Zoloft side effects: What to expect during your first week
Zoloft, a brand-name version of the antidepressant sertraline, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). The medication can be used to treat several conditions, such as major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
It works by increasing the serotonin levels in your brain, which can help regulate your overall mood and wakefulness.
A doctor may start by prescribing a low dosage and gradually increase it over time. It’s common to experience several side effects during your first week of treatment with Zoloft, but these will often go away after a few weeks.
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What are the side effects of Zoloft?
It may take a couple of weeks or more to feel the full benefits of Zoloft. Like most antidepressants, it may cause side effects, which can last a few weeks until your body gets used to taking the medication.
Common side effects of Zoloft that you may experience in the first week include:
If you are still experiencing side effects after a few weeks, consider speaking with a doctor. They may suggest changing your dosage or switching to another medication until you find what works best for you.
It’s important not to stop taking Zoloft on your own without talking with a doctor first. A sudden change in medication may cause withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms can happen when you stop taking a medication your body has become dependent on. Dependence is when your body needs the medication to function as usual.
More serious but less common side effects of Zoloft can include:
- bruising or unusual bleeding
- loss of coordination
- memory loss
- shortness of breath
If you experience any of these severe side effects, you should seek medical support immediately.
What are the risk factors of taking Zoloft?
Although Zoloft is safe for most people, some groups of people should not take the medication.
You should speak with a healthcare professional before beginning Zoloft if any of the following apply to you:
- If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant: Zoloft may cause several health issues in newborns. According to experts, some studies have shown that the drug may cause low birth weight or preterm delivery.
- You’re taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): Taking MAOIs alongside Zoloft can cause serotonin syndrome. This is where an overload of serotonin develops in the brain, which can lead to several life threatening side effects. Instead, a doctor may prescribe you another medication or stop your treatment with MAOIs before prescribing Zoloft.
- You’re taking other prescription and nonprescription medications: Antidepressants can interact with other prescription or nonprescription medications, including vitamins and supplements. This is known as a drug interaction. In this case, a doctor may adjust your dose or prescribe a different medication.
- You recently had a stroke or heart attack: A doctor may prescribe a different medication or may prescribe Zoloft and monitor your side effects.
Frequently asked questions when starting Zoloft
What happens if I miss a dose of Zoloft?
If you forget to take a dose of Zoloft, take it when you remember unless the time is closer to your next dose. Do not take a double dose.
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How long until Zoloft side effects go away?
The initial side effects of starting Zoloft treatment can last up to a few weeks. Most people find that they stop fairly quickly after your body has gotten used to the medication.
However, if it has been several weeks and you are still experiencing side effects, or if they have worsened, consider speaking with a healthcare professional. They can suggest an alternative medication that may be more suitable.
What is the best time of day to take Zoloft?
It is typically recommended to take Zoloft in the morning or evening, but it is important to stick to this time and take it at the same time every day.
If you experience drowsiness, it may be helpful for you to take your medication before bedtime.
Can you overdose while taking Zoloft?
It is rare to overdose while taking Zoloft, but it can happen if you misuse the medication or take an extremely high dose. Misuse means taking a medication in a way other than how it’s been prescribed.
If you or someone you know has overdosed on Zoloft, it is important to seek medical support immediately.
Signs that you have experienced an overdose may include:
- severe muscle stiffness
- excessive fatigue
- loss of consciousness
It can be common to experience side effects during the first few weeks of taking Zoloft.
Possible side effects may include:
These side effects should go away once your body gets used to the medication.
If you continue to experience side effects after a few weeks, consider speaking with a doctor. They may suggest changing your dosage or prescribing a new medication until you find what works best for you.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide or self-harm, please seek support:
- Call or text the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 24 hours per day at 988.
- Text “HOME” to the Crisis Textline at 741741.
- Not in the U.S.? Find a helpline in your country with Befrienders Worldwide.
- Call 911 or your local emergency number if you feel it’s an emergency.
While you wait for help to arrive, stay with someone and remove any weapons or substances that can cause harm. You are not alone.
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- Dosage - Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). (2021). https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/talking-therapies-medicine-treatments/medicines-and-psychiatry/ssri-antidepressants/dosage/
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- Sarkar S, et al. (2014). Seizure with sertraline: Is there a risk? https://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.neuropsych.13070146
- Sertraline (Zoloft). (2021). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK582954/
- Side effects of sertraline. (n.d.). https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/sertraline/side-effects-of-sertraline/
- Simon LV, et al. (2023). Serotonin syndrome. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482377/
- Singh HK et al. (2023). Sertraline. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547689/
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