Zoloft Abuse & Addiction

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Zoloft has helped countless people experience relief from depression and other mental health concerns. But people who misuse it can expose themselves to myriad negative outcomes, including the development of Zoloft abuse and/or addiction. Before you take this or any other medication, be sure that you understand how to use it safely and are aware of both its benefits and potential drawbacks.

What is Zoloft?

Zoloft is the brand name of a prescription medication that is most commonly used as an antidepressant. In addition to major depressive disorder, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also authorized doctors to prescribe Zoloft for patients who have been developed the following conditions:

  • Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
  • Panic disorder
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Doctors in the U.S. may also use Zoloft on an off-label basis to treat people who have the following conditions:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge-eating disorder
  • Body dysmorphic disorder

The active ingredient in Zoloft is sertraline, which is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Other frequently prescribed medications in the SSRI category include Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), and Lexapro (escitalopram).

Is Zoloft Addictive?

Zoloft has proved to be both safe and effective when used on either a short- or long-term basis. However, as is the case with many other prescription medications, Zoloft can cause a variety of unpleasant side effects, especially when a person engages in Zoloft abuse. 

Due to the nature of the medication’s impact on the central nervous system (CNS), one of these potential side effects is the development of Zoloft addiction.

While Zoloft addiction does not pose the extreme danger as dependence on heroin, cocaine, or alcohol, it can have a disruptive impact on a person’s physical and psychological well-being. It can also lead to impaired functioning in school, at work or in other important areas.

When a person takes Zoloft, the drug binds to nerve cell receptors that are involved in the reabsorption and recycling of a neurotransmitter called serotonin. The messages that serotonin delivers can influence a person’s mood, their sleep/wake cycle, and their sex drive.

Zoloft’s interaction with serotonin receptors leads to a buildup of the neurotransmitter in the synapses that separate nerve cells. Mental health experts believe that this buildup can amplify the messages that are carried by serotonin, which can in turn lead to improved mood and a decrease in depression symptoms.

When a person abruptly ends their use of Zoloft, the previously blocked receptors can once again function at full capacity. This can lead to a sudden drop in serotonin levels, which can cause a variety of withdrawal symptoms, including dizziness, headaches, nausea, exhaustion, anxiety, depression, intense nightmares, and suicidal thoughts.

Withdrawal is one of the classic signs of addiction, and the onset of any withdrawal symptoms should not be taken lightly. 

Why Do People Abuse Zoloft?

When a person receives a prescription for Zoloft to ease depression or address the symptoms of another mental health concern, their doctor will typically advise that it can take up to six weeks of daily use before the medication has a noticeable effect. 

This extended length of time makes it highly unlikely that someone would abuse Zoloft for recreational purposes. 

While it is impossible to account for every case of Zoloft abuse, people who intentionally misuse this medication are most likely doing it in an attempt to self-medicate. This can include taking Zoloft that was not prescribed to them, or taking it in larger doses (or for a longer period of time) than directed by their physician.

Dangers of Zoloft Abuse

In addition to an increased risk of Zoloft addiction and withdrawal symptoms, Zoloft abuse can also expose a person to a host of other problematic effects, including:

  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Tics and tremors
  • Muscle stiffness or rigidity
  • Racing heart rate
  • Dangerously high body temperature
  • Elevated blood pressure

How to Stop Abusing Zoloft Safely

The best way to end your Zoloft use safely and with minimal discomfort is to consult with a qualified healthcare provider first. Whether you have been taking the medication on a prescription basis or abusing it, the sudden cessation of this use could trigger a variety of unpleasant side effects. 

To stop using Zoloft that was prescribed to you, you should discuss your intentions with the physician who wrote the prescription. They can develop a plan to gradually reduce how much of the medication you are taking, so that you can wean yourself off of it with few to no problematic side effects.

If you have been abusing or become addicted to Zoloft, the best first step may be to consult with an addiction treatment expert. This person can help you identify the issues that may have contributed to your Zoloft abuse in the first place, and then determine which therapies and support services can address these underlying issues and help you develop a foundation for long-term recovery from Zoloft addiction.

Treatment for Zoloft addiction can take a variety of forms depending on why you have been abusing the drug, how your Zoloft abuse has impacted your life, and if you are also dealing with a co-occurring mental health concern. When you find a provider who can assess your needs and develop a customized plan just for you, you may have a much better likelihood of achieving improved health and successful recovery.

Contact Our Drug Rehab Center About Recovering From Zoloft Addiction

Renewal Health Group is a premier provider of personalized care for adults who have become addicted to Zoloft and other drugs. 

With a network of addiction treatment centers throughout Southern California, we can help you find the programming and services that best align with your needs, goals, and expectations. In addition to detoxification and residential treatment, we also offer multiple outpatient options as well as specialized programming for veterans, professionals, and young adults.

When you are trapped in the downward spiral of compulsive substance abuse, it can sometimes feel like there’s no possible escape. Please know this is not true. When you find the right type and level of care, you can make sustained progress toward a much more promising future.

When you’re ready to get started, the Renewal Health Group team is here for you. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact page or call us today.

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