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Generic Name: Sertraline

Brands: Zoloft

Class: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)

Availability: Prescription only

Molecular Formula: C17H18Cl3N

Substance UNII: UTI8907Y6X

What is Zoloft?

Zoloft is an antidepressant, specifically a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It is the trade name of the medication sertraline.

What is Zoloft Used For?

Zoloft can treat depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social anxiety disorder. It may also help relieve symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), including irritability, breast tenderness, mood swings, and bloating.

How Does Zoloft Work?

Zoloft works by increasing levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, which means it acts like a chemical messenger. Its job is to carry signals between neurons, or nerve cells in the brain. 

High levels of serotonin theoretically cause feelings of happiness and serenity, while low levels of the neurotransmitter would be associated with depression. This fact is why many people refer to serotonin as the “feel good neurotransmitter.” While the connection between serotonin and mood is well-established, researchers are still working to determine exactly why it exists.

Normally the body reabsorbs, or “reuptakes,” a neurotransmitter once the chemical messenger delivers its message from one neuron to the next. Reuptake therefore decreases serotonin levels, which can decrease positive feelings. SSRIs like sertraline slow, or inhibit, the reuptake of serotonin. This process allows more of this neurotransmitter to stay in the system for longer periods of time.

How Long Does it Take for Zoloft to Work?

Some symptoms of depression and anxiety improve in the first 1 to 2 weeks of treatment. It may take up to 6 to 8 weeks for the medication to take full effect, though,

Do Not Use Zoloft If:

There are several situations where this medication may not be the right choice for you. According to the FDA, the following should not use Zoloft:

  • Those who are taking or are within 14 days of stopping monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs); taking Zoloft while MAOIs are still in the system can increase the risk for serotonin syndrome, a dangerous condition in which excessive serotonin builds up in the system
  • Those taking pimozide (Orap), a medication used to reduce uncontrolled body movements or outbursts of words and sounds resulting from Tourette syndrome; combining pimozide and Zoloft can cause dangerously high pimozide levels that could result in serious or potentially life-threatening irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
  • Those with known hypersensitivity to sertraline (primary ingredient in Zoloft), resulting in the dangerous allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis or rapid swelling beneath the skin, known as angioedema

Please note that this list may not be complete, and there may be other situations where use of this drug is not advisable.

Disclaimer: this article does not constitute or replace medical advice. If you have an emergency or a serious medical question, please contact a medical professional or call 911 immediately. To see our full medical disclaimer, visit our Terms of Use page.

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