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Signs of Zoloft Abuse

Signs of Zoloft abuse tend to be the same as those associated with other mind-altering substances. Engaging in drug-seeking behavior and combining Zoloft with other substances are two common signs of abuse.

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When taken as prescribed, Zoloft carries little chance of causing or resulting in addiction or abuse. However, if taken outside of prescribed guidelines, in combination with other substances, or for a prolonged period of time, Zoloft (sertraline) can lead to addiction.

Common Signs & Symptoms of Zoloft Abuse

Although there is limited evidence that Zoloft itself causes addiction, abuse can occur. The body and brain can also become dependent on sertraline. 

Common signs of Zoloft abuse include the following:

  • Prescription forgery
  • Doctor shopping in an effort to obtain multiple prescriptions
  • Crossfading (combining Zoloft with alcohol or other substances)

Zoloft withdrawal symptoms also go hand in hand with Zoloft abuse. Withdrawal occurs when the body and brain have developed a dependence on Zoloft and use stops. 

What Are the Dangers of Zoloft?

There are certain dangers associated with taking Zoloft or any selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, even when following prescribed guidelines. 

Serious side effects of taking sertraline include irregular or unusual heartbeat, respiratory issues, fainting or loss of consciousness, black or bloody stool, vomit that appears like coffee grounds, and vision changes. Seek prompt medical care if you experience any of these.

Effects of Zoloft Abuse

Zoloft abuse can result in physical symptoms, such as nausea, weight loss, poor mobility, changes in sex drive, and other physical manifestations.

It can also result in mental, behavioral, and cognitive effects, such as memory issues, mood swings, antisocial behavior, failure to follow through with work and social obligations, engaging in risky behaviors, and using other drugs.

How to Recognize Zoloft Addiction

When someone is addicted to Zoloft, they may engage in doctor shopping, forging prescriptions, and stealing medication from friends or family members. Those who are addicted to Zoloft may also start to disengage socially and be less consistent with work and other responsibilities.

Another common sign of addiction is voicing the intention to quit, but being unable to. If someone you know has been taking Zoloft outside of the bounds of a prescription or combining it with other substances, they are abusing the medication.

Zoloft Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms are common with many prescribed medications, including Zoloft. The longer someone has used Zoloft and the higher their daily dose, the more likely it is that withdrawal will occur once use is stopped. 

In addiction treatment, you’ll be treated for withdrawal, so your symptoms are managed.

  • Chills
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Tingling of the extremities
  • Mood issues
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation

If suicidal ideation occurs, seek emergency help. If you experience other symptoms of withdrawal, contact a medical professional. In addiction treatment, you’ll be treated for withdrawal, so your symptoms are managed.

How to Treat Overdose

In the event of a Zoloft overdose, it might be tempting to wait it out and see what happens in lieu of getting medical professionals or emergency responders involved right away. However, this is a bad choice.

If you or someone you know has overdosed or may be overdosing on any substance, call 911 immediately and follow the instructions you are given. Though Zoloft overdose is rarely life-threatening when the drug is taken alone, the risk compounds when the medication is combined with other substances, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opioids. 

Getting Help for a Zoloft Addiction

Although Zoloft addiction is fairly rare, there are treatment options available for those who are addicted to the drug. Treatment for Zoloft addiction follows a standard protocol for treatment of any substance use disorder, with a focus on medical detox and therapy.

For detox, the best course of action is generally to wean off the drug with professional medical help. This can help you avoid long-term harm associated with Zoloft abuse, and a tapered approach can also mitigate the severity of withdrawal symptoms. You’ll gradually take reduced dosages until you are no longer taking the medication at all. 

Therapy will make up the bulk of addiction treatment. With the help of a therapist, you’ll identify underlying reasons that led to your abuse of Zoloft. You’ll devise plans to deal with relapse triggers, so you don’t return to substance abuse when things get tough. You’ll also build a support network that fortifies a healthy, sober life in recovery.

With a comprehensive approach to recovery, you can manage addiction to Zoloft or any other substance.

Updated March 7, 2024
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