The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor known as Zoloft is a medication used to treat depression, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder and a severe form of premenstrual syndrome. Also known by its generic name, sertraline, this drug works by helping to restore the balance of a certain natural substance (serotonin) in the brain. It is prescribed to improve one’s mood, sleep, appetite, and energy level and has been known to restore interest in daily living in those suffering from depression.
In patients suffering from social phobias, it may decrease fear, anxiety, unwanted thoughts and the number of panic attacks. For those with OCD, sertraline may reduce the urge to perform repeated tasks, including compulsive hand-washing, counting and touching.
Zoloft is known as one of the most prescribed and readily available prescription antidepressants, and this, in turn, makes it easy to misuse.
Someone who has a Zoloft addiction may display one of many warning signs — and though physical addiction is relatively uncommon, psychological addiction is not. Some of the misuse signals include decreased libido, aggression, violent thoughts and actions, insomnia and irritability.
Common side effects of sertraline misuse can include but are not limited to, serotonin syndrome, neuroleptic malignant syndrome, abnormal bleeding, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and anorexia. It is not uncommon for people abusing Zoloft to experience symptoms that they may have had before taking the drug, including anxiety, nervousness and suicidal thoughts.
Given the seriousness of Zoloft’s possible side effects (both of use and withdrawal), it should only be used when appropriate and under the supervision of a medical professional.
As with other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, Zoloft is considered physically non-addictive, but a psychological addiction can be developed through continued misuse. This addiction typically results when a person begins misusing the drug — either by crushing the pills and inhaling or snorting them or by swallowing several pills at once. In order to feel “high,” many of those with a Zoloft addiction will ingest exceptionally large doses.
Though there is no concrete evidence that the misuse of Zoloft results in a high for the person using it, there is also no evidence pointing against the idea. Some have reported that the practice of inhaling, snorting and taking in large doses of the drug results in no feeling at all or is even an experience that is painful or annoying.
As is the case with many other addictions, misuse of sertraline may also render the use of other illicit substances, including methamphetamines, prescription painkillers and alcohol.
It is important to note that a drug’s high misuse potential does not determine whether a person will develop an addiction from that drug. As can be said with Zoloft and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, this medication does not generally exhibit physical withdrawal symptoms in the people who use it.
However, since the medication is connected to an all-around sense of well-being and emotional stability, it is possible (and even likely) that some patients may develop a psychological dependence on the drug. The idea of weaning off of or even halting the use of this substance may leave them agitated or anxious. Psychological dependency is a large issue in the medical realm and should be approached with caution.
Zoloft addiction is not highly studied and, therefore, not much data exists on the long-term side effects of the drug. However, it is important to understand that the long-term effects of any drug misuse can cause serious physical and social fallouts.
The social fallouts can be the most damaging, as they are often overlooked or misjudged. The very nature of any addiction is to seclude oneself, leading to loss of relationships with loved ones, a torn family, and diminished involvement in personal activities. On the career front, long-term misuse of sertraline may lead to loss of profession as a result of decreased interest in work and no motivation to include oneself in activities that were once important. This may cause an individual to experience financial loss on top of everything else.
This leads us to recovery. In order to undermine the long-term effects of Zoloft misuse, it is important to remember that the most important step to recovery is first admitting there is a problem. The next essential step is requesting help. There is help available for all addictions.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.