Can You Get Addicted to Zoloft?

Key Takeaways

What is Zoloft?

Zoloft is one of the brand names for the drug sertraline. It’s an antidepressant medication that physicians also prescribe for several mental health disorders.

Zoloft works by improving mood, thoughts, appetite, sleep, and energy in people suffering from:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Panic disorder (panic attacks)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
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Is Zoloft Addictive?

Yes, Zoloft and other SSRI antidepressants can be addictive, especially when abused.  It raises serotonin levels in the brain, making it dependent on the drug to function correctly. This creates Zoloft dependence that can progress to addiction.

Zoloft dependence affects about half of the people who receive treatment with SSRIs. Prolonged use can also increase your tolerance, making you take higher doses to experience the same effects. 

However, discontinuing Zoloft abruptly after long-term use can also lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. You must consult your healthcare provider to map out a Zoloft withdrawal timeline to avoid the severe side effects of Zoloft withdrawal.

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Signs and Symptoms of Zoloft Addiction

Some common signs of Zoloft addiction and abuse include:

  • Zoloft cravings
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Neglecting responsibilities or interests
  • Taking higher doses of Ativan or taking it frequently
  • Taking the drug to cope with stress
  • Combining the drug with other substances like alcohol

However, Zoloft addiction can also have behavioral and physical symptoms. If you or someone you know are experiencing the following symptoms, you should contact a doctor immediately:

Behavioral Symptoms

Behavioral changes in a Zoloft-addicted person include:

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Mania
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia

These are also symptoms of serotonin syndrome that occur because of elevated serotonin levels. A person taking Zoloft who develops serotonin syndrome might experience problems with autonomic function, rhythmic muscle spasms, and changes in mental status.

Physical Symptoms

Other symptoms of Zoloft addiction can manifest physically, such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhea

Experiencing these addiction symptoms can occur from starting or ending Zoloft use, including gradual tapering. This is why it’s imperative to seek treatment to receive proper Zoloft detox to avoid severe Zoloft withdrawal.

What Are The Risks of Zoloft Use?

Zoloft is safe for most people when they take it as prescribed, but it also poses risks. These risks are exacerbated when you abuse Zoloft.

These risks include:

  • Interactions with alcohol: Combining Zoloft with alcohol exacerbates the latter’s effects, including decreased motor and mental function
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) interaction: Mixing Zoloft and MAOIs can lead to serotonin syndrome, leading to seizures and potentially death
  • Vomiting and diarrhea: This can put you at risk of dehydration, low blood pressure, and heart failure
  • Weight gain: Some Zoloft users report weight gain while taking the medication possibly due to fluid retention, insufficient exercise, increased appetite, and other issues
  • Behavioral changes: These include manic behaviors, suicidal ideation, mood swings, etc.
  • Physical dependence: Users may struggle to function normally without Zoloft and experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it

Potential Long-Term Effects of Zoloft Abuse

Consistent use for years, even when prescribed, can have lasting effects on physical and psychological health. These effects include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Weight gain
  • Bone fractures
  • Bone loss
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Emotional numbness
  • Addiction
  • Suicidal thoughts

People taking Zoloft need regular check-ups and discussions with their healthcare providers. It’s vital to monitor and address the potential long-term effects of antidepressant medication and ensure their overall well-being.

Brain Zaps from Zoloft Use

Zoloft might also trigger a symptom called “brain zaps.” Brain zaps are sensations that feel like an electrical shock and are often accompanied by dizziness or pain.

These zaps occur due to alterations in the brain’s neurotransmitters. They are a risk that comes with discontinuation of antidepressant medications and can be both frightening and uncomfortable.

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How Do You Safely Stop Zoloft Use?

The best way to minimize withdrawal symptoms is to gradually taper using Zoloft. Typically, doctors recommend a minimum of 6 months to taper off the medication.

Doctors can also prescribe medication and supplements to ease the symptoms of withdrawal. This includes milder antidepressants and supplements such as magnesium, melatonin, and glutathione.

What Are Zoloft Addiction Treatment Options?

If you suffer from Zoloft addiction, don’t be afraid to seek help. Different treatment options are available to accommodate where you are in your recovery, such as:

What Are Alternative Treatments to Zoloft?

For people concerned about the potential side effects or dependency issues related to Zoloft, there are several alternative treatments and therapies available:

  • Other Medications: Other classes of antidepressants, such as SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors), and atypical antidepressants, might be more suitable for some people.
  • Psychotherapy: Talk therapy, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can be as effective as medication for many people with depression and anxiety. This approach helps change negative thought patterns and behaviors contributing to their symptoms.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and stress-reducing techniques like meditation and deep breathing can significantly impact mental health and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Natural Supplements: Some users find relief from supplements like St. John’s Wort, Omega-3 fatty acids, SAMe, and Folate. It is essential to consult a healthcare professional before starting any natural supplement, as they can interact with other medications.

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Updated on April 3, 2024
9 sources cited
Updated on April 3, 2024
  1. Breggin, P.R. “Antidepressant-induced suicide, violence, and mania: Risks for military personnel.” Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, 2010.
  2. Antidepressants are addictive and increase the risk of relapse.” The BMJ, 2016.
  3. Rosenberg et al. “Sertraline for the treatment of depression in Alzheimer’s disease.” The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2011.
  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Sertraline.” MedlinePlus, 2022.
  5. Watt et al. “Meta-analysis of the efficacy of treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2013. 
  6. Brain Zaps: Causes & Treatments For Electrical Shock Sensations.” Mental Health Daily.
  7. Zoloft.” Drugs.com, 2023.
  8. Going off antidepressants” Harvard Health Publishing, 2022.
  9. Cartwright et al. “Long-term antidepressant use: patient perspectives of benefits and adverse effects.” Patient Preference and Adherence, 2016.

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