Zoloft (Sertraline Hydrochloride) is a commonly prescribed in the treatment of depression. In 2006 it was the most prescribed antidepressant in the United States, with 28,000,000 prescriptions. It is very similar to other Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) in its uses and side effects. It is most commonly prescribed for clinical depression, but also has use in the treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder (PD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).
Comparative studies of Zoloft and the tricyclic antidepressants clomipramine (Anafranil) and amaitriptyline (Elavil) found that Zoloft has a much lower rate of dry mouth, somnolence, increased appetite and constipation. The study also found that Zoloft has a higher rate of nausea and sexual dysfunction. Zoloft was found to improve quality of life more effectively than Anafranil and Elavil. In a comparative study to the popular antidepressant Wellbutrin, Zoloft was found to have much higher rates of sexual dysfunction, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, somnolence and discontinuation due to side effects. A very common side effect of Zoloft is difficulty reaching ejaculation, which may be why it is sometimes prescribed in the treatment of premature ejaculation.
Side Effects Include:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Dry mouth
- Decreased Libido
A possible side effect that patients should be made aware of is ‘Akathisia’ which is defined as “inner tension, restlessness, and the inability to stay still”. This side effect may develop soon after the first dose of the medication and stops when Zoloft is stopped or the dose is lowered. It is important to distinguish between Zoloft-related Akathisia, which calls for a lower dose, and anxiety, which calls for a higher dose. If Akathisia is mistaken for anxiety, the dose may be increased, which will worsen symptoms of Akathisia.
In 2005, the Food and Drug Administration added a ‘black box warning’ to the labeling of antidepressants, including Zoloft. This warning states that antidepressants may increase the risk of suicide in persons younger than 25. If anyone who is taking an antidepressant experiences suicidal thoughts, they should consult a doctor immediately.
Abrupt discontinuation of Zoloft may lead to withdrawal or ‘discontinuation syndrome’. These are unpleasant effects that are experienced while the brain readjusts itself. Symptoms of withdrawal may last about five to seven days. The effects are similar to withdrawal from other SSRIs drugs.
Withdrawal Symptoms Include
In some cases, patients who abruptly stop taking Zoloft experience mood worsening to a level that qualifies as a major depressive episode. If a patient wishes to stop taking Zoloft, it is important to consult a doctor before discontinuing the medication. Withdrawal symptoms can be minimized by tapering off of the medication under medical supervision.