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What is Zoloft (Sertraline)?
Zoloft (Sertraline) is a prescription medication used for treating depression. It’s also given to people diagnosed with panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
Zoloft is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs). This means it works by controlling how much of the neurotransmitter serotonin is released by the brain. Zoloft is one of the most popular antidepressant medications prescribed in the United States.
Side Effects of Zoloft
Side effects of Zoloft include:
- Libido changes
- Abnormal sexual function, including erectile dysfunction
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
You should speak to your doctor if you experience any side effects when taking this medication. Most side effects are not serious, but your doctor might need to adjust your prescription or offer you an alternative antidepressant.
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Is Zoloft Addictive?
Yes, Zoloft is addictive. People who misuse or abuse Zoloft have a higher risk of addiction. Approximately 20 percent of people prescribed Zoloft experience severe withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the medication, even if they did not misuse it. It’s important to follow your doctor’s directions if you intend to stop taking Zoloft or any other antidepressant medication.
Symptoms of Zoloft addiction include:
Safe Zoloft withdrawal requires a medically supervised detoxification process because of the mental health issues that might arise. Participation in a rehabilitation program on an inpatient or outpatient basis comes after detox.
Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Zoloft?
People taking Zoloft and other antidepressant medications should avoid anything more than light alcohol intake. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends avoiding all alcohol intake when taking Zoloft.
Although some consider it safe to mix alcohol and Zoloft, many people experience side effects when combining the drug with alcohol. Zoloft has a sedative effect and alcohol has a depressive and sedative effect. Both affect the central nervous system (CNS) and serotonin levels. Using them together can lead to severe sedation, even coma, when abused.
Abusing alcohol or Zoloft in combination with the other substance is dangerous. Both Zoloft and alcohol affect how your brain works.
Speak to your doctor if you are concerned about drinking alcohol while taking Zoloft.
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Zoloft and Alcohol Interaction & Side Effects
People taking Zoloft are at risk of experiencing:
- Suicidal thoughts
The most common side effect is drowsiness because both alcohol and Zoloft are known to make people sleepy. Alcohol is a sedative, so mixing it with Zoloft increases the odds that someone will experience drowsiness.
People who become addicted to alcohol and Zoloft experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using these drugs. Many of the symptoms associated with alcohol and Zoloft withdrawal are serious and require medical attention. These symptoms include:
- Cardiac Arrhythmia
- Memory problems
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty controlling urination
- Sexual dysfunction
- Suicidal thoughts
- Vivid dreams
Can You Overdose on Zoloft and Alcohol?
Yes, it is possible to overdose on alcohol and Zoloft. This is why it is so important to carefully monitor your alcohol intake when using the antidepressant or avoid drinking alcohol completely when using it.
There is no specific amount of Zoloft or alcohol that is considered unsafe. What is safe for one person can be dangerous for another based on that person’s biological makeup and the type of alcohol he or she consumes.
It’s also important to remember that alcohol impairment happens faster when combining drugs. Zoloft users who drink alcohol should avoid driving, operating heavy machinery, or doing any other activity that is dangerous for an impaired person to perform.
Can Zoloft and Alcohol Kill You?
Yes, combining and misusing Zoloft and alcohol can be fatal.
For many, the biggest risk of mixing alcohol with an antidepressant is serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome occurs when there is an accumulation of serotonin in the brain. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:
Combining alcohol and Zoloft can also lead to intoxication. People using these substances together experience impaired mental and motor function, vision changes, reduced inhibitions, and attention deficits. The detox and withdrawal process is also extended when SSRIs have been mixed with alcohol.
Also, note that drinking heavily when using Zoloft tends to cause severe depression in the brainstem’s life support area. One study, published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, showed that brainstem depression from mixing Zoloft and alcohol increases the risk of coma, respiratory depression, and death.
Suicidal thoughts are always a risk for someone using antidepressant medications and you should speak to your doctor if you experience this. However, this risk increases when you drink alcohol while taking these medications.
Treatment for Zoloft & Alcohol Abuse
Zoloft and alcohol abuse requires medically supervised treatment. This is especially true if someone started using Zoloft recreationally, as opposed to with a prescription. It’s also important for people abusing antidepressants and alcohol and who have co-occurring disorders to receive help from medically supervised treatment programs. The co-occurring disorder must be addressed during treatment to increase the chances of a successful recovery.
The only safe way to stop using Zoloft or any other prescription antidepressant regardless of whether it was used recreationally or by prescription is a gradual taper. Ideally, at the end of the taper and treatment process, the person will be completely drug-free. In some cases, alternative medication is prescribed to treat a co-occurring condition.
Once the detoxification process is complete, someone abusing alcohol and Zoloft should participate in an inpatient or outpatient recovery program. This includes one-on-one and group counseling, as well as family therapy, 12-step attendance, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and more.