Q. I have been taking the antidepressant sertraline for years but it doesn’t seem to be working any more. The trouble is that when I try to stop taking it, I experience incredible side effects. The dizziness is unbearable. To walk across a room I have to hold on to furniture. My pulse is racing and I have a pounding headache.

Taking the drug again makes the symptoms disappear but my mood is no better. Is this drug addicting? I would love to find out if there is something else I could do to alleviate my depression.

A. Doctors describe the loss of effectiveness as tolerance or “poop out.” Patients have been reporting this problem with drugs like fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft) but there isn’t a lot of research on this phenomenon. A report in the journal International Clinical Psychopharmacology (March, 2011) describes a similar problem with respect to the antidepressant desvenlafaxine (Pristiq).

There are other types of antidepressants, such as bupropion (Wellbutrin), selegiline (Emsam) and old-fashioned tricyclic drugs such as nortriptyline or desipramine. Many nondrug approaches can also be helpful, from vigorous exercise and light therapy to fish oil and talk therapy.

We are sending you our guide to Dealing with Depression for more details on all these approaches and a discussion of how to taper off antidepressants.

Stopping sertraline suddenly can lead to dizziness, headache, nervousness, insomnia, sweating and difficulty concentrating.

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  1. Cara
    Brooklyn, NY

    I’ve been on 40 mg Prozac for 5 years & I’m starting to feel just as depressed, worthless, and angry at everything as I did right before I started.

  2. Kim
    New Jersey

    I have been taking Cymbalta for 12 years and it’s now starting to poop out. I am very upset as I have a very stressful job which requirers a lot of focusing and it’s very gurgling . I can’t afford to have my energy zapped from me. I am very scared. Any advise ? I have tried to go off many times with no success. I become very sick and with absolutely no energy . I can’t afford it . I have so much to lose if I become sick. My meds are the only thing that has kept me going. Is there anyway I can prevent myself from sliding down that dark hole ?

  3. PH

    I am on 100mg Zoloft but am only taking 50mg for the past month. It was a trial to see if I could handle that and it is going well. I immediately noticed my erectile dysfunction symptoms were less severe. I had no problems of that kind before taking the Zoloft.
    My doctor gave me Levitra but I only get 9 pills a month. I had a trial of Cialis and that worked better but I can’t get it on my plan. I plan to keep reducing my dose in the same way a previous post mentioned. I am on 8 daily meds and several ‘as needed’ rx. I want to get off of them all. I feel that it is much harder to stop taking medications then it is to start taking them.

  4. JAP

    I also have taken Zoloft for years 75mg. I cut back to 50mg for several weeks, then to 25mg for several weeks. I too have a slight dizziness, but not too bad. I plan to stop it completely in the next few weeks by cutting down to every other day, then every third day and so on until I’m at one per week, then none.

  5. Miguel

    It could be Celiac! I would get very depressed, my depression would go away after going to the toilet. I started a Gluten free diet and all my medical problems have gone away. Other people have mentioned how wheat would give them headaches.

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