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Stopping Zoloft: How to Handle Sertraline Discontinuation Syndrome

how to taper off zoloft

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Zoloft or otherwise known as sertraline primarily works well alright, but most people find it addictive, because of the Zoloft discontinuation syndrome and the reactions it tends to exhibit. Generally, Zoloft SSRI require primarily little complex procedures to avoid the discontinuation syndrome. They are necessary because sertraline affects the chemical serotonin in the brain and when stopped suddenly or inappropriately, the body may respond with symptoms of discontinuation syndrome. Tapering Zoloft medication helps reduce these symptoms or completely avoid them when trying to come off sertraline.

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Table of Contents

The Decision to Taper Off Zoloft

Woman stops taking Zoloft pillsThere are various reasons people tend to quit Zoloft, but the most common out there is because of the side effects. Sertraline can increase weight or cause loss of sexual interest which can be covered by the pharmaceutical companies from the public eyes. These can come in a variety of schemes like suppression of data then using it to lobby the legalization of long-term prescribing not considering the side effects.
Antidepressants like Zoloft are originally considered to be a short-term treatment for certain mood conditions (about three to six months), but recently, it has hooked millions of people who made use of this drugs for years and can’t find a way to get off it.
This is not limited to America only, but the study in New Zealand has found out that when taking a decision to taper off antidepressants by long-term users, the withdrawal is always the most compliant part of therapy.
Other reasons for people to stop taking Zoloft may include the high cost of sertraline drugs, fear of liver damage, but doctors have disproved this saying the risk of getting this damage is very low. Other than that, most people are concerned about becoming dependent on sertraline to function in their daily life.

Use of Antidepressants is On the Rise

According to a research analysis by the New York Times earlier this year, 15.5 million of Americans have been taking antidepressants for five years making the rate double since 2010 and triple since 2000. Another research carried out by JAMA about two years ago estimates about one in six American adult takes at least one psychiatric drug in a year, and a higher percentage of it is antidepressant drugs.
Also, women tend to take antidepressants twice more than men as to the ratio of men to women who take these drugs are 1:2 according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms of Discontinuation Syndrome

Zoloft is very well known for having a discontinuation syndrome when the dosage is suddenly stopped or quickly accustomed to. According to the FDA’s research on the effects of stopping sertraline, Zoloft has a half-life starting at 26 hours, which depends on the dosage and the duration. So because this substance leaves the bloodstream so quickly, stopping its dosage rapidly can cause discontinuation syndrome to kick in.

Signs of Having a Discontinuation Syndrome

Discontinuation syndrome may affect everyone who is tapering off Zoloft, but it is likely to occur in people who have been taking the medication for many months or years. The symptoms can instigate the same type of signs a person had, which made them start taking Zoloft pills that particular prescription is in the first place. These symptoms of discontinuation syndrome may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Dysphoric mood
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Sensory disturbances
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Emotional lability
  • Hypomania
  • lethargy

How Long Does It Last?

Harvard Health Publishing says that discontinuation syndrome tends to show up in the first few days or a week after stopping sertraline medications or minimizing dosage, whereas these symptoms stop suddenly when a dose of Zoloft is taken. Most times symptoms last from few weeks from the time it shows up to about a month, but if it stays longer than a month and it is not getting any better, it may be possible for a patient to experience depression, and the chances of tapering off Zoloft could get thinner.

How to Stop Taking Zoloft Correctly?

doctor advising patient how to taperr of zoloftIf a patient is thinking about getting off Zoloft, it is recommended to contact their doctor FIRST before any particular steps are taken to undergo their rehabilitation process. With that said, let’s look at ways to stop taking Zoloft:

Dose Reduction

It depends solely on how long the person has been taking the antidepressant, the symptoms they had and their current dose. Although reducing their prescription can be hard, the patient might consider also tapering longer intervals between each dose. Signs of discontinuation symptoms might be seen when starting out their dose reduction and when this is noticed; adding back half of their dose, or even resetting back to their former medication is the best option at that moment.

Cold Turkey

Cold turkey refers to suddenly quitting the use of an addictive substance.

Quitting Zoloft cold turkey is not advisable and extremely dangerous because of the way the nervous system adapts to the dependency of the drug.

Completely stopping the use of Zoloft can cause life-threatening and hazardous medical conditions. In some cases, these problems can include heart diseases, seizures or in the case of Zoloft, suicidal thoughts.

Take Meds as Prescribed

When tapering off Zoloft, it is crucial to stick to the prescription even when the patient starts feeling better. Most people pop sertraline like an aspirin for intermittent situations, they start feeling better considering to stop, but it is advisable to stay on meds for at least a month or as long as the doctor says. This minimizes the chances of both relapse and discontinuation syndrome when getting off Zoloft.

Keep Doctor In the Loop

U.S. Food & Drug Administration found out that one in every three patients who stop taking their antidepressants, do so without telling their doctors. There is no doubt that they might receive side effects when stopping Zoloft. This is where doctors play their part.

Doctors only should help people taper off Zoloft to manage the side effects as well as advice when to take the prescription.

Doctors could also change a patient’s dosage to suit their conditions or help them switch their medications too.

Seeking Zoloft Addiction Help

It is critical to know that when tapering off Zoloft, professional help is highly needed. Patients, who want to undergo this process, have to contact their doctors before any step is taken. Also, professional rehabs and addiction centers are vital when it comes to Zoloft withdrawal stages or tapering off. When choosing a rehab center, patients have to be aware of its location, its license, types of addiction treatment they offer, the cost of the rehab and most importantly the reputation of the rehab center.

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View Sources
Medically Reviewed By Michael Espelin APRN
Nena Messina

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.


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  • Laura
    I’ve only taken Zoloft for 2 weeks and i take 50 mil in the morning. Today i didn’t take it. I feel tired and a little nauseous. Can i do a half dose the next 2 weeks and then a quarter dose and wean off that way?
  • Vanessa
    I started on 50mg Serdep, 2 years ago and feel I want to go off them. I have often forgotten to take my meds sometimes up to 2 days at a time and seemed to remember when I got a headache. I thought of cutting my tablet into 25mg and doing that for 10days? Thereafter I thought I could try 25mg every 2nd day for 10 days and then 25mg every 3-4 days and then stopping could this be considered alright to try wean myself off serdep? Thank you Vanessa
  • Leon
    I am 66 years old. my doctor put me on 25 mg of Zoloft. I also have BPH. After just 2 or 3 days, I started having pain w/ urination. My doctor told me to stay on the drug at least 5 weeks to benefit from the drug. The pain w/ urination continued, so, I went cold turkey off Zoloft after exactly 3 weeks. However, I continue to have the pain peeing most of the time now 2 months after stopping. I went back to my dr. last month. He physically examined my prostate and said it was fine, just slightly enlarged. He also gave me a psa test which was only very slightly elevated. He told me I was ok. However, I still am having the pain over 1/2 the time when I urinate. Will this symptom eventually go away? Is there something else I can do? Up until I took Zoloft, I have never had any pain when urinating.