10 Things You Must Know Before Taking Sertraline (Zoloft)

Side effects, Overdose Symptoms, Drug Interactions and More

Zoloft. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Sertraline, the generic form of Zoloft, is an antidepressant in the SSRI class. SSRI stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor.

Sertraline doesn't just treat depression and anxiety disorders; though it is specifically FDA-approved for PTSD, panic disorder, OCD, social anxiety disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, some psychiatrists also use it as an "off-label" drug for bipolar depression, in combination with a mood stabilizer or anti-manic drug.

 

Here are several things you should know about sertraline if you're taking it as part of your bipolar treatment: 

  1. Don't expect immediate results. Clinical testing shows that it may take many weeks until you feel the full effects of the drug.

  2. Overdose can be very serious, and in very rare instances can even lead to death - particularly when combined with other medications. So be careful with your dosage, and be sure the pill bottle can't be reached by children or anyone else who might take too many pills.

  3. When you start taking sertraline, you may experience dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, tiredness and/or weakness.

  4. Other common side effects when starting sertraline include nausea or upset stomach, diarrhea, sweating, and headache.

  5. Some of the initial side effects that are not as common include vomiting, abdominal pain, blurred vision, constipation, and anxiety. If any of these the side effects don't go away or are giving you significant problems, contact the doctor who gave you the prescription right away.

  1. Stopping sertraline may result in symptoms of withdrawal, also known as SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome, which can be very unpleasant and last for several weeks. Your doctor can discuss strategies to minimize this possibility.

  2. Taking Zoloft may put you at risk for a serious and possibly dangerous condition called serotonin syndrome. Some of the symptoms of this condition are fever, rigid muscles and/or coordination problems, confusion, tremor, irregular heartbeat and shivering. Make sure you know all the symptoms so you can recognize them if they begin to occur.

  1. In children and young adults, Zoloft / sertraline can bring on suicidal thoughts. Monitor your child, or yourself if you're in this age group, for any signs of such thoughts, and contact your doctor immediately if they occur.

  2. Sertraline should be used with caution when taken at the same time as a class of migraine medications called triptans, as combining these medications can increase the risk of serotonin syndrome. Be sure to tell your doctor if you're taking a migraine medication or sertraline so he or she can most safely manage your care.

  3. If your doctor prescribes a MAOI - a different type of antidepressant - before or after you take Zoloft, you should wait two weeks between stopping one and starting the other. Not doing so can cause serious complications.

For an in-depth look at the possible side effects, and withdrawal effects, of this drug, see Zoloft / Sertraline Side Effects.

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