By Naomi Carr

Last updated: 13 February 2024 & medically reviewed by Morgan Blair

Zoloft is an antidepressant medication. It is a brand-name medication containing sertraline that is prescribed to treat various mental health conditions. Zoloft can cause many side effects, including dizziness, drowsiness, insomnia, nausea, and dry mouth. In some cases, it may also cause severe side effects that require treatment or medication changes.[1]

Zoloft (Sertraline) Side Effects

What is Zoloft used for?

Zoloft is a brand name for the medication sertraline. Zoloft (sertraline) is in the class of antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and is used in the treatment of several mental health conditions. Zoloft is available as a tablet in 25 mg, 50 mg, and 100 mg strengths and as an oral solution.[2]

Zoloft is approved for use in the treatment of many mental health conditions, including:[1]

It is also sometimes used off-label to treat other conditions, including:[3]

A typical dose of Zoloft is between 50-200 mg per day. Often, the prescribing doctor will taper the individual onto the medication, gradually increasing the amount until reaching a therapeutic dose to allow the body time to adjust to the medication.[1]

Why do people abuse Zoloft?

SSRIs such as Zoloft are not commonly abused medications, as they do not cause a feeling of euphoria or ‘high’ and therefore do not lead to addictive behaviors. However, Zoloft might be abused by individuals who are prescribed the medication and take more than their recommended dose or use it alongside additional substances to enhance the effects.[4][5]

Prolonged Zoloft use can cause the onset of withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation, which may cause some individuals to misuse or abuse the medication. [1][5]

Common side effects of Zoloft

When commencing Zoloft treatment, it is not unusual to experience some side effects. Typically, these side effects are mild and will be alleviated within a couple of weeks. Common side effects of Zoloft include: [1][2][6]

  • Fatigue

  • Tiredness

  • Insomnia

  • Agitation

  • Dry mouth

  • Dizziness

  • Stomach pain

  • Constipation

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Decreased appetite

  • Shaking

  • Decreased libido

  • Sexual dysfunction

  • Blurred vision

  • Muscle twitches

  • Sweating

Severe side effects of Zoloft

In some cases, severe or persistent side effects may occur with Zoloft use. These side effects should be reported to the prescribing doctor as they may require treatment or a change of medication. Severe side effects of Zoloft can include: [1][2][6]

  • Rash or hives

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Severe cognitive impairments

  • Hallucinations

  • Fever

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea

  • Seizures

  • Unexplained bruising or bleeding

  • Mania: Antidepressants, including Zoloft, may cause the onset of an episode of mania or hypomania. This risk is higher for individuals with a history of bipolar disorder or manic symptoms.

  • Serotonin syndrome: Zoloft can cause serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening illness, including symptoms such as fever, confusion, and extreme fatigue. The risk of serotonin syndrome is higher if Zoloft is used in combination with other serotonergic medications.

Suicidal ideation

Antidepressants, such as Zoloft, have been found to cause new or worsening suicidal ideation in some cases, particularly in individuals under the age of 24. While antidepressants can be used to treat symptoms of depression, such as suicidal thoughts, they may worsen some of these symptoms in the first few months of treatment. [1]

The prescribing doctor will monitor the individual for changes in mood and behavior throughout treatment, particularly when new medications are introduced or doses are increased. Those taking Zoloft and their family members can also seek professional advice if concerning changes are noticed, such as emerging suicidal thoughts. [6]

Discontinuation syndrome

It is common for individuals to experience some withdrawal symptoms, or discontinuation syndrome, when stopping Zoloft, especially after prolonged and heavy usage or rapid dose reductions. This can include symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, low mood, behavioral changes, unusual sensory experiences, headache, insomnia, and seizures. [1]

When discontinuing Zoloft use, a gradual dose reduction is recommended to help prevent the onset of these symptoms. [3]

Zoloft overdose

Individuals taking Zoloft may be at risk of accidental or intentional overdose. Typically, a Zoloft overdose is not life-threatening, although serious adverse effects could occur. [1]

Signs of a Zoloft overdose include: [1][2]

  • Dizziness

  • Drowsiness

  • Agitation

  • Severe fatigue

  • Vomiting

  • Confusion

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat

  • Hallucinations

  • Mania

  • Seizure

  • Loss of consciousness

The risk of Zoloft overdose may be increased if the medication is combined with additional substances, including alcohol. [1]

In the event of a suspected Zoloft overdose, call 911 immediately. 

Getting treatment for Zoloft dependence

Zoloft is not commonly abused or associated with addictive behaviors, so specialized treatments are rarely needed to help individuals reduce and stop Zoloft use. However, some people may misuse Zoloft or abuse it alongside other substances in the context of substance use disorders. This may require specialized intervention, such as detox or rehab. In these cases, professionals can help reduce addictive behaviors and substance use, providing medicinal and therapeutic support as required. [4][5]

Some people may develop a physical dependence on Zoloft following prolonged use. It is common for doctors to regularly review antidepressant prescriptions and they may decide to stop or change medications. In this case, the individual will be advised on a safe cessation process, involving a gradual dose reduction over several weeks. [1]

Individuals who have been prescribed Zoloft as a mental health treatment should ensure that they receive continued psychological support when stopping Zoloft use. New or worsening symptoms can emerge when reducing or stopping medications and may require professional monitoring and treatment. [3]

Implementing or continuing treatment can be beneficial for individuals experiencing mental health issues, which can include therapeutic interventions such as: [7]