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Zoloft Abuse: Addiction Signs & Treatment Options

Zoloft is a common antidepressant that many people are prescribed. While the medication itself should not generate physical cravings, the truth is that some people lose control of their use and face a Zoloft addiction. There are also potential withdrawal side effects you may deal with when coming off Zoloft. If you are using Zoloft and are worried about addiction, or if you are facing this concern already, then this article will teach you about the addiction symptoms and signs and the available treatment options.

 

Zoloft Description

Zoloft is the branded version of sertraline. This medication is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI. SSRIs, like sertraline, are prescribed for numerous illnesses, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and most commonly for depression. Zoloft helps balance the levels of serotonin in your brain, which should level out your mood. SSRIs are considered to have fewer and less significant side effects than other types of antidepressants, which has led to Zoloft being prescribed more than other antidepressants.

While it is supposed to have fewer side effects and shouldn’t lead to addiction, this, of course, does happen, and it’s important to understand when you have become addicted so that proper treatment can be administered.

 

How Zoloft Is Used

While Zoloft is an antidepressant, it’s used to treat a variety of disorders along the depressive and anxious spectrums. Sertraline is known to improve one’s mood, appetite, energy levels, and quality of sleep. It can also reduce feelings of fear and the number of panic attacks a person experiences. It has also been shown that sertraline can reduce thoughts of suicide, but like any antidepressant, it’s important to monitor this.

SSRIs block serotonin from being reabsorbed by the brain. Everyone’s brain naturally releases serotonin, but those with anxious or depressive symptoms may be reabsorbing the serotonin too quickly. This reduces the serotonin’s effect, which leads to reduced feelings of wellness. By blocking reabsorption and allowing the serotonin to stay active, medications like this can balance the neurotransmitter and improve your mood.

Zoloft comes in three forms, and all are taken orally. It comes as a capsule, tablet, or liquid. Capsules should be taken after eating, while tablets can typically be taken without food. The liquid version often needs to be mixed and measured with a medicine dropper. Normally, the liquid version is mixed with water, orange juice, soda, or some other drink. The doctor will set a specific dose depending on the severity of your disorder, physical traits, and other factors.

 

Zoloft Side Effects

Some people experience side effects when using Zoloft or any other prescription antidepressant. Side effects are different than addiction signs, and it’s important that you don’t confuse them. It’s also important to watch yourself for these signs and speak with your doctor if they appear.

A small percentage of people experience worse depression or an increase in symptoms. This occurs most often in those younger than 25 years old, but even then, it’s still infrequent.

Some of the other common Zoloft side effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Sleep changes, either more or less
  • Nausea or diarrhea

Talk to your doctor about these signs. He or she may change the dose or prescribe a completely different antidepressant. Some people may increase their dose without their doctor advising them to do so in an attempt to reduce their symptoms. Always speak to your doctor before trying to change the dose yourself.

 

Zoloft Addiction Signs

While some antidepressants carry a higher addiction likelihood than others, the truth is that the National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that SSRIs, like Zoloft, are recognized as having very low chances of addiction. Many people form a dependence, but that’s different than an addiction.

You may be wondering what the signs of a Zoloft addiction are. Some of these symptoms will sound similar to the common side effects. The major difference is that the addiction signs are typically worse, and you will have trouble controlling your use. The addiction signs, according to the NIH, include:

Another potential warning sign is a phenomenon known as “doctor shopping.” This is when people go to multiple doctors in the hopes of obtaining more medications. While this may ensure that you have a larger supply of Zoloft, it also makes the addiction worse. This is common for those facing any type of medication addiction, not just Zoloft.

If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, have trouble controlling your use or using more than your prescribed dose, then talk to your doctor immediately. He or she can help, and this is an important first step in recovery. Once you admit to the addiction, then a treatment plan can be created to help improve your health.

 

Zoloft Withdrawal Symptoms

Like with many psychotropic medications and substances, there is the potential for withdrawal symptoms if you stop using the medication. Not only that, but some people may face these symptoms if they use Zoloft inconsistently or often miss doses.

This is also why it’s important to talk to your doctor before coming off Zoloft. Some people facing a Zoloft addiction may feel it’s best to just stop using the medication. While well-intentioned, that increases the odds of dealing with severe withdrawal symptoms and reinforces using the medication.

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) reports that some of the common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Lightheadedness and dizziness
  • Nightmares
  • Paranesthesia, or a tingling and prickling feeling on the skin

While many people coming off Zoloft and other SSRIs may face withdrawal symptoms, your doctor can help. This commonly includes medical detox and tapering your dose. Tapering involves reducing the dose for several weeks until you can comfortably stop using the medication.

Some people believe they can taper by themselves without a doctor. If you are considering that, then we strongly suggest you reconsider. A doctor can help monitor your symptoms and will know how to properly taper the dose and how to react if things go wrong.

 

Medical Detox

If you are facing Zoloft addiction, then one of the first treatment options is a medical detox program. This involves a doctor who watches over your symptoms and continues to taper your dose until you can stop using the medication or substance. 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.

In the case of Zoloft, a detox program typically starts by reducing your dose and monitoring your mood and symptoms. If you are doing well, then the doctor may reduce your dose again. This will continue until you are on a very small dose and your brain has adjusted.

A medical detox program may prescribe other medications if they help manage symptoms. A doctor can also help if the tapering is going too quickly. For example, if you are feeling significant withdrawal symptoms from the tapered dose, then a doctor can help adjust the dose while still working to ease you off the Zoloft.

While medical detox treatment is necessary for treatment, it’s rarely the only component. This takes care of the biological side and removes Zoloft from your body, but many people find that they need further help with the cravings.

That’s why connecting with a therapist or support group is important. This helps address the behavioral side of addiction. It can also help you explore the thoughts that sustain addiction while helping you learn coping skills to overcome cravings.

 

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

If you are facing a moderate to severe addiction, then intensive outpatient, or IOP, treatment may be best. This is considered an ideal treatment for many medication addictions and substance use because it gives you adequate time to explore your cravings and behaviors with a group of peers also going through recovery.

IOP treatment typically consists of three group counseling sessions per week for three hours each. That means nine hours of group therapy. You will learn from the counselor, along with your peers, about how to reduce cravings as well as coping skills to deal with cravings and stress. You’ll be given enough time to explore the addiction.

It is common for most people to “step down” from IOP treatment after a few months to less intensive treatment. At the same time, IOP treatment can be extended if you feel that you need the extra support.

 

Outpatient Treatment

For those with mild to moderate Zoloft addictions, or for those who have successfully completed IOP treatment, outpatient treatment is ideal. This involves individual sessions with your therapist during which you can explore deeper issues that you may not wish to share with a group. Outpatient treatment is typically one hour every week, but it may be more depending on your condition.

The therapist will work with you to manage cravings, develop coping skills, explore any issues that led to or sustained your addiction, and more until you recover from your Zoloft addiction. Many people also find this useful during the tapering phase. Zoloft is used to treat many types of depressive and anxiety conditions. Having a therapist there can help you effectively manage these conditions as your medication dosage decreases.

 

Other Treatment Services

While Zoloft addiction is typically treated with IOP or outpatient therapy, you’ll find that we offer many other treatment services depending on your needs. Granite Recovery Centers has been around for over 10 years, and we serve many different clients and offer various levels of care.

If you feel that IOP isn’t intensive enough, then you may want to consider partial hospitalization or residential treatment. Both involve living at our facilities for either part of the day or a prolonged stay until you recover.

Many people also benefit from 12-step groups when facing Zoloft addictions. We embrace using 12-step groups in recovery and can help connect you with a relevant group in your area. Each group is different, and we can help you find the ideal one for your needs.

Our counselors are also trained in a variety of theories and modalities to ensure proper treatment. We can provide you with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), Recovery Education and Skills Training (R.E.S.T.), group therapy, and more. Each one is made for different purposes. Inform us about your overall needs, and we will create a treatment plan specifically for you.

 

Conclusion

Zoloft addiction can be very difficult to manage on your own. Many people oscillate from trying to quit entirely and facing withdrawal symptoms to craving it more and using increased amounts. If you find it difficult to control your usage and you want to safely come off Zoloft, then be sure to contact our services. Along with medical detox, we can provide numerous treatment services, like IOP, outpatient, and other therapies to help you recover.

Contact us today if you are worried about your Zoloft use. We can help assess your needs and create a treatment plan that treats you with respect. You can recover from this, and we are here to lend you a hand with your recovery.