Sertraline (Zoloft) Uses, Effects and Benefits
Sertraline (Zoloft) is one of the most popular and effective antidepressants that are used in modern medicine. In this article, you will find answers to such questions as: How does the drug work and when is it prescribed? What are the contraindications? How and when should it be taken, and with what drugs is it possible to combine? You will find out how sertraline differs from other antidepressants and what are its main advantages.
The life of a modern person has a very fast rhythm, with huge streams of information taken in every day and hundreds of acquaintances with new people occurring all the time. All this together with personal troubles, bad habits, weakened immunity, unhealthy lifestyle, and various other unfavorable factors can lead to depression and other mental disorders. Depression, phobias, melancholy, apathy, depression, bad sleep – all of these significantly complicate life, preventing you from having a full-fledged life, with adequate work and rest.
Sertraline is a multipurpose drug which is a powerful antidepressant. It helped thousands of people, and in 2009 it was recognized as one of the best antidepressants of the new generation. If you have mental problems, do not despair and give up. There is a very huge chance that sertraline (Zoloft) will help you to return to a happy life.
What Is Sertraline?
This drug was developed by the Pfizer company. Firstly, the antidepressant tameroline was created. Still, it was not very effective, as it had many side effects. The Pfizer company perfected the formula of the drug and released it under the name “sertraline”. It proved itself much better. This is one of the most often prescribed medications for depression in the USA.
This drug’s uses include the treatment of the severest depressive conditions. It can be used both separately and as part of complex therapy. Sertraline successfully struggles against following diseases:
- premenstrual dysphoric disorder;
- depression with all levels of severity;
- obsessive-compulsive disorder;
- anxiety disorder;
- posttraumatic stress disorder;
- social anxiety.
Thanks to its sedative effect, sertraline is used to treat sleep disorders, hypersomnia, loginess, and irritability, which can accompany depression. The drug lasts 26 hours.
This drug is produced by the Pfizer company in two versions: Lustral and Zoloft. There are a lot of generics of sertraline, which are in no way inferior to branded products. They have the same properties as the original and are made according to the classic recipe, but their price is much lower. All of them are made in strict conformity with the original recipe and work in the same way as branded drugs.
Is It FDA Approved?
Sertraline and all medications on its basis are approved by the FDA for the treatment of the above-mentioned disorders. An exception is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Despite the lack of FDA approval in the treatment of this disease, sertraline is often prescribed to do this.
Signs of GAD can be observed with prolonged stress, a strong psychological load, and emotional outbursts, but at the same time a person can rest and return to a calm state. For this reason, there is no point in taking such a serious drug as sertraline. In cases of severe GAD, the dosage of the drug should be set up by a doctor.
The drug is recommended for both periodic and long-term (several years or more) use.
Sertraline is a specific inhibitor and antidepressant. Its action is characterized by a reverse capture of serotonin and increase of its action. When used in therapeutic doses, the drug captures serotonin in human platelets.
The medicine does not exert a pronounced sedative effect, it does not change the speed of psyche reaction and its activity, and it is not addictive. Sertraline does not increase the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.
Zoloft does following things:
- is a moderate antagonist of sigma receptors;
- blocks in some extent the reuptake of dopamine;
- reduces the sensitivity of serotonin receptors, especially 1A;
- blocks the capture of serotonin by its carrier;
- increases serotonin concentration.
How long does it take for Zoloft to work? Most often, the medicine does not act immediately, as a stable effect is observed only after 2-4 weeks of daily intake. When there is no effect after 6-8 weeks from the beginning of intake, it should be canceled. Zoloft drugs provide long term effects. Thanks to this, they can be used for a long time to prevent relapses.
There are often cases when the drug works partially: some symptoms disappear, but others remain. In such a situation, it is necessary to choose a complex therapy.
Depressive states in one or another clinical form occurs in 20% of people. The probability of relapse after treatment reaches 55%. Depression in 10-15% of patients cannot be cured, so it goes into a chronic stage. Depression can be mild or severe, but treatment is necessary in any case.
Zoloft is one of the most popular drugs for a depression cure. It provides a positive effect on the patient’s condition and does not have “behavioral toxicity.” The medicine is very convenient because it needs to be taken once a day, acts for a long time, does not cause addiction, and does not require an increase in dosage over time.
According to statistical data about the treatment of depression, more than half of patients notice significant improvement of their condition. Still, in a small percentage, changes are not observed. In the second week of treatment, patients notice a decrease in anxiety and hypochondria, and after 3 weeks there was an increase of interest in the world around them. A month later, people begin to build plans for the future. All this shows the effectiveness of the drug in all clinical types of depression.
Social anxiety is a psychological disorder in which a person has fears about meeting and communicating with new people, is afraid of condemnation, and dislikes being the center of attention. In a weak form, social phobia occurs in many people, but it can stop after an irritant (for example, a boss criticizing his colleagues) disappears.
Talking with a psychologist and taking light sedatives usually help to normalize the situation. With severe social phobia, people have panic attacks and feel like it is very dangerous to go out into the street, talk on the phone or with strangers, etc. In such cases, the use of antidepressants is necessary.
The drugs help to reduce anxiety and eliminate panic attacks. After 2-3 weeks of taking Zoloft, a person can meet with a psychologist to talk about his fears.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a disease in which a person is constantly visited by obsessive thoughts. These thoughts cause him feel fear, anxiety, anger, and other negative emotional states (obsessions). A person “winds up” himself and has a compulsion – an action that is aimed at destroying the “problem”. This can be an action like washing hands, checking if the doors are closed or not, counting objects, avoiding specific things, etc. After this, there is a temporary improvement in the state of mind, which is soon replaced by shame and anger toward himself for the compulsion. Most patients consider their actions unreasonable, and they want to get rid of this cycle, but they cannot do this without help.
Sertraline in OCD helps to remove general anxiety. As a result, a person will not have heavy thoughts which can bring him to compulsion. In the beginning of drug intake (4-6 weeks), the patient will still have OCD cycles, but they will occur less and less often. During this period it is important for a patient to start working with a psychologist and find a hobby which will distract him from obsessive thoughts. The effect of sertraline in the treatment of this disease will be slower in comparison with other disorders.
Panic disorder is a disease in which a person falls into a state of panic without any apparent reason. This can be named a disease when the symptoms of panic attacks are observed within a certain periodicity.
Such a disease mainly affects people from 20 to 35 years old, and mostly women.
Panic attacks intensify during periods of physical activity, lack of sleep, and excessive stress.
In addition to a sense of fear, the patient experiences the following changes in the psyche:
- appearance of various phobias;
- convoluted thinking;
- constant anxiety;
- development of neurosis;
- loss of control of what happens in life.
Usually, patients consult a doctor when, in addition to a panic disorder, they have some phobias. Therefore, the treatment of this disease is usually complex and long-lasting. Sertraline perfectly copes with the task, as it eliminates both the panic and alarming background which causes the panic to arise. Often it is taken with tranquilizers if a person cannot live normal life because of anxiety. The treatment of panic disorders with Zoloft takes between 8-12 months. During this period, the patient needs complex psychotherapeutic help otherwise panic attacks will return. For anxiety treatment, the drug can be taken prophylactically.
Who Can Take Sertraline?
Sertraline is a potent drug that affects all systems of organs. It should be taken at the doctor’s prescription, making sure that there are no contraindications.
You cannot drink tablets in such cases:
- Childhood. Up to 6 years, Zoloft is strictly prohibited, after 6 it is necessary to correlate the need to apply the medicine with possible risks. In children, a developmental disorder may occur if medicine is thoughtlessly used.
- Too low weight or its active decrease.
- Manic states.
- Alcohol poisoning.
- Developmental impairment.
- Liver diseases.
- Kidney failure.
In all other cases, the medication is possible. You need to start taking a minimum dose, gradually increasing it (if necessary) to the prescribed therapeutic dose.
How and When to Take Sertraline for Best Results?
There is no single scheme for taking sertraline since its dosage depends largely on the disease. You can drink from 50 to 200 mg per day. 50 mg is the minimum dosage, but most patients require an increase in it. If we talk about a child or person with a disease of the internal organs, then in this case the minimum dosage is 25 mg per day. With poor tolerance of antidepressants, it makes sense to start treatment with 12.5 mg per day.
The best time to take the drug depends on the person’s condition. If at night he cannot fall asleep and feels an unhealthy burst of energy, then intake of the pills prescribed should be done in the morning. In this case, they do not interfere with day-to-day business or at night with sleep.
For the most agitated and anxious patients, the starting dose will be lower with a slower increase of it.
There are such recommendations for intake:
- Panic attacks and PTSD. Begin with 25 mg per day, from the second week increase them to 50 mg. After a few weeks the dose can be increased from once a week 200 mg intake (other days dosage will be lower), and up to 200 mg per day in one dose (as needed).
- Depression and OCD. 50 mg for the first few weeks to evaluate the effect, then it goes same dosage increasing as for panic attacks and PTSD situation. If the patient does not respond to 100 mg and even 200 mg, the dosage can be increased to 400 mg. This must be done only after consulting with a doctor.
Long-term treatment with sertraline is safe. This helps to avoid suddenly occurring relapses.
What Happens if I Take Too Much Zoloft?
If the patient has taken an amount of the drug several times higher than the established rate, then an overdose may appear. It is called serotonin syndrome.
It has the following symptoms:
- vomiting, nausea;
- drowsiness or psychomotor restlessness;
- abruptly starting agitation;
- increased sweating;
- exaggerated reflex;
When an overdose occurs, an activated carbon and treatment of symptoms are usually prescribed. In severe cases, you need to go to the hospital to support the work of vital organs.
What If I Miss a Dose?
Sertraline must be taken daily, in order for the body to adapt to the constant intake of the drug. This is especially important if the patient started with minimal dose and gradually increased to a therapeutic dose. If you miss a dose and then return to intake, symptoms of side effects, tachycardia, and loss of strength are possible. All these symptoms quickly pass.
If you missed a pill intake, take it as soon as you remember it. If more than 24 hours have passed and the time for a new intake is near, then just wait for it. After that, take the medicine according to the schedule that the doctor has prescribed for you. A double dose should not be taken.
Taking Sertraline While Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
At the time of the drug use, women of childbearing age should avoid pregnancy, since the drug can adversely affect the child. Usually sertraline is not prescribed to pregnant women. Still, if the condition of a woman is so severe that it can lead to other diseases, then a prescribed a minimal therapeutic dose should be used. If taken while pregnant, the drug should be prescribed only by a doctor. Since the work of the drug is not immediate, it will take a long time for the medication to work.
The drug cannot be taken while breastfeeding. Sertraline enters the mother’s milk and can have an adverse effect on baby. In this case, you need to choose antidepressants which you can take while breastfeeding. If the need for sertraline is extreme, the child should be fed by artificial milk mixes in order for the mother to be fully treated.
An important subject is the question of the interaction of sertraline with food, alcohol, and other medicines. After all, treatment can be very, very long, and a person must follow certain rules in order to prevent deterioration of his state of health.
Cautions with Other Medications
Is it safe to use Zoloft with other medications? Sertraline works well with some drugs. It is often prescribed with complex medications for major depressive disorder treatment.
Pimozide should not be used together with Sertraline, because as a result serious problems with the cardiovascular system are possible. The drug cannot be combined with MAO inhibitors because they significantly increase the risk of side effects. With the simultaneous intake of these drugs, there is a high probability of seizures, coma, delirium, irritability, confusion, and changes in mental state.
With sertraline, SSRIs medications cannot be taken, as this can lead to serotonin syndrome. Between taking these medicines and sertraline, you need to wait at least 2 weeks. Injected methylene blue and linezolid also does not work well with Zoloft and can cause serotonin syndrome.
Combination with some drugs can lead to dangerous side effects. These drugs include:
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs;
- tricyclic antidepressants;
The combination of sertraline with these drugs is undesirable, but not contraindicated. This is possible, but only with a properly adjusted dosage.
The action of sertraline may be intensified by some hypnotic and analgesic agents. All drugs must be selected together with a specialist.
When selecting drugs, it is important to remember that it is better to take just one antidepressant than a few. These drugs have a negative effect on brain and liver, and they affect the internal organs too much.
Mixing Sertraline with Herbal Remedies and Supplements
The medicine can react with some non-prescription and prescription drugs, vitamins, and dietary supplements, so before you start taking them, talk about this with your doctor.
Simultaneous use of sertraline with herbal preparations can lead to serotonin syndrome. It is not recommended to use drugs for the treatment of depression which contain St. John’s Wort. Opioid analgesics can increase the effect of sertraline and make it excessive.
In some cases, for the treatment of mental illness, the patient can be prescribed a smoke weed. It improves appetite and helps fight insomnia and anxiety. Sertraline together with a smoke weed can lead to serotonin syndrome. To avoid this, you need to discuss such a combination with your doctor and choose the right dosage of the drug.
Sedative herbal preparations are well-combined with Zoloft and require its withdrawal, but they can be used only in small concentrations. Decoctions and teas are acceptable, too.
Can You Drink Alcohol?
So, can you drink alcohol together with antidepressants? This question is a natural one, since drugs need to be taken for a long time, including on holidays. Also, many people use alcohol for relaxation during periods of depression and increased anxiety.
Ethyl alcohol consumption during the intake of sertraline is prohibited. It increases the load on liver and kidneys. It also causes drowsiness, slowing down the response to stimuli. A person becomes absent-minded and inattentive.
What happens if a person, along with tranquilizers, drinks wine or other alcoholic beverages? His body experiences a strong toxic load, and alcohol relaxes the nervous system. From a minimal or one-time intake of alcohol, there will be no serious harm, but the systematic drinking of ethyl alcohol must be stopped immediately.
Stop taking sertraline during the holidays for the sake of drinking alcohol is unacceptable.
Sertraline can be taken regardless of meals. However, practical studies and patient reviews show that in order to enhance the effect of the drug, it is best to take it together with food.
Studies show that protein food increases the bioavailability of sertraline, and its maximum concentration in the blood is observed after 6-7 hours. Still, intake of the drug while eating is a recommendation, not a rule. A lot of people with depression and nervous disorders have problems with digestion and appetite. For them, doctors prescribe a special scheme of nutrition, so adjusting the use of sertraline within it is not necessary.
Sertraline is one of the most popular and effective antidepressants for a reason. It has many benefits. The main ones are:
- has a relatively small number of side effects, so it can be used to treat children from 6 years of age;
- does not exacerbate anxiety, so it can be used as remedy for many diseases that are accompanied by emotional stress;
- can be used in complex therapy, as it is well combined with many medications;
- well-tolerated during long-term intake, weakly affects internal organs.
It is clear why people take this medicine. Still, it is important to remember that, despite all its advantages, it is a very serious medicine. You can start taking sertraline and its analogues only if you have a diagnosis and after consulting with a doctor.
What Else Can I Take?
Sertraline and its analogs are very effective and relatively safe drugs, but they can be used only for serious situations. If a patient begins to feel bad when taking the medicine or if secondary symptoms of the disease appear, then the treatment needs to be changed. The fact is that the most popular and effective dosage of sertraline is 100mg or more. Therefore, with the appearance of side effects, it makes no sense to reduce the dosage, as efficiency will also be decreased.
A lot of depressive states and apathy can be cured with “lighter” drugs. They are able to suppress even the highest anxiety, of that which is not a chronic disease. For example, “clever tablets,” such as Provigil, Armodafinil, and others, have proved themselves very well. Also, you can use Modafinil for depression treatment. However, a consultation with a specialist is necessary in this case.
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