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Zoloft, also known as sertraline, falls under a category of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
In most cases, it is understood that SSRIs assist the body by increasing serotonin production in the brain.
This is helpful as serotonin is a vital chemical in the body’s everyday functioning, often related to mood, emotions, sexual desire, and blood clotting.
By increasing the serotonin levels in the brain, as well as blocking or inhibiting its reabsorption, serotonin can reach more areas of the brain, allowing more neural signals to be sent around the brain as well as boosting the areas of functioning that it is responsible for (1).
Zoloft, like many other SSRIs, may need to be taken for 2-4 weeks before any changes are noticed, and they are not always suitable in every individual case.
These individuals may be prescribed a different form of antidepressant that is more suitable to their needs and/or requirements.
Medically, SSRIs such as Zoloft are prescribed for individuals who have been diagnosed with the following mental health issues:
They may also be used to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), or fibromyalgia.
In addition, any use of SSRIs is often recommended to be part of a co-treatment, along with therapy for the individual’s specific health issues. The most common therapy used in this instance is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
This is because no medication can be 100% effective in treating both the physical and mental health issues of the individual; the therapy often focusses on the origin of the individual’s disorder(s) and helping them overcome this with their own conceived coping techniques.
Please ensure to discuss all features of the individual’s mental health disorders with a medical professional before beginning any treatment. If the individual is pregnant, for example, treatment for various disorders with Zoloft would be unsuitable due to the dangers associated with pregnancy and pre-birth risks (2).
With all medications, Zoloft and other SSRIs can have some side effects depending on the individual, how long they have been taking the medication, and if they are taking any other medication at the same time.
The most common side effects of SSRIs are listed below:
When the individual first starts taking medication such as Zoloft, they are generally suggested to meet with their medical professional regularly.
This is to determine how well the medication is working, as well as if the individual is experiencing any side effects.
When taking Zoloft, individuals should keep a diary or track their side effects in order to report best to their medical professional. This will help them to make any further suggestions, as well as changing the dosage of the individual’s current medication.
As with all antidepressant medications, SSRIs, and other drugs, they will stay in the individual’s system for different lengths of time.
This amount of time varies depending on how quickly the body breaks down the substance, as well as any additional contributing factors such as additional medication.
In terms of SSRIs specifically, Zoloft included, this amount of time also varies from individual to individual.
Once an individual starts taking the substance, as mentioned previously, they will need to continue taking it for 2 weeks or more before they may begin to notice any changes.
Additionally, when the individual stops taking their prescribed SSRI, they are likely to notice no change or additional symptoms as it works its way out of the body’s system.
Factors that may influence how quickly the body breaks down a substance:
Substances such as Prozac (another type of SSRI) can take 25 days or more to break down within the body, whereas Zoloft may take between 5 to 6 days. This is an average and may be affected by problems with the liver or factors such as age.
Traditionally, Zoloft and other SSRIs were thought to be safe to consume with alcohol. However, nowadays we know that this is less of the case.
Recently, links have been found between alcohol consumption and the use of SSRIs that leads to lowered alcohol tolerance, memory loss, and a risk of serious violence.
One study in 2014 looked at the behaviour and changes in individuals who had consumed alcohol with SSRIs. They found memory impairment in 53 of 201 cases, 100 of whom had also reported disinhibition.
They also found 8 cases of homicide within their sample, further showing the risk of mixing these two substances (3).
As mentioned above, there are some serious consequences when mixing SSRIs such as Zoloft, and these can generally be picked up on when displayed in an individual’s behaviour or general demeanour.
Below are some of the key signs that an individual may be mixing the two drugs:
In the long term, many of the previous factors and effects already mentioned can continue, often worsening and having a greater effect on the individual’s everyday life.
Although Zoloft is generally prescribed as a treatment for this specific disorder, it can also worsen the disorder when used alongside the consumption of alcohol.
Individuals struggling with depression whilst taking Zoloft should speak to a medical professional.
As well as the effects previously mentioned as being a result of mixing Zoloft and alcohol, individuals who have consumed both substances at the same time should look out for some of the most common signs experienced when the individual may need medical attention.
The most common signs that the individual should seek medical attention are listed below:
If the individual is experiencing any of the above symptoms, either as a result of taking Zoloft or as a result of a combination of Zoloft and alcohol, then they should seek emergency medical attention as soon as possible.
When an individual consumes alcohol, it can cause inhibition. This not only refers to some impulsive or out-of-character behaviours but can also refer to neurobiological processes, affecting the individual’s ability to make decisions and leading to poor reasoning.
Individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition such as depression are not recommended to drink alcohol.
This leads to a vicious cycle, as individuals who have developed an alcohol addiction and related mental health issues may begin to drink more and more in an attempt to feel better.
However, this is not a good solution and only leads to a worsening in their condition if continued over a long period of time.
If the individual wants to stop taking Zoloft or other SSRIs, then this is a decision that they should take to their medical professional.
This will make their decision more suitable for their current position; stopping taking a substance suddenly can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms – something which can cause further long-term harm.
Zoloft, as previously mentioned, can take a few days before leaving the system completely.
This is in addition to the time taken for the individual to slowly be tapered off of Zoloft i.e., the slow reduction in dosage over time to allow an easier transition from taking the substance to stopping usage – an essential process.
Whether or not the individual has been prescribed Zoloft or other SSRIs, it is generally recommended not to return to drinking alcohol – a known depressant – or at least drink a lesser amount than the individual previously may have done.
If the individual has been consuming alcohol for a long period of time – perhaps for the reasons mentioned earlier such as the vicious cycle of alcohol consumption and depression – then they may also struggle to withdraw from alcohol in a safe and health-preserving manner.
Alcohol is a physically addictive drug, meaning that it can cause physical changes within the body and neurobiological changes in the brain that can lead to difficulties in withdrawing from the substance. This is known as an alcohol dependence.
When the individual stops consuming alcohol, their body will no longer have access to a substance which may have become part of their everyday processing, leading to significant issues in both physical and mental health.
In cases of a long term addiction to alcohol, individuals may struggle with alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS), a disorder which encapsulates symptoms such as excessive sweating, body tremors, liver problems, and heart complications (5).
When it comes to treatment for all of the symptoms and effects of both Zoloft and alcohol (and their combination) mentioned thus far in this article, there are many treatment options available in the modern world.
This is an inpatient treatment establishment where individuals will reside while partaking in daily addiction treatment programmes and therapies to help them overcome the physical and mental health issues that they may have experienced as a result of Zoloft and/or alcohol consumption.
These treatment programmes, within a residential rehab centre, will be specialised towards the individual’s needs, specialised and tailored to their experience and/or requirements for care.
Our friendly and professional team understands the issues that individuals come across in their journey to and through rehabilitation and are therefore trained in confidentiality and suggesting the most suitable form of care.
Whether you’re struggling with an addiction to Zoloft, alcohol, or any other substance, or struggling with the effects of these substances, please give Rehab 4 Alcoholism a call today.
 Harmer, C.J., Duman, R.S. and Cowen, P.J., 2017. How do antidepressants work? New perspectives for refining future treatment approaches. The Lancet Psychiatry, 4(5), pp.409-418.
 Santos, R.P. and Pergolizzi, J.J., 2004. Transient neonatal jitteriness due to maternal use of sertraline (Zoloft®). Journal of perinatology, 24(6), pp.392-394.
 Menkes, D.B. and Herxheimer, A., 2014. Interaction between antidepressants and alcohol: signal amplification by multiple case reports. International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine, 26(3), pp.163-170.
 Boden, J.M. and Fergusson, D.M., 2011. Alcohol and depression. Addiction, 106(5), pp.906-914.
 Bayard, M., Mcintyre, J., Hill, K. and Woodside, J., 2004. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome. American family physician, 69(6), pp.1443-1450.
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