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Side Effects of Sertraline (Zoloft)

Updated on June 26, 2012

INTRODUCTION:

This article is intended to provide you with information about the side effects of sertraline (generic Zoloft).

Sertraline is a frequently prescribed medication that belongs to a drug family known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI). If you are considering treatment with sertraline or are currently taking this medication, I encourage you to read this article and research your decision. I am a registered pharmacist. My goal as a pharmacist and author is NOT to advocate for or against this medicine. I want to provide you with the facts, particularly about potential side effects, to help you make an informed decision.

BACKGROUND:

Before reviewing the side effects of sertraline, allow me to briefly review the history of this drug. Sertraline was approved for use as an anti-depressant back in 1991. As such, we have had over 2 decades of treatments to look back on and evaluate any side effects or concerns. The manufacturer was Pfizer and the brand name chosen was Zoloft.

Sertraline was discovered when pharmacologist Kenneth Koe began doing some additional research on a substance previously rejected and discarded by Pfizer, known as tametraline. Various forms of this substance were tested, and eventually an SSRI (sertraline) was discovered.

The patent on Zoloft expired in 2006 and since then has been available generically.

SIDE EFFECTS:

The following is a list of the most commonly reported side effects of sertraline (Zoloft).



Patients should keep the following points in mind:

1) The listed side effects were also OFTEN associated with the placebo product. In other words, there is not necessarily a relationship between the medication and the reported side effect.

2) The side effects of sertraline reported below are taken from the manufacturers own literature known as the prescribing information. Side effects sometimes varied depending on the specific condition being treated. I have tried to provide the average in such cases.

Common Side Effects and Frequency %

(click column header to sort results)
Side Effect  
Percent Experienced (%)  
Nausea
26
Headache
25
Dry MouthDiarrhea/Loose Stools
18
Dry Mouth
16
Insomnia
16
Fatigue
16
Ejaculation Failure
14
Drowsiness
13
Dizziness
12
Tremor
11
Libido Decrease
11
Constipation
8
Upset Stomach (Dyspepsia)
8
Sweating Increased
7
Loss of Appetite (Anorexia)
6
Agitation
5
Anxiety
4
Vision Abnormal
3

Uses for Sertraline

Prescription drugs must be approved for specific conditions, known as "indications." The manufacturer may NOT market their product for any conditions other than these approved indications. Doctors may, if they choose, you a drug for other than its intended purpose. But the manufacturer is not allowed to encourage this in any way.

The side effects for sertraline listed above are all related to treating approved indications.

Sertraline is approved for the following indications:

  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder


Managing Side Effects

Some side effects are more serious or dangerous than others. Hives or a rash should always be addressed immediately by calling your physician. Other side effects may tend to diminish with time. As such, we usually try to encourage patients to try managing the side effects for several weeks to give their body an opportunity to adapt to the new medication.

You can often treat some side effects with other medication, temporarily at least. For example:

Headache - try Tylenol or ibuprofen (always check with your MD if you are unsure if it is safe for you)

Dry mouth - hard candy and/or increase fluid intake

Constipation - Increase fiber intake or consider a stool softener

Drowsiness - Try taking sertraline at bedtime instead

Loss of appetite - try smaller meals more often

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