It has been suggested, though not conclusively proven, that increasing dopaminergic as well as serotonergic activity may be relevant to medication-based treatment of depression. (1)
Like all SSRI drugs, Zoloft can produce certain side effects and adverse effects that may be experienced when withdrawing from the drug. Below we will present information on these topics and others that appear to be some of the most common questions and searches done on the drug.
As previously mentioned, Zoloft (sertraline) is a drug used to treat adult MDD (major depressive disorder). The Black Box warning on the drug’s packaging contains warnings which indicat the drug should not be prescribed to anyone under the age of 25, due to known increase of suicidality. There is an exception for patients under the age of 25 who have been diagnosed with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).
There are several other adult-only uses for the drug in a clinical or treatment setting, which include:
Zoloft is a brand name for the generic drug sertraline, or sertraline hydrochloride. In the UK sertraline was sold under the trade name of “Lustral” in the 1980’s. In the US sertraline and Zoloft are available by prescription only.
There is a wide range of commonly experienced side effects on Zoloft. Women in particular should be aware that any drug ingested during child-bearing years may have liabilities should she become pregnant. There have been studies done to explore the risks of pregnancy which link certain birth injuries where mothers were prescribed SSRI drugs. (2) Always speak to your physician if you are or could become pregnant and are considering starting an SSRI prescription.
Zoloft was given a “C” rating, by the FDA, meaning the drug causes harm when tested on animals but no human testing has been done, so the drug remains legal to prescribe to pregnant women. In June 2015, however, the alphabet rating system was replaced by the “PLLR” rating system, or what is known as the Pregnancy and Lactation Labeling Final Rule. The FDA has been noncommittal in labeling pregnancy risks on SSRI packaging, despite studies that show increased (3-5%) risk of birth defects.
Nonetheless, there are certain adverse conditions in infants whose mothers took Zoloft which are documented and publicly available,(3) that would be recommended reading before starting or stopping a prescription to an SSRI drug while pregnant, lactating, or planning a pregnancy. Some reported and documented birth defects and injuries include:
Generally, SSRI’s can have an emotional deadening effect, sometimes described as a “zombie-like” feeling. Clinical studies call this as SSRI-induced-indifference. (9) While such emotional masking can provide a temporary measure of relief, there may be other drug-free treatments that may be more appropriate, less risky, and more permanent.
A person may experience no side effects at all, where another person may experience one or multiple adverse symptoms when taking sertraline. Symptoms can range from mild to moderate to severe, and the most severe may require immediate medical intervention.
Here are some of the known side effects of Zoloft (sertraline):
This list is not a complete list. Be sure and speak to your prescribing physician if you are experiencing any discomforts or unusual feelings while taking sertraline.
One of the most commonly reported discomforts while coming off SSRI medications is termed brain zaps, described as feelings of electric shock passing through the brain/head/neck.
Brain zaps, or shivers, can be severe, unbearably so, and come on unexpectedly and sometimes in rapid succession. It is not known exactly why they occur but is thought to be related to neurochemical changes as the body and central nervous system attempt to adjust to or compensate for, reduced levels of sertraline or other SSRI medication in the system.
It is highly likely that the body was depending on the drug’s artificial support of serotonin, and that the person may be experiencing a sudden deficit while their own natural mechanisms are attempting to come back on line to compensate.
Other withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to:
Coming off Zoloft (sertraline) can take a considerable amount of time, and it is not easy to give an exact timeline as individual differences such as age, general health, dosage, length of time on the drug, and other factors all have some impact. One could expect the process to take at least some weeks, or longer.
The FDA and other regulatory bodies recommend never to abruptly stop taking an SSRI medication. The safest approach would involve a slow taper process. When slowly dropping the dosage, over time, various measures can be utilized for support such as nutrition, adequate rest, a reduced daily schedule to allow time for self-care, etc.
Some people opt for inpatient care during this sometimes difficult period of readjustment.
There is wisdom to this choice, as the withdrawal manifestations maybe not only difficult on the individual, but also challenging for the family members and friends who may misunderstand the process and convolute the situation.
Zoloft has become one of the most frequently prescribed antidepressants in the US. Of equal import, depression type disorders have become one of the most frequently diagnosed conditions.
These two facts together underscore two important steps toward improved health:
The ATMC program offers a cessation or tapering program that seeks to satisfy both of these steps to better health. Using specific lab tests and other diagnostic tools, the program aims toward stabilizing neurochemistry without prescription drugs. Instead, natural substances such as pharmaceutical grade supplements, proper diet, accumulated neurotoxin removal (including environmental toxins), careful tapering, IV amino acid treatments, clay packs, low-temperature sauna, nebulized glutathione treatments, and many other forms of therapies make the tapering process gentle, mild, and as comfortable as possible.
Once the neurochemistry normalization is well in progress, other work can begin with CBT and other forms of counseling that are strongly recommended in the treatment of depression and anxiety.
The very comfortable and nurturing facility is staffed by highly qualified medical and nursing staff as well as a full range of skilled, compassionate therapists. Adjunctive therapies are also available such as therapeutic massage, Reiki, classes in yoga, trainer-led exercise and many other effective holistic therapies that can help overcome the challenges of chronic or acute depression, and accelerate recovery.
In our remarkable science-based program, drug dependence and mental health issues can both be thoroughly addressed, which can provide a very real and sustainable overall resurgence in health, predictably and naturally.
Dr Motl is currently certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry, and Board eligible in Neurology and licensed in the state of Arizona. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated Creighton University School of Medicine with a Doctor of Medicine. Dr. Motl has studied Medical Acupuncture at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine and at U.C.L.A.