The Truth About Zoloft Addiction, Abuse, Withdrawal and Treatment

Zoloft abuse and addiction have become a serious problem all across the United States. This comes as a surprise because people do not think of this drug as something that requires detox and rehab to stop. It is one of the most commonly prescribed medications on the market, and people typically take it long-term.

But even when Zoloft has been taken appropriately, it can still be highly addictive. People are not usually aware of its addictive nature because the medication does not come with that warning. Once a person is ready to stop using it, they may experience serious difficulties because of the accompanying withdrawal symptoms.

We want to help people become more aware of how dangerous Zoloft can be. Taking it for too long or in doses that are too high can easily lead to an addiction. It is also possible to abuse this drug by adding alcohol or other drugs into the mix. Quality treatment can make such a difference, and it is important for people to understand their options.

What is Zoloft?

Zoloft is a medication that also goes by the chemical name sertraline. It is an antidepressant that is also sold under the name Lustral. It was approved for medical use in the U.S. in 1991.

"We treat prescription drug addiction and accept many health insurance plans. Take a look at our 28 day program."

In 2005, this drug was generating about $2-3 billion a year in revenue. In 2013, doctors wrote more than 41 million prescriptions for this drug. That makes it the most prescribed antidepressant on the market. It’s also the second most prescribed psychiatric medication in the country.

Zoloft is an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) that doctors often prescribe for the treatment of anxiety. Doctors may also use it to treat other conditions, such as:

  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • PTSD
  • Panic disorder
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

In 2008, a review of various SSRIs found that 51% of people taking them experienced positive outcomes. This is the main reason doctors may choose them as their go-to solution for patients with the above conditions.

While Zoloft can be helpful for some people, it’s actually quite a dangerous drug. Watch the video below and hear a doctor go in-depth about why that is.

If you take Zoloft for too long, it is possible to form an addiction to it. The pamphlets patients receive when they’re prescribed it indicate that it’s not necessarily addictive. However, research has shown that this isn’t the case.

Once people take this drug for a period of time, they may not be able to function without it. They may suffer from brain fog if they miss a dose or two, and not be able to think clearly. As a result, people will continue to use it because they feel they have no other choice.

Many people don’t want to feel “tied down” to a drug. Something that they used to help themselves feel better eventually becomes a crutch that they can’t live without. Maybe you understand this way of thinking because that’s exactly how you feel.

About 15.5 million people have taken antidepressants for five years or more. This number has almost doubled since 2010. It has more than tripled since 2000. To call it a tragedy is an understatement.

Common Side Effects of Zoloft

Even people who take this medication as prescribed will experience side effects from it. Some may never go away, while others may fade as time goes on.

If you’re taking Zoloft, you’ve probably experienced at least some of the side effects on this list:
  • Sleepiness and drowsiness
  • Anxiety and feeling nervous
  • Insomnia and other sleep disturbances
  • Bouts of dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches that come and go
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation
  • An upset stomach or stomach pain
  • Changes in your appetite
  • A skin rash
  • Impotence in men
  • A dry mouth
  • Weight loss

Occasionally, people will experience adverse effects from taking this medication as well. You need to tell your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Rigid muscles
  • A high fever
  • Bouts of confusion
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fast or uneven heart rate
  • Fainting spells, or feeling like you might pass out
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of coordination
  • Problems with concentration
  • Memory issues
  • Shallow breathing

What are the Risks if You Suddenly Stop Taking it?

People who take Zoloft will often panic when they realize they’re dependent on it. A common reaction to that is to simply stop taking it cold turkey. Please know that doing so can be very dangerous. There are a lot of risks involved when you stop an antidepressant abruptly.

The first concern is that you will immediately begin going through withdrawal. While this medication isn’t known to be addictive, your body has gotten very used to taking it every day. When you suddenly quit, withdrawal symptoms are your body’s way of responding. This is often referred to as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. We’ll talk about what these symptoms might be in just a moment.

It’s also possible that you could experience severe depression to the point of suicidal ideation. Stopping an antidepressant without tapering off it first can increase the chances that you’ll act on those thoughts.

We understand how you might be feeling if you feel the need to stop taking Zoloft. However, there are ways to do it that won’t put your life at risk.

One Woman’s Story of Zoloft Addiction, Withdrawal and Recovery

Victoria Toline is a perfect example of a woman who was highly addicted to Zoloft. She had taken the drug for just three years, and trying to get off it presented several challenges.

The New York Times posted an article about her and her recovery process. They stated, “Victoria Toline would hunch over the kitchen table, steady her hands and draw a bead of liquid from a vial with a small dropper. It was a delicate operation that had become a daily routine — extracting ever tinier doses of the antidepressant she had taken for three years, on and off, and was desperately trying to quit.”

She was taking smaller doses over time in an attempt to wean herself off the drug. It was a process that took nine months.

When many antidepressants were first developed, they were not intended for long-term use. The intention was for people to use them for around two months and then stop. But there are millions of patients all over the United States that have used them long-term.

The question is, does that mean that everyone who is currently taking Zoloft should stop? No, that might not be appropriate for everyone. But there are alternatives, and eventually, some people may no longer need to be on an antidepressant. This is a decision that every individual needs to make with their doctor. But, in the event that the person has gotten addicted to the drug, a professional treatment program may be the best approach to recovering.

Can You Become Addicted to Zoloft?

Yes, it is very possible to become addicted to this medication, even though your doctor might say it isn’t. However, if you’ve been taking it for a short period of time, the likelihood of addiction is much lower. Usually, people need to take it for at least a few months before they become addicted to it.

Signs of Addiction

You may not be completely sure that you’re addicted to Zoloft. This is actually typical because you may not feel like an addict at all. It’s important for you to know what the signs of addiction are. Once you do, you may be able to determine if you have a condition that requires professional help to get off the drug.

Even though Zoloft isn’t known to be physically addictive, there are some physical signs that might indicate you’re dependent on it. These include:

  • A decreased libido
  • Difficulty sleeping at night
  • Bouts of nausea
  • Feeling numb
  • Severe digestion issues

As you can see, many of these are the same as some of the side effects of this drug. This is one reason people often have a hard time determining they’re addicted. They usually just assume that they’re experiencing the effects of the drug.

It may be easier to tell if you’re addicted by taking a look at some of your psychological symptoms. These include:

  • Having hallucinations
  • Becoming aggressive
  • Experiencing anxiety or even panic attacks
  • Feeling depressed
  • Having incoherent thoughts
  • Frequently feeling irritable or easily irritated
  • Becoming paranoid easily
  • Suffering from symptoms of psychosis

How do People Abuse Zoloft?

There are some people who will use Zoloft without a prescription, even though it’s rare. This type of recreational use may involve simply taking the pills to experience an increase of serotonin in the brain. It’s also possible to abuse it without realizing it when you have a prescription for it.

Basically, abuse means one of the following:
  • You take it when you don’t have a prescription for it
  • You take too much at one time
  • You take it more frequently than you should
  • You use it in a way other than swallowing pills, such as crushing the pills and snorting them
  • You purchase it illegally on the street

With antidepressants, doctors are very careful to only give enough pills to last one month’s time. A prescription may have refills, but those have to be filled at certain times as well. Those who abuse them may visit multiple doctors to get more prescriptions so that they can increase their dosages on their own.

As time goes on, people anyone taking Zoloft may notice that their normal dose doesn’t work as well. This is called forming a tolerance, and to counteract it, these individuals will increase how much they’re taking. This is also an example of abuse.

If you’re abusing Zoloft, you’re likely to experience many of the typical side effects without much relief. You may also have some of the more dangerous effects, such as paranoia, psychosis and vomiting.

One of the most common side effects of abusing an antidepressant is the risk of addiction. The longer you take this medication, the more likely you are to become dependent on it. In fact, your very next dose could be the one that results in an addiction, if it hasn’t happened already.

Even though antidepressants are not considered to be physically addictive, they are psychologically addictive. Even so, it’s common to experience some physical side effects when you stop taking them because of the way your brain will respond. Some of the more common withdrawal symptoms of Zoloft might include:

  • Difficulty sleeping at night
  • Chronic headaches that won’t go away
  • Becoming very moody or irritable
  • Feeling confused
  • Aches and pains in the muscles of the body
  • Feeling excessively depressed
  • An increase in your anxiety levels
  • Having “brain zaps,” which feel like an electrical current is zapping your brain
  • Stomach cramps
  • Crying spells
  • A decrease in your appetite
  • A sensation of depersonalization
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Loss of memory
  • Suicidal thoughts

When these and other symptoms occur, it’s called antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. It’s very unlikely that someone who is trying to stop taking Zoloft will be able to do it on their own. It’s much better to get support through professional treatment.

Getting Help with Your Addiction

You may feel nervous about the thought of stopping your Zoloft, yet you’re desperate to get off it. You’re certainly not alone, and you don’t have to go through it by yourself.

There is a two-step process that can assist you in recovering if you’re addicted. You’ll begin with going through detox, and then you’ll progress into rehabilitation. Both have proven to be effective, not only with long-term recovery, but at minimizing the pain of withdrawal.

Is There a Way of Detoxing From Zoloft?

Yes. You will need to go through drug detox as your first step in recovering from your addiction. This can involve many different types of treatment. The goal will be to ensure that you don’t have any complications from stopping your medication. The treatments you’ll receive will also help to minimize your discomfort as you go through withdrawals.

It’s important to know what you can expect when you stop taking Zoloft. Your doctor will discuss the various treatment options with you, and give you their recommendations.

When you’re coming off antidepressants, it’s best to do it slowly, rather than to quit cold turkey. This gives your body time to adjust to having less of the drug in your system with each dose.

Your doctor will likely start you on a slow taper of Zoloft as the first step in the detoxification process. You may notice some withdrawals, but they wouldn’t be as severe as if you simply quit taking it altogether.

Tapering is much safer for you, but it’s not a good idea to try it on your own. You may inadvertently take too long to taper down, or come off the drug too quickly. Either way could be harmful for you.

You may experience medical detox as a part of your experience in the early stages of recovery. Medical detoxification means that you’ll be taking medications to help counteract your withdrawal symptoms. Keep in mind that this method isn’t always appropriate for everyone. There are some detox drugs that can be addictive themselves.

Your doctor will discuss your options for medical detox if they feel you should consider it. The medications can be helpful in relieving withdrawal and making your experience much more comfortable.  

Many drug detox programs utilize holistic treatments with their patients, and for good reason. Non-medical detoxification methods often work very well to rid the body of toxins associated with the drug of choice.

During the detox phase, your body will be working hard to eliminate toxins related to your Zoloft use. However, you might not be healthy enough to get rid of them efficiently. Changing your diet to ensure you’re getting the right vitamins and minerals each day can help. You’ll probably be meeting with a nutritionist to talk about what you need to change.

Also, you may begin a new exercise program. Your body will eliminate toxins through your pores as well. In addition, your serotonin and dopamine levels will be naturally increased as a result. This is going to help you feel better faster.

The Dangers of Detoxing at Home

You shouldn’t attempt to detox from drugs at home. This practice is something many people are gravitating toward as a way to save money on treatment. However, what they don’t realize is that many of the products that are on the market today aren’t safe.

You may come across various herbal supplements or drug detox kits that all promise excellent results. The issue is that they’re not FDA approved, and they may do more harm than good. You don’t want to put yourself in a position of experiencing the full onset of withdrawal. That’s exactly what could occur if you try an at-home detox.

It’s best to play it safe and detox professionally. You’ll benefit from proven methods that have worked well for others, and your risk of complications will be lower.

Going to a Zoloft Rehab for Further Help

After you’ve gone through the detoxification process, you’ll be ready for the next step in your recovery. This will involve going through Zoloft rehab. There, you’ll work on the psychological part of your addiction.

If you’ve been prescribed an antidepressant, you most likely have been diagnosed with either depression or anxiety. These are actually co-occurring disorders that have contributed to your addiction. You’ll be able to get help with them during your treatment as well.

That could be one of the issues that is holding you back. Maybe you’ve been nervous about how you’ll get help for your mental health issue, and it’s made you hesitate. Please rest assured that you will get assistance for it when you go to rehab. There are many other ways to treat your condition, rather than relying on addictive medications to do it.

It’s best to attend an inpatient treatment program when you want to recover from an addiction. However, it’s understandable that you might not be ready for that yet. It’s normal to be nervous and unsure about what the experience will be like.

Keep in mind that you should commit to an inpatient detox program for your recovery. This is essential because you need help with your withdrawal symptoms. You may not need to remain there for inpatient rehab. Many outpatient programs work just as well.

We recommend considering an intensive outpatient treatment program (IOP) if you’re addicted to Zoloft. Research has shown that this is a great alternative to inpatient care. There are almost as many benefits, and people tend to do well with this type of program.

An IOP is best for those who have stable home situations with a lot of support. You’ll want to be sure that you’re committed to recovering from your addiction. You’ll remain in the program for about 12 weeks, and you’ll be expected to attend all of your appointments.

The Importance of Treating Co-Occurring Disorders During Rehab

Co-occurring disorders are very common among those who are addicted to drugs like Zoloft. In fact, more than half of everyone who seeks treatment suffers from some type of underlying mental health issue. In the case of a person who is addicted to Zoloft, that mental health problem is likely to be depression or anxiety.

In the past, drug rehab centers mostly focused on getting the addict off their drug of choice. But they missed the opportunity to treat the root cause of the addiction, which is why the person started using. Dual diagnosis treatment was designed to address those underlying issues, which gives the person a much better chance of being successful during recovery.

In most cases, the mental health issue appears prior to the substance abuse problem. This is certainly the case with most people who take Zoloft regularly. During treatment, alternative suggestions will be made to help with depression or anxiety. This might mean starting a different medication, or trying holistic treatments instead of medication.

Northpoint Washington’s Inpatient Drug Rehab Center

At Northpoint Washington, we specialize in helping people recover from all types of drug addictions. We have worked with many people who were addicted to Zoloft and were able to find the freedom they were seeking. Our drug detox and rehab program offers help for both sides of the addiction, resulting in a well-rounded treatment experience.

We are located in Edmonds, Washington. Our program runs for 28-days and it ends with an aftercare plan that is designed to keep patients in a recovery mindset.

Detoxing off Zoloft is the first step in the recovery process. The method will vary for every patient, of course, but it will probably begin with a medical taper. This means that the patient will receive smaller doses of the drug over time. This is a way to effectively reduce withdrawal symptoms and their severity.

Afterward, medical detox may be implemented, which allows the patient to take medications to help with their symptoms. Holistic detox may be utilized as well simply because it contributes to the patient’s overall health and well-being.

Drug rehabilitation comes after the detoxification process. During rehab, patients participate in many different types of therapy on the road to healing and recovery. They work with their therapist during individual sessions, have group therapy, family sessions, and much more.

We are also very careful to treat our patients’ co-occurring disorders. Every patient receives a careful evaluation so that we can understand what the underlying issues are. At that point, we are able to provide them with exactly what they need to have the best outcome.

Both drug detox and rehab take place during the patient’s 28-day stay with us. We are proud to be able to offer these services under the same roof. This allows our patients to experience continuous care without any breaks, which could be detrimental to the healing process.

Amytal Addiction Treatment

Zoloft Addiction Recovery is Possible With Treatment

We understand that right now, it may feel as though your situation is hopeless. You may worry that you’re one of those people who started taking Zoloft, and now you’re stuck on it. That doesn’t have to be your fate.

When you get the proper treatment, recovering from a Zoloft addiction is possible. It’s an attainable goal that you can reach if you have professional support during the process.

Here at Northpoint Recovery, we want to applaud your interest in recovering from your addiction. The hardest part is making the decision to make a change in your life. After you’ve done that, the rest is quite a bit easier when you have professional guidance. We’re here to assist you in reaching your recovery goals. Our caring and experienced staff know the best ways to become free, and they’re available to assist you.

Have we answered all of your questions about Zoloft addiction? Are you ready to take the next step and begin your recovery? Please contact us to let us know how we can help you.

Talk to a Rehab Specialist

Our admissions coordinators are here to help you get started with treatment the right way. They'll verify your health insurance, help set up travel arrangements, and make sure your transition into treatment is smooth and hassle-free.

(888) 663-7106 Contact Us