Zoloft is an anti-depressant and its generic name is sertraline. It helps restore the balance of the natural chemicals in the brains of people suffering from depression, panic attacks, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), social anxiety disorder (otherwise known as social phobia) and PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder).
It belongs to a class of drugs called serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) because it helps re-establish the balance of serotonin in the brain.
Common side effects include sleepiness or insomnia, nervousness, dizziness, nausea, tremors, rashes, constipation, stomach problems (including loss of appetite), diarrhea, headache, abnormal ejaculation in men, disinterest in sexual activity, weight loss, diaphoresis and dry mouth. Contact your doctor if these persist and become bothersome.
Serious side effects include allergic reactions, irregular heartbeats, muscle cramps, easy bruising/bleeding, hyponatremia, serotonin syndrome, abnormal bleeding, worsening of mental illness, prolonged erection in men, liver problems, black/bloody stools, vomit that looks like coffee grounds, suicidal thoughts and manic behaviour (in bipolar people). Seek immediate medical help.
In case of prolonged erection (which lasts for more than four hours), patients should stop using this drug and promptly contact their doctor to avoid permanent problems.
Withdrawal symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, decrease appetite, flu and related symptoms, sweating, troubled sleeping and memory impairment.
HOW TO TAKE
Follow all your doctor’s guidelines carefully including the dosage and treatment time. For PMDD sufferers, the doctor will quintessentially ask you to take the drug two weeks before your menstruation until it starts.
It can be taken with or without food.
The liquid version of Zoloft must be diluted – use an accurate dosing syringe and mix the liquid with one-half cup of water, ginger ale, orange juice or lemonade.
Zoloft may affect your laboratory results; warn your lab consultants about it.
Symptoms will typically start improving after four weeks – if they do not, notify your doctor.
Abrupt discontinuation will lead to withdrawal symptoms – do not discontinue without advice from your doctor.
Tell the surgeon about this medication if you plan to have a surgery.
Avoid alcohol and marijuana as it may add up to the dizziness caused by Zoloft. Moreover, avoid tasks that require alertness while still under influence of this drug (such as driving and using machinery)
Beware of harmful drug interactions – do not take Zoloft if you are taking pimozide, warfarin, stimulant medicine, opioid medicine, herbal products, other antidepressants or drugs to treat mental illness, if you are currently using a methylene blue injection or have used a MAO inhibitor in the past two weeks. Similarly, ask your doctor before using NSAIDs (including aspirin) simultaneously as it may lead to easy bruising. Do not use the liquid version of Zoloft alongside disulfiram to avoid a severe reaction.
Since this drug interferes with the level of serotonin in your body, you might develop a serotonin syndrome. You must be aware of all symptoms related to it and seek immediate medical attention if you see signs such as hallucinations, fever, agitation, shivering, rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle stiffness, twitching and loss of coordination.
Initially, the medication may trigger suicidal thoughts in younger people. If your symptoms worsen, inform your doctor promptly.
Zoloft may not be suitable for people with a heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, liver or kidney disease, convulsions (seizure), bipolar disorder, inadequate sodium levels, an allergy to sertraline, or bleeding problems. Tell your doctor about these diseases to see if it is safe to take Zoloft.
Unless the doctor recommends it, do not give the medicine to people under-eighteen. However, Zoloft is approved for children with OCD.
Older adults and children may be more susceptible to side effects of this medicine. Monitor their symptoms closely.
Pregnant women are advised to avoid any SSRI antidepressant as it may cause lung problems in the unborn baby. Consult your doctor about this and do not abruptly discontinue treatment without taking your doctor’s advice. Similarly, inform your doctor if you plan to breastfeed.