Is Zoloft addictive?

Dr. Chatterjee is a board-certified interventional pain management specialist. He has spent over a decade walking patients through the complicated world of risky prescriptions at the Cleveland Clinic and Columbia Hospital.

Neil Chatterjee, MD headshot

Medically reviewed by Neil Chatterjee, MD

Zoloft (or generic sertraline) is a commonly prescribed drug used to treat conditions like depression, panic attacks, OCD, and PTSD. It works by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain--a chemical associated with mood regulation, sleep regulation, and feelings of well-being.

Since Zoloft is generally supposed to be taken long-term, the addiction risk is usually not very high if taken properly. There is no clear evidence that patients crave Zoloft, and, in fact, the use of Zoloft and other SSRI's may be correlated with a significant decrease in overall drug abuse.

Still, Zoloft is a powerful and risky drug. You can build up a dependence on it, and the sudden drop in serotonin upon discontinuation can be difficult to manage. This dependence may lead patients to seek medication from other physicians ("doctor shopping") or resort to more risky drugs in an attempt to feel normal.

If you struggle to get through the day without Zoloft, you may be dependent.

Zoloft withdrawal

SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome—the withdrawals you feel when you stop taking Zoloft—affects about 20% of people who use an SSRI. This can begin very soon after you stop taking Zoloft and may last between 1-3 weeks.

SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome occurs because your body is adjusting to a sudden (but temporary) drop in serotonin levels. Importantly, this is usually temporary, and the brain can adjust. Many providers attempt to mitigate this by slowly tapering their patients off of Zoloft.

When discontinuing Zoloft, it is common for patients to experience renewed depression and anxiety. Patients may also experience

  • Dizziness
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Vertigo

If you experience any of these symptoms while discontinuing Zoloft, be sure to speak to your medical provider.

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