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What are the Short and Long Term Side Effects of Zoloft?

written by: Emma Lloyd•edited by: Paul Arnold•updated: 4/29/2010

Zoloft is a prescription medication for mood disorders such as depression. It has some short and long term side effects that people should be aware of before they start using the drug. Read on for more information, and talk to your doctor about Zoloft or any other medication before taking it.

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    What is Zoloft?

    Zoloft (generic name: sertraline) is an antidepressant medication in a class known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Unavailability of serotonin is implicated in depression and many other mood disorders: SSRI medications work by making more serotonin available for use in the brain.

    In addition to depression, Zoloft is also prescribed for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. In all of these illnesses, reduced availability of serotonin is a causative factor which an SSRI medication can help correct.

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    Short Term Side Effects of Zoloft

    Taking Zoloft can cause short term side effects. These normally disappear within a few days or a few weeks of starting to take the drug. Possible short term side effects include:

    • Abdominal pain, headache, or sore throat
    • Anxiety, agitation, fatigue, insomnia, sleepiness, nervousness
    • Constipation, diarrhea, nausea, gas, bloating, indigestion
    • Tremors, pins and needles, or tingling in the hands or feet
    • Decreased sex drive

    Zoloft and other antidepressant medications affect people in very different ways. In some people it might cause constipation and insomnia, while in others, it might cause sleepiness and diarrhea. There is no single pattern of symptoms, but there are many possible side effects.

    There are a small number of serious side effects. These require prompt medical attention.

    • Blurry vision
    • Seizures
    • Confusion, irregular or rapid heartbeat
    • Abnormal levels of bruising or bleeding
    • Hallucinating
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    Long Term Side Effects of Zoloft

    For most people, side effects of Zoloft go away over time, but sometimes side effects can persist over the long term. Most of the short term side effects listed above can potentially become long term side effects of Zoloft if they do not go away after a few weeks or months of starting the medication. Certain side effects, such as insomnia, sleepiness, and decreased sex drive, are more likely to be long term than others, but the chances of these side effects persisting in the long term is still quite low.

    If someone experiences negative side effects that don’t go away, the normal solution is for his or her doctor to prescribe a different antidepressant. The same person can have very different reactions to various SSRI medications, even though they are in the same category of drug, so if one medication doesn’t work, or has unpleasant side effects, there are many other possibilities.

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    How to Take Zoloft Safely

    Even though there are many potential side effects, Zoloft is a safe medication, in general, but it is important to take the medication exactly as prescribed, and follow some basic safety precautions.

    • Zoloft should not be taken with antidepressant medications called MAO inhibitors. Doing so can lead to a dangerous drug interaction.
    • Zoloft should be taken exactly as prescribed by a doctor. A missed dose should be taken as soon as it is remembered, but if several hours elapse after missing the dose it should be skipped. Never double the next dose to catch up on the missed dose.
    • See your doctor if any short or long term side effects of Zoloft are unpleasant or make you feel worried, or if you experience any of the potentially dangerous side effects of this medication.
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    References Drugs Information Online: Zoloft

    National Institute of Health MedlinePlus: Sertraline

    Pfizer Product Site: Zoloft (sertraline HCL)

    Physician’s Desktop Reference: Prescription Drugs: Zoloft

    RxList Drug Reference: Zoloft

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