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Is Zoloft Harming Your Brain More Than Helping?

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Last Updated on November 15, 2021 by Chris Weatherall

Is Zoloft Harming Yoru Brain

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Michael Loes MD

More people are diagnosed with mental illnesses every passing year. Since drugs do not cure mental illness, the prescribed drug treatment might also go on for years upon years. These mental health conditions and their treatment with drugs can be painful, invasive, and can even take over a person’s life. As our society grows and develops, more and more resources have become available, and more people are educating themselves about mental health and wellness, which is a wonderful step forward. As we continue to grow and educate ourselves on these conditions, more and more people have discovered that their mental illness has not been resolved with prescription drugs, or they lack the proper support to feel there is any hope.

Typically, as with many diseases and disorders in our world, the first step that many people take is the route of medications. Doctors, nurse practitioners, and health specialists are trained to prescribe these medications and often neglect properly educating patients on their side effects, or alternative treatments. In many cases, the medication’s side effects may be more harmful than the mental illness itself. Oftentimes, the downsides associated with long-term drug treatment can far outweigh the benefits.

Without understanding the side effects and damaging aspects of these medications, many individuals become inadvertently addicted or physically dependent, and find that it is extremely painful to return to a drug-free life. Here at Alternative to Meds Center, we help individuals through the tapering journey and offer holistic, drug-free mental health resources that we believe may benefit individuals far more efficiently than medication can.

Zoloft is a common SSRI antidepressant drug that we help individuals taper off of in our treatment center. If you or someone you know is on Zoloft, it is important to understand the properties and risks associated with this drug, and how our programs might be able to help you. This is why we have assembled some of our most frequently asked questions, to help you better understand Zoloft, its side effects, and how we might be able to help.

What Is Zoloft Used For?

Zoloft is an SSRI that is often prescribed for major depressive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and social anxiety disorder.

What Are The Common Side Effects of Zoloft?

DizzinessAs with most synthetic drugs, side effects can be associated with taking Zoloft. In many cases, we see patients who wish to discontinue Zoloft use because the adverse side effects are more bothersome and uncomfortable than their mental illness was.

Common Zoloft side effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Upset stomach, nausea, and/or diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased interest in sex/diminished sexual capacity

Such side effects can create chaos in many areas of a person’s life. Zoloft use may temporarily decrease mental illness symptoms but can cause a concerning increase in other adverse conditions.

What Is an SSRI?

SSRIs, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, are a classification of drugs that are designed to manipulate the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is one of the brain’s naturally occurring hormones. SSRIs are theorized to create an excess of serotonin in the brain so that more can be absorbed. The thought is that low serotonin levels lead to mental illnesses.

However, clinical studies show that the chronic use of SSRI medications actually depletes serotonin.16

What Does Serotonin Do?

What Does Serotonin Do?

Serotonin is one of the naturally produced chemicals called hormones or neurotransmitters that exist throughout the body. Neuroscientists have so far discovered well over 100 of these, and discovery is ongoing.18 Each of these natural chemicals plays uncountable roles within an intricate and extensive network in a healthy body.

The functions of these chemicals,17 are wide-ranging, as shown in these examples:

Serotonin

According to the research of Berger et al.,3 it is hard to find a single aspect of human life that is not regulated or modified by serotonin, including the heart and other organs, mood, digestion, sleep, energy, circulation, and numerous others. While drug advertising describes serotonin primarily as a brain chemical, 95% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut.15

Dopamine

Dopamine is often considered the reward or pleasure chemical, but dopamine also monitors motivation, cognitive function, maternal and reproductive behaviors, and motor control. Some drugs manipulate dopamine to such a degree, that the person becomes ensnared in addiction.20

Glutamate

This naturally occurring amino acid is often forgotten, but it is extremely important as it is the most abundant of all neurotransmitters. Glutamate plays numerous critical roles including producing GABA, assisting memory, cognition, learning, blood vessel repair in wound healing, and many others.13

Noradrenaline

Noradrenaline, also called norepinephrine, is charged with the urge to “get up and go.” It is associated with motivation, vigilance, memory, learning, perception, attention, and is associated with the “fight or flight” response.14

Each of these neurotransmitters has nearly innumerable functions in the central nervous system, including the brain, and each plays vital roles in both physical and mental health. Zoloft is advertised as an agent that increases serotonin levels, which is specifically associated with happiness. A “happy pill” –sounds great, right? Not quite.

Can You Have Too Much Serotonin?

Yes. This is one of the many negative side effects of Zoloft and other medications like it. Though it aims to help individuals, there are dangerous consequences of having too much serotonin in the body. A cluster of these side effects is called “serotonin syndrome.”

These side effects include:

  • Shivering
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • High fever
  • Losing consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Death
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Because Zoloft is aimed to artificially increase serotonin levels in the body, these side effects are a serious concern. The medication can cause a flood of serotonin, which can be fatal.20

Why Is Zoloft Prescribed?

Traditional western medicine, sadly, has not particularly focused on overall, long-term health. Rather, doctors are pressured to find a quick fix for the problem at hand and move on to the next patient. This is what makes the most money for the drug companies, medical complexes, and doctors themselves. Actually, physicians are legally obligated to obtain informed consent before treatment is given, except when the patient is incapacitated and someone else may need to be called on to give full informed consent.21

Unfortunately, if this trend continues, less and less information can be disclosed during primary visits. This means that a significant number of patients on Zoloft are not adequately informed about the drug’s side effects and withdrawal symptoms, as well as alternative non-drug-based solutions, as stipulated in the medical-legal literature on informed consent, and haven’t been empowered to make the best-educated decisions about their own health and safety.

Is Zoloft Addictive?

InsomniaMany medical professionals are provided with pamphlets from drug manufacturers that describe Zoloft as non-addictive and pass this information to their patients. However, discontinuation syndrome 22 has been widely researched in the medical and research communities. The symptoms of this phenomenon are strikingly similar to withdrawal symptoms from addictive street drugs and are concerning. Doctors and mental practitioners continue to prescribe Zoloft and other SSRIs without discussing the entire picture of potential dependence and addiction, leaving, many patients facing the decision to either stay on the drug forever or potentially suffer through withdrawal symptoms like these:

  • Auditory and visual hallucinations
  • Muscle pain and sweating
  • Agitation or anxiety
  • Insomnia and vivid dreams
  • Blurred vision
  • Irritability and fatigue
  • “Electric-shock-like” sensations

Despite the drug industry downplaying potential addiction and dependence, the overall medical consensus advises slowly weaning off antidepressants like Zoloft, rather than abruptly stopping.

Does Zoloft Cause Permanent Damage?

Studies on long-term consequences of SSRIs are conspicuously absent in the medical literature. Drug trials are typically too short to investigate the subject, harmful reactions are selectively reported, and follow-up reporting is underutilized, according to a broad review of these topics published in The International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine.23 What we do know is that higher rates of cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal bleeding, injuries from falls, birth defects, and other adverse effects from SSRI drugs such as Zoloft have been documented.24 Like any other drug dependency, you will need more and more of a drug to achieve the same effect. and the results, once you stop, can be more devastating, and may linger for long periods of time.

We also know prolonged use of SSRIs 10,11,16 creates serotonin deficiencies that can result in lingering and debilitating withdrawal symptoms. Whether these adverse events become permanent may be less likely if one adopts healthy alternative treatments, and proper guidance for holistic tapering and withdrawal management.9-11

Who Should Not Take Zoloft?

According to the drug’s label issued by the FDA, some specific populations are known to be at risk for adverse reactions to Zoloft and should avoid it.7 People who experience the following should not use Zoloft:

  • Seizures
  • Liver problems
  • Manic behavior or manic depression
  • Closed-angle glaucoma
  • Bleeding in the digestive tract
  • Serotonin syndrome

This is not an exhaustive list. Remember, some people are at extra risk for damage from Zoloft, but negative side effects and significant damage can affect a much wider number of persons.


I Want to Get Pregnant, Should I Be on Zoloft?

Pregnancy and ZoloftZoloft has been shown to present a higher likelihood of birth defects 7,8 by 3-5%. If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, Zoloft may risk both you and your child’s health.

However, immediate and abrupt withdrawal from Zoloft is not recommended, especially during pregnancy. If you discover that you are pregnant, or are trying to become pregnant, discuss the subject thoroughly with your medical caregivers. It may be safer to wait and taper off the drug carefully and slowly to avoid withdrawal damage to yourself and your baby.

If you are not yet pregnant, it is important to safely taper from Zoloft before trying to become pregnant. This gives your child the lowest possible risk of birth defects and ensures that your body is in a healthy place to create new life.

Are There Alternatives to Zoloft?

Many doctors would suggest that the only alternatives to Zoloft are other similar SSRIs. These other alternatives, such as Lexapro, Celexa, Prozac, etc., have many of the same side effects and concerns that come with using Zoloft.

Fortunately, there are natural and holistic healing alternatives that do not have the dangerous side effects and withdrawal symptoms that Zoloft and other SSRIs can create. Here at ATMC, we provide the following holistic programs that can act as an effective replacement for mental health prescriptions:

  • Yoga
  • Nutritional therapy (corrected diet, supplementation)
  • Testing for and neurotoxin removal
  • Nebulized glutathione
  • NAD+ IV treatments
  • Amino therapy
  • Personal training
  • Massage
  • Integrated peer support
  • Equine therapy
  • Qi Gong
  • Counseling services
  • Equine therapy

We have seen our clients achieve immense success from safe tapering and replacing their Zoloft prescription with a combination of the above therapies. While gently tapering off their prescription under our supervision, we watch our clients blossom, as these natural and holistic practices support their bodies’ natural rhythms, and free them from debilitating medication side effects.

How Do You Get Off Zoloft?

As we have discussed, Zoloft is a serious prescription that has a significant impact on the body’s natural balance. It is dangerous to stop taking Zoloft abruptly or too quickly to be tolerated, and especially without any instruction from a doctor, or without oversight from a professional who is familiar with drug withdrawal.

Medication tapering is the most effective system for getting off of Zoloft. Tapering involves moving from your prescribed dose, slowly down the dosage ladder and down to zero, or at least to the lowest tolerable dose possible.


In our Zoloft tapering program, we help you to take the correct doses of your medication and ensure that you wean your body off of it safely. As the drug leaves your system and your body begins to readjust, you may experience some uncomfortable symptoms. Our holistic, inpatient treatment programs are here to help. As you begin to holistically detox your body from the SSRI, we will provide you with a gentle and supportive community. Holistic mental health practices such as the ones listed above can help support your body and mind during this time and give you a solid foundation on which to build your drug-free life.

Can Neurotransmitter Rehabilitation Help Me?

Neurotransmitter

One of the best things you can do as part of tapering off of Zoloft is to participate in neurotransmitter rehabilitation. At our facility, we offer neurotransmitter rehabilitation that is rooted in healthy, supportive nutrition. Because serotonin is heavily linked to the gut biome 15 we understand that the first step to rebuilding your brain and your brain’s essential chemicals is healing the gut.

In order to do this, we prescribe a diet that is free of:

  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Soy
  • Sugar
  • Caffeine
  • Chemical preservatives, neurotoxic additives and taste enhancers

We replace those toxins with a diet that is rich in nutrients, probiotics, and amino acids, to build the gut’s microbiome and help your body heal from the damage done by Zoloft.

We also prescribe activities that help to remove heavy metals and toxins from the body. Sauna therapy is a wonderful way to do this, which is why we offer spa services at our facility. We believe that holistic detoxification is an essential part of healing, and we provide the holistic resources at our facility to do so.

Learn More About Healing Your Neurotransmitters After Drug Use

Ready To Get Off of Zoloft?

If you are sick of being a slave to your medication, experiencing harmful side effects, and having dangerous chemicals in your body, it is time to contact us. We provide our clients with world-class holistic services to support them during holistic detoxification. We can help you to rebuild a new, improved life that does not rely on medication use for relief and provide you with sustainable and healthy ways to achieve natural mental health.

For more information, or to ask any questions, contact us today.

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2. Ferguson JM. SSRI Antidepressant Medications: Adverse Effects and Tolerability. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2001;3(1):22-27. doi:10.4088/pcc.v03n0105 [cited 2021 Sept 24]

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9. Zoloft Alternatives Alternative to Meds Center

10. Inpatient Medication Tapering Alternative to Meds Center

11. Zoloft Tapering Alternative to Meds Center

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Additional Sources: 

Antidepressant Withdrawal

Zoloft Alternatives

Zoloft Tapering


https://www.alternativetomeds.com/services/inpatient/medication-tapering/


Published by Lyle Murphy


This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Michael Loes, M.D.

 

Dr. Michael Loes is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Pain Management and Addiction Medicine. He holds a dual license in Homeopathic and Integrative Medicine. He obtained his medical doctorate at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 1978. Dr. Loes performed an externship at the National Institute of Health for Psychopharmacology. Additionally, he is a well-published author including Arthritis: The Doctor’s Cure, The Aspirin Alternative, The Healing Response, and Spirit Driven Health: The Psalmist’s Guide for Recovery. He has been awarded the Minnesota Medical Foundation’s “Excellence in Research” Award.

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Is Zoloft Harming Your Brain More Than Helping?
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