Zoloft, which is the brand name of the generic Sertraline, is an antidepressant that is often used to treat depression, anxiety and panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder. It is sometimes used for obsessive compulsive disorder, and PMDD which is a premenstrual syndrome. Studies have shown that this drug does not treat OCD as well as other medications meant to treat the disorder and that Zoloft may be better for treating anxiety and panic disorder than it is for depression even though it is primarily considered an antidepressant.
Zoloft is what is called an SSRI, which stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor. Another SSRI you may have heard of is Prozac or its generic, Fluoxetine. SSRIs work by inhibiting, or blocking, the reabsorption of Serotonin in the brain so that more of the Serotonin that is produced remains active than would without the drug.
Serotonin maintains a balanced mood, and so proper levels of the hormone can be associated with happiness, calmness, good focus, and emotional stability. As depression is associated with low levels of Serotonin, Zoloft is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs to treat depression. Some other things that Serotonin levels effect in the body are stomach and intestine health to do with bowel movements, stimulation of nausea, sleeping and waking, certain activities of small arteries that aid in blood clotting, bone health, as well as libido and sexual function. A healthy range of Serotonin levels in the blood is around 101-283 nanograms per milliliter; more or less Serotonin than this can cause discomfort and unpleasant results.
Although it is uncommon for people to abuse or become addicted to Zoloft, it is possible. The abuse of this drug could be detrimental to a person’s health and well-being. Unlike some hormones, like Dopamine, Serotonin does not cause euphoria or over excitement although it does play an imperative role in maintaining essential everyday functions of the body. Because of this, Zoloft is not very addictive or habit-forming and so it is not commonly abused. Regardless, after long-term use of the drug or abuse, people can develop what is called a psychological addiction. This means that they can experience emotional-motivational symptoms of withdrawal if they end usage, especially if they stop taking it abruptly.
While psychological addiction will not lead to craving or drug seeking behavior, withdrawal symptoms from discontinued use can include anxiety, depression or mood swings, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, muscle spasms, tremors, electric shock sensations, and sleep problems or nightmares.
Taking Zoloft, especially when abusing the drug, can result in Serotonin Syndrome. This syndrome describes when there are excessively high levels of Serotonin in the body due to buildup of the hormone. The less serious symptoms of Serotonin Syndrome can be flu-like such as shivers, goose bumps, headache, diarrhea. You can also experience confusion and have dilated pupils. The more serious symptoms can include muscle twitches, lower dexterity in muscles, fevers, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, as well as seizures.
While Serotonin Syndrome is sometimes not hugely concerning, it can be life-threatening in certain cases. If you believe you may be experiencing any of these symptoms in relation to use of Zoloft or another SSRI, you should seek medical attention.
Other side effects of Zoloft, associated with higher levels of Serotonin, are sexual dysfunction and low libido, nausea, aggression, and sleep problems. Rarer side effects from long term abuse of Zoloft are paranoia, depression, suicidal thoughts, nervousness and anxiety, psychosis, and even hallucinations. Sometimes people who are abusing other drugs may use Zoloft to supplement or as an attempt to balance the effects of other drugs.
Along with any kind of addiction, signs to look out for may be in social aspects of a person’s life. Someone with a substance abuse problem may isolate themselves from friends and family, they may become disinterested in things they previously enjoyed doing. They might struggle at work or in school due to decreased levels of productivity, focus, and irritability.
If you believe a loved one has been abusing Zoloft, or another substance, consider taking intervening actions to aid them towards recovery. There are many services available to people suffering from addiction, including detox centers, inpatient centers, outpatient services, sober living facilities, behavioral therapy, twelve step programs, meetings, and sponsors.
People in recovery need a lot of support to make it through rehabilitation and fully adjust to a sober life style. Addiction changes the ways that the brain makes decisions and prioritizes. These effects are difficult to shift back to healthier processes and so recovery services are imperative for getting off substances and continuing that sobriety.