ClickCease Side Effects of Zoloft Abuse: Long & Short Term - Granite Recovery Centers

Side Effects of Zoloft Abuse: Long & Short Term

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: August 27th, 2021


James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

Zoloft is a medication that relieves people of several behaviors. For example, those experiencing social anxiety disorder no longer have the intense fear of interacting with others. They can also perform in front of others when they need to do so. People diagnosed with social anxiety disorder cannot tolerate the stress that social situations create for them, and it may be the reason that their lives are being disrupted.

Physicians also prescribe Zoloft for post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. The memory of a terrifying event triggers this condition, and they experience unrelenting thoughts about the event, as well as severe anxiety, nightmares and flashbacks. This condition is diagnosed when these symptoms do not improve but get worse and persist for years.

Panic attacks are another condition that Zoloft relieves. A panic attack is something that occurs when the person isn’t really in any danger. Even though this is the case, people begin to feel extreme fear so that they believe that they are having heart attacks. These attacks are very scary for them, and they affect the person’s quality of life because the person is always in fear that another attack will take place. This is sometimes known as panic disorder if the person continually experiences panic attacks.

Zoloft also treats obsessive-compulsive disorder. This disorder causes people to be obsessed with repeating particular actions and also results in obsessive thoughts that are always popping up. People diagnosed with this condition believe that their thoughts and their actions aren’t under their control and that they are obligated to think the thoughts and do the behaviors. These thoughts and actions are characterized by the fact that they take at least one hour a day to complete, interfere with other parts of their lives and are not enjoyable for them.

Zoloft can also treat depression. People diagnosed with depression experience a constant feeling of sadness, and they don’t have any interest in the things that used to be important to them. A person with this condition may feel as if life is not worth living and will have difficulties doing the things that they must do every day. This is a condition that requires intense treatment because it is not just the ordinary sadness that everyone feels at times in their lives.

 

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

Zoloft is a “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor” or SSRI. It is more commonly known as an “antidepressant.” Physicians prescribe this medication to treat depression as it increases the amount of serotonin in the brain. The brain’s nerve cells release serotonin into the brain, and Zoloft prevents these cells from reabsorbing the neurotransmitter. This allows more serotonin to ensure that messages continue to flow from neuron to neuron.

The medication improves people’s moods, their ability to sleep, their appetite, their energy levels and helps those experiencing depressive symptoms become interested in living again. Those experiencing anxiety begin to feel less fear in social situations, and they don’t experience as many panic attacks. They are also relieved of unwanted thoughts. Those experiencing obsessive-compulsive disorder had less of a desire to repeat the tasks that they were in the habit of performing.

 

Side Effects Attributed to Zoloft

Zoloft may cause several relatively minor side effects, including nausea, dry mouth, excessive tiredness and vomiting, but it also produces more serious side effects. If you experience any of the following issues, you must notify your doctor immediately:

  • Difficulties breathing
  • Swelling
  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Memory issues, confusion, unsteadiness, weakness or headache
  • Agitation or hallucinations with confusion or a loss of coordination
  • Seizures

 

The Misuse of Zoloft

Zoloft is a medication that doctors readily prescribe for their patients. More women than men began to use antidepressants from 2009 and 2010 until 2017 to 2018. At a rate of 24.3%, those obtaining the most prescriptions for antidepressants were women over the age of 60. In the years 2015 to 2018, 13.2% of people 18 years of age and older reported using an antidepressant in the past month. Of this group, 17.7% were women and 8.4% were men.

Because Zoloft is a medication that is so easily attainable, it is also easy for it to be misused. You can recognize when someone is misusing Zoloft although it isn’t likely that people can become physically addicted to this medication. On the other hand, they can become psychologically addicted. When this occurs, people begin to experience several symptoms, including irritability, insomnia, violent actions and thoughts, aggression and a lower libido.

 

Serotonin Syndrome

When you take Zoloft, it prevents serotonin from being absorbed back into the neurons as was mentioned above, but this also causes “serotonin syndrome.” Your brain needs serotonin to properly function, but an excess amount causes mild symptoms, such as diarrhea and shivering. It can also cause more serious symptoms, including seizures, fever and muscle rigidity. If serotonin syndrome is severe enough and not treated, it can lead to the person’s death.

 

Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome

Neuroleptic malignant syndrome is a very rare condition that only one or two out of every 10,000 people on antipsychotic medications will experience. The drugs affect the nervous system, and this causes muscle rigidity and a high fever.

Zoloft may also cause the following symptoms when it is misused:

  • Anorexia
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Abnormal bleeding

People may also experience the symptoms that they had before they started taking the drug, including suicidal thoughts, nervousness and anxiety. These symptoms are extremely serious, so people must only take Zoloft if they are under the supervision of a physician.

 

Psychological Dependence on Zoloft

The medical community states that people are not likely to become physically addicted to Zoloft, but they can become psychologically dependent upon the medication. “Psychological dependence” refers to the mental or emotional aspects of a dependence on substances. This includes the inability to think of anything other than procuring Zoloft and the strong cravings the dependent person experiences.

Addiction means that the person is compelled to use the substance even though the use brings them negative consequences. When a person misuses Zoloft over a long enough period of time, psychological addiction develops. Misuse occurs when people take the medication in a manner that their physicians did not prescribe. For example, some people crush their pills and inhale them or even snort them. Some may take several pills at a time so that they can experience the high.

There is a question about whether or not Zoloft can induce a high because there isn’t any evidence stating that it can, and there isn’t any evidence saying that it cannot. Some people have even reported that taking large doses of the pills and snorting or inhaling them did not produce a high, and they didn’t particularly enjoy the experience.

As people begin to misuse Zoloft, they also begin to misuse other substances, but in this case, these substances are not necessarily legal. For example, Zoloft misuse led to the use of methamphetamines. It also caused people to begin to drink alcohol and misuse prescription pain medications.

 

The Symptoms of a Psychological Dependence on Zoloft

Most people feel the general symptoms of a psychological dependence on substances listed below:

  • They spend the majority of their time engaged in thinking about or using the substance.
  • They are no longer interested in the things that they used to enjoy.
  • They have strong emotional cravings for Zoloft.
  • They believe that they need to take Zoloft in order to be able to function normally, socialize, eat or sleep.

 

Overdosing on Zoloft

It’s possible to overdose on Zoloft after misusing the substance. The following overdose symptoms may appear:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Mania
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Agitation or hallucinations with muscle stiffness, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shivering, loss of coordination, rapid heart rate, sweating and confusion
  • Drowsiness

 

Withdrawal Symptoms

Even though someone can easily begin to misuse Zoloft, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person will become addicted to it. People taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors do not necessarily experience a physical dependence on the substance and do not usually experience withdrawal symptoms.

Zoloft is a drug that doctors prescribe for their patients for the purpose of making them feel better, so that makes it likely that some people will begin to develop a psychological dependence on the medication. Therefore, you must not stop taking this medication after you begin taking it because your physician will need to gradually reduce your dose.

If you stop taking Zoloft without tapering off gradually, you may experience the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Difficulties falling and remaining asleep
  • Numbness/tingling in the feet, hands, legs and arms
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Seizures
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Abnormal excitement
  • Changes in mood
  • Depression
  • Sweating
  • Nausea

 

Long-Term Misuse of Zoloft

The long-term misuse of Zoloft can lead to negative consequences. When people are experiencing a substance use disorder, they tend to spend more time by themselves because they don’t believe that their friends and family members will understand. They may lose friendships and family relationships over it. They may also lose their romantic partnerships.

People addicted to or dependent on Zoloft also start to lose interest in their jobs. This leads to not putting any effort forth to be a part of things that are going on at the office. If people do not lose their jobs at this point, they may experience financial losses because they aren’t showing up at work every day or are not receiving promotions.

This is the point where recovery is possible. To crawl back from the abyss of addiction or dependence, one must admit that there is a problem. Then, they only need to ask people to help them.

 

Granite Recovery Centers

Granite Recovery Centers are where you are going to find the help that you are looking for if you or a relative are dependent upon Zoloft. We can help you become clean and sober in our drug detox program where you will safely endure the detoxification process assisted by our physicians and nurses. Our medical personnel will administer medications to relieve you of the withdrawal symptoms that accompany the detoxification process. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

Since you may have been treated with Zoloft to address an anxiety disorder, we can also treat you in our dual-diagnosis treatment program. In this program, our professionals will treat your mental health disorder so that you can successfully overcome your substance use disorder. If you want to get help for yourself or a loved one, contact us at Granite Recovery Centers today.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.