Woman in distress

Antidepressants can be lifesavers, but ultimately many people find that they would like to stop taking the medication. This can be more difficult than it seems.

Is Zoloft Addictive?

Q. I was told that Zoloft (sertraline) was not addicting but my experience suggests otherwise. I was on this antidepressant for nine years. I wanted to get off because it killed my sex drive.

One day after stopping this drug I experienced unbearable dizziness. I could not walk across a room without holding on to a piece of furniture for stability. I called my daughter but was incoherent.

She discovered that my blood pressure was 190/105 and my heart rate was 165. She rushed me to the ER where they thought I was having a heart attack. The tests came back negative.

I suffered headache, dizziness and nausea for days. My daughter suggested I go back on the Zoloft. Shortly after taking it my symptoms disappeared. I am angry that I was never told this drug is addictive. Getting off this drug can be a nightmare.

Withdrawal from Antidepressants:

A. You are not the first person to report disastrous side effects when stopping drugs such as citalopram (Celexa), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), duloxetine (Cymbalta), escitalopram (Lexapro), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft) and venlafaxine (Effexor). Sudden discontinuation may trigger symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, headache, brain zaps, irritability, insomnia, sweating and pain, numbness or tingling in hands or feet.

You will find other stories about withdrawal from antidepressants if you are interested in CymbaltaEffexor or sertraline. The withdrawal syndrome has not been studied well, but research indicates that it is not unusual (Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, March, 2015).

To help you better understand withdrawal from antidepressants as well as non-drug approaches to managing mood, we are sending you our Guide to Dealing with Depression.

Revised 3/10/2016

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  1. carey

    I’m weaning off of Sertraline right now. I was taking 50 mg a day, and have been taking it for many years. I, too, am having a rough time with it. My emotional state is awful, I can’t stop crying, and the dizziness is unbearable. How long does this take to pass?

  2. Tiffany

    I am a white female age 50 . I was on Zoloft for 11 years . 100 MG for the first 3 years . Then 50 MG for 8 years. When gradually coming off zoloft after 5 weeks of no zoloft .I woke one night with burning in my whole body down my spine in the left side of my head almost like sezure behavior my husband called the ambulance . My blood pressure was 180/90 I thought was haveing a heart attack . I can tell you the withdrawl of zoloft is very bad ! The burning in my body is not from menapause I can say that !! I wish it was then it would go away after 10 min.

    My family Dr. Put me on zanex because my mind was haveing hullunations. Then they sent me to a Nurelogist he then sent me for an mri .a week later my MRI results showed nothing . He decided to put me on a anti sezure medicine .so here I am no health issues not even high blood pressure .except the night it was very high . After the episode of burning in all parts of my extremities for 3 strait days.

    I’m pretty worried about my body haveing another attack . I now 3 months off of every thing no zanex no anti sezure meds no anxiety meds still experience brain zaps or electric shocks waking in the middle of the night with insomnia. I go to the store and have black outs after making sure I eat !! Is it from the zoloft yes. I had non of this before going on it .

  3. Charlie

    My doctor prescribed 50 mg of Sertraline as I was becoming a nervous wreck due to lots of upsets going on in my life. However I didn’t really notice any difference being on them except being unable to cry and then I started to feel nauseous which I didn’t like. I asked my doctor if I could come off them and he told me to just stop taking them. I had been on them three months. My head feels fuzzy and strange and I feel nauseous. I hope this will disappear soon as I want to try and cope without medication.

  4. jack brennan
    tampa, fl

    I was dealing with a nervous stomach in the mornings. My doctor prescribed Zoloft. After just 1 dose of 25mg. I started getting jittery and had a panic attack. So, i stopped taking it. I continued to feel the side effects, and its been 3 days now. I just want to go back to the way i was before. Has anyone else dealt with this?

    • Rodrigo

      Hi, Sorry you are feeling like that. After just 2 days of 50mg I felt the side effects and stopped. It’s day 4 and still feeling dizzy and nausea. I hope things get better for you. Best thoughts from Ecuador

      • Khia

        Hey how long did it take for the symptoms to go away? I’ve taken zoloft for 2 days as well. I began having side effects so I stopped, now I’m not holding food down, shaking, and headache.

    • Khia

      I’m having side effects as well along with the panic attacks after just 2 days of taking the Zoloft. I’ve stopped it and now waiting for the effects to go away.

    • Rachel

      I have the same thing but I have not take the pills yet our son is in the nicu for two months and I have two more children at home too so should I take the pills or not

  5. Pierre

    I was on this for 6 weeks,,,took my repetitive thoughts away . But boom the shaking and jerking of my head..my head pulls to the right in th exact same spot every time. It almost wants to stay to the right. I have full range of motion…it slightly started to do this whilst on gabapentin. But straight as I took sertraline total hell.

    I kept saying oh muscle tension, gotta get worse to get better, but I dunno.. I stopped straight cold turkey , I noticed diff slightly not as bad,,,, then next day reverts, next not as bad etc,,, it’s been a week now of not taking…. All this must be down to these meds… I actually had faith they’d work. Now I feel I’m left with some dystonia issue,,,,,, it’s hell, I can’t do nothing, can’t lift , can’t exercise, trouble walking, sitting to ear etc head just pulls….

  6. Linda

    Zoloft is not addictive and the symptoms the writer experienced are due to not decreasing the dose over time before stopping the medication. This is known as titration and is the recommended way of stopping any of the SSRI medications. The body/brain becomes acclimated to the medication and has a response when it is taken away suddenly. Many people go off these types of medications without a doctor’s supervision and then are unprepared for how the body responds.

  7. Jo Ann
    Sun City Center, FL

    I, too, am weaning off Zoloft (generic: Sertralin). I believe I’ve been on it for 4-5 yrs. I started as I was dealing with the deaths of my parents and two beloved aunts (within 3 months of each other). I want to get off them as I am not sure of the long range effects.
    I went from 75 mg to 50 for two weeks, then 25 for two weeks. I took my last 25 last Monday.
    I am having “brain zaps” which I am not unfamiliar with. Only, I am having more now, and I also feel I am having trouble concentrating. I had headaches, but they have mostly subsided.
    I am hoping that these are the only side-effects and will be able to tell only after I have passed about 3 weeks off meds.
    This was the only med I was on.
    Once I read others reviews, I knew that all the symptoms I was having were probably “normal”, so that has helped.
    Good luck, everyone.

  8. Allen

    Hey There I currently take Zoloft 50mg and clonazepam, I have been tappering off the clonazepam slowly with barely any withdrawals, I keep telling the doctors , I am these are making me more depressed. Im curtain its the Zoloft, so they had me skip a day to try it at night, so the morning I skipped the zoloft I felt great better than I have the last 3 months, but they still want me to take the damn Zoloft, I dont know why. I took it down to .25mgs and I felt a little dizzy. And then skipped a day, feels weird. IM also taking Vitamin b complex. Any opinions on what to do I want off these meds. No Anxiety and Never had Depression. Been on Zoloft and Clonazepam for a month and a half.

  9. Patricia
    Lake Charles, La

    I was on Celexa for 10 years and when I decided to quit, I would get feelings like electric shocks (not severe, but very noticeable) shooting through my body. I had to get back on them and slowly taper off the dosage until I was free of the effects.
    I remember when my Doctor first prescribed them, I was hesitant to take them, but her words were something like this: These new anti-depressants are totally unlike the ones of the past. She talked me into trying them because they were so “wonderful”. And it did relieve my depression..but getting off of them is a different story that they don’t tell you about.

  10. wanda

    I was on Prozac for a couple of years. Went to have gastric bypass surgery and they ask me to get off of it. Well 2 days after getting off of it I had horrible withdrawls. I couldn’t walk felt like I had no legs at all. Went to ER they told me to go back home and take 2 pills right then. And to gradually wing myself off. To never go cold turkey with any antidepressant. Took awhile but did get off. So please be careful with all of them.

  11. Julie
    South Florida

    I took Zoloft for several years and then decided to get off it. I knew stopping cold turkey was NOT an option, so I took it VERY slowly. I started with cutting 1/4th of the medication off the pill (I was taking 50mg). Even with just that small amount gone, I had dizziness, vertigo, anxiety, sleep disturbances, irritability, particularly during the first 2 weeks of the lowered dose. I stayed on this dose for 4 – 5 weeks, and gradually adjusted. Then I went to half the dose. And the same symptoms occurred again. It was horrible, but I was determined. I stayed on half dose for about 6 – 8 weeks (I don’t remember exactly, but it took me 4+ months to get completely off it). Every time I lowered the dose, I was miserable! When I cut the half pill in half (equal to 1/4th the 50 mg dose), I think I finally got below therapeutic levels. I used Gaia St. Johns’ Wort and 5-HTP to moderate the symptoms I was having, and it helped. I’m finally completely off it and have not experienced rebound depression or anything like that. I feel better and am glad to be off it. If I can avoid it, I will never go back on an anti-depressant.

  12. SGH

    Before commenting, It’s important to realize that people react differently, and that not all the SSRI’s cause the same symptoms immediately after stopping a medication. Everyone’s experience is different. I’m not a medical professional; this is only my opinion & perspective.

    I don’t consider the SSRI antidepressants “addictive”, in the usual sense. You don’t crave your Zoloft or Paxil while you’re withdrawing like a person withdrawing from alcohol or narcotics.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think many physicians realize the misery withdrawing can cause. The paradox is – nobody should be withdrawing from these drugs without medical supervision.

    I’m withdrawing from Prozac, under the supervision and support of my Physician, very gradually. Prozac has a long half-life, which means it stays in your system longer than some other drugs like Paxil, which has a shorter half-life. I sure wouldn’t stop any of these medications “cold turkey”; if you do, you’re asking for trouble.

    I also wouldn’t withdraw from these types of medication without doing it very, very gradually, and keeping my physician in the loop. I’d request something to help with the symptoms: something for anxiety & panic, Zofran for nausea – whatever you need to help you get through this, even if you have to stand up to your Doctor. I went to the ER after experiencing severe nausea & vomiting while withdrawing from an SSRI medication, They replaced the fluids I lost, gave me a script for Zofran (for nausea), and sent me home. They didn’t know anything about what happens when you stop taking this stuff, but at least I got the treatment I needed. That was me – someone else’s situation is not the same.

    Good luck to everyone who is going through this.

  13. Lisa

    Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is to never abruptly discontinue a drug that one has been taking for a considerable period of time. One should taper off very gradually, and then only with a doctor’s approval and under his or her supervision. This does not just apply to the SSRI’s, but to many other medications as well.

    A second point that might be worth considering is the difference between being addicted to a drug and dependent upon it. Addicts center their lives on getting and using their drug of choice. They generally take far more than the appropriate dose and may even engage in illegal activities in order to get the drug. On the other hand, one can become dependent upon many drugs. One could make the case that one becomes dependent upon antihypertensives to control one’s blood pressure, insulin to control one’s blood sugar levels, and, yes, psychotropics to maintain one’s equanimity and functioning. Stopping any of these medications abruptly and without the approval and supervision of a doctor could cause significant, and in some cases life-threatening, problems.

    • Linda

      Very well said…thank you

  14. Robert

    I am 92 and have been on Zoloft for perhaps 1 year. The doctor prescribed 25 mg. It has helped me deal with my wife’s dementia and episodes of seemingly being near death. I don’t like being on anti-depressants and have cut my 25 mg pills in half without suffering from reducing the dose. I have not suffered any extreme side effects.

  15. Martha

    I was put on 25 mg sertraline about 6 weeks ago with effective results. However, I do not like taking prescription medicine and looked for a substitute supplement. I went off sertraline and added Ashwagandha and Rhodiola (100 mg) instead. I feel most of the same results as sertraline provided without any side effects so far (11 days).

  16. Nona
    Asheville, NC

    I was on Zoloft, 50mg, for 15 years, and decided several months ago to wean myself from it. I am 70 years old, and quite healthy. My internist advised me to take half a tab for two weeks and then discontinue completely. As a former RN, and informed health care consumer, I thought that wasn’t enough time for withdrawal, so extended it two more weeks, with half a tab every other day. Still, I experienced many of the same symptoms as have been listed here, dizziness, itching, muscle aches, fatigue, sadness. I stuck with it, and it has been a full month now without any of the drug. I still feel odd, tend to cry easily, and am sad without obvious reason more often. I do have a renewed interest in sex, and am no longer anorgasmic, so I think the trade off is worth it, but I do wish prescribing physicians took a more careful and attentive approach to the side effects of withdrawal from this and other psychotropic drugs.

  17. alison

    I have been on 25mg of stertraline for 10 months….about 6 weeks ago I decided to go cold turkey and stop….first few weeks were ok ….then my blood pressure went sky high ended up in A&E ….we’re all test results came back fine…was sent home with high blood pressure…still having brain zaps….feeling numb and having fuzzy head still…however my pulse rate and heart rate back to normal…doctor said stertraline should not cause thee side affects well I disagree…started yoga which has help…the anxiety and panic attacks stopt….just hope the tingling in fingers,fuzzy heads…and dizzy spells stop soon…

  18. sara

    I have been off Zoloft for about 4 months now, and quitting that drug was a living hell. I had anxiety, headaches, spells of vertigo that sent me to the hospital for 3 day stay, irritibility, pain all over my body, higher blood pressure, I felt like I was spirling down a rabbit hole of hell. It is horribly addictive. The sad thing is that drs. Are telling people its not addictive and safe. If I went through that coming off the drug … What was the drug really doing to my brain ? I still suffer anxiety tingling in hands, a feeling of dullness and not completely able concentrate. I was being over medicated for years on that stuff. I can do more now, feel like I’m back to old me but still somethings little off. I honestly believe Zoloft caused brain damage to me on some level.

  19. jenny

    I am on zoloft for about 1 month and i decided to get it off as it make me more anxious.i started to feel that way after the death of my father and trying zoloft was the wrong thing i did.now i cut it off 12.5 mg but i am feeling tired,bad headache and heart palpitations like i am having a heart atack and this makes me more anxious.i try rivotril to sleep because am sleepless and thoughtful all the night.i dont know how to go thgrouh this.

  20. Tod
    Pioneer Ca

    I have been reducing my dose as directed by my doctor and experiencing extreme anxiety mostly located in my chest and experiencing mood swings. I am now feeling grouchy and irritable. Not a great feeling. Nothing seems to help. This is worse than getting off of nicotine. Man, I expected that it would be horrible but this is far worse. I visited my Cardiologist because I have been experiencing chest pain and left arm throbbing. He said it is Angina. Well I did not suffer as far as I know from Angina till I got on this medication. I was given the medication to help control my anxiety and picking disorder. Neither was getting better and it if anything made me unable to focus on anything. WOW this is a really bad trip for what? No more

  21. Molly

    I’m 78 and have been on Zoloft for 3 months. Started on 50gms and reduced to 25 after 3 weeks since reading the awful reports on here.

    My husband died in his sleep from a heart attack, tried to revive him but he was already dead. Trauma from this and the consequences of his death caused me to think I needed a pill, given readily by my doctor.

    I’m down to 12gms now and will do this for a month. Just tired and feeling weird but I’m lucky to be retired and also we have the National Health Service here which means I’ll be able to get tablets for as long as needed. Wish I’d never started but I feel this will end and hope all the people on this site will get through their pain.
    Best to all of you

    • chris
      orange county, ca.

      I have been taking Zoloft for 10 years or so at 50-100 mg depending on how i feel. I just stopped taking it about 2 weeks ago. I tapered off pretty well in my opinion, but I’m still getting brainzaps and dizzyness spells many times a day. I quit taking it because I don’t want to be dependent on any medication.

      I asked a Dr. about long term side effects and brain damage and she said absolutely not. (not sure I believe it) I’ve noticed some effects that used to happen before I started taking it, like frustration at small things, like change falling out of my pocket when I’m driving, backpack falling off one shoulder when trying to carry too many things, etc. I can live with these little annoyances as long as the dizzyness goes away. Hell, maybe if it keeps happening I can sue them for millions of dollars lol. Good luck and health to all. Peace.

  22. Lara

    I’d been on 50mg of sertraline for about 2 years. Tried to quit cold turkey during August 2014 vacation. The first two weeks I really felt like it was going to be easy, but then the side effects kicked in. Mild dizziness, those weird brain spark things, irritability, and losing my temper. I became kind of unbearable to be around, so I went back on, but I still wanted to quit. Tried again at the beginning of November 2014, and scaled back to 25mg, then 25mg every other day, then once a week. Some of the side effects came back and I started feeling like I could never get off the stuff, but I kept taking 25mg periodically to stave off side effects. I haven’t had any now since Jan. 5, 2015. However, I do now have high blood pressure, which I’ve never had in 45 years. I’m starting dietary changes to combat that. I am happy I went on this drug when I did because I think it helped me make many of my relationships better. After the August quitting failure I took counseling more seriously and tackled some family/parenting issues that were major contributors to my anxiety and depression. Being a stepparent sucks sometimes. I do not have a good temperament to be the primary disciplinarian so that situation had to change. As of now I’ve quit and maintained a good happiness level. It can be done.

  23. Ruth

    For about a week or so, I stopped taking zoloft. I went from taking 100mgs a day down to taking it every other day, every two days and so forth.
    It’s been recent in the last few days that I was feeling itchy all over, and had a hard time falling asleep. My scalp felt itchy and I thought it was just the dryness.
    This is the 3rd night and the symptoms are worse. My scalp is itchy, restless, night sweats, and I cannot fall asleep. It’s past midnight and I already had to change pjs because I woke up damp and cool. Now I’m getting irritated and I’m sure it’s due from lack of sleep. Decided to do a google search with those symptoms and omg, never thought it could have been related to weaning off of zoloft.
    I need to know if I should be contacting my doctor or if anyone knows how long these symptoms last?!? Is it going to get worse? I really don’t want to go back on it! Any helpful suggestions?

    • Lynn
      United States

      I have been taking 50 mg of Zoloft daily and cut my dosage in half 4 weeks ago. Since I had such bad side effects when I first started taking Zoloft, I assumed that I would have bad side effects coming off it. So far I’ve had headaches and swollen sinuses. Yesterday I woke up with itchy palms. As the day progressed the itching moved to other areas of my body. Luckily, the itching is contained to one area of my body at a time, but I guess that could change. I was going to do some research and see if an anti-histamine would reduce the itching. I’m just happy that I can finally get off of this drug. I’ve tried several times over the past 20 years but could never go more than two weeks without the depression coming back.

  24. Angela
    Kansas city

    I have been on Setraline and Xanes for over a year now but I decided to come off and just try to handle myself differently…mind over matter. So I was taking my meds every other day for about 2 weeks until my prescription ran out….did not renew it so have not been taking any at all. I have been sick for the last 2 days of naseau and bad headaches and dizziness and not feeling good.. I also came off my xanex which I was taking at night. So I am assuming I am feeling this way because of this and not dealing with a flu bug or anything. It’s kind of scary that you go through this because I didnt realize I was actually addicted to either one of these. Can anyone tell me how long this will last? I’ve had to leave work 2 days in a row because of it.

  25. JSC

    My husband started taking Zoloft about 1.5 weeks ago, 12mg, and he is having ALL of the side effects, nauseous, shortness of breath, dizziness, etc. He wants to go off of it. At such a low dose (he is taking 1/4 of what was original prescribed) what is the best way to wean off of it? Take one day, skip the next? Horrible timing as we are going on vacation tomorrow :(

    • Shapiro

      If you are weaning of f an SSRI and Xanax at the same time you are in for the worst. Benzo withdrawal is nearly impossible to maintain function then the SSRI withdrawal will put you into psychosis. You need to rethink your regimen before it’s too late.

  26. SC

    Thank you….this is all common sense to me, too. I’ve been on sertraline for 2 years and wanted to go off. I’ve had awful vertigo and of course that kicked my anxiety into high gear. So frustrating…but my body has relief on it!

  27. fredia

    Hi, I have been taking sertraline for about 7 months and am beginning the weaning off stage. I truly appreciate all the info here. I would like to suggest that people may find tremendous help in mindfulness meditation. Research has shown that as little as 10 minutes a day have positive impacts that can be seen in the MRIs of people after only 2 weeks. Check out info from the book “Full Catastrophe Living” or web resources like mindfulness.org. Jon Kabat-Zin is truly an expert and has been working with this at the University of Mass. Medical Center for decades. Also Dr. Richard Davidson has done exciting work in this area.
    I have also used self-hypnosis CDs by a psychiatrist to help with insomnia. I have found these techniques extremely helpful in my life. I would like to add that I am very sensitive to medications and often experience the worst of the side effects. My vision has been damaged from a previous drug and even more now from this one. I am currently considered glaucoma suspect and will have to have my eyes monitored every 3 months. The last time I had to do this was in 2011 after taking corticosterpids for asthma. Once I stopped them for a long period, my eye problems got better (not the vision, but the pressure and the cup damage) and I was able to start going in for check ups only once a year.
    Well now I just had my yearly exam after being on the Sertraline and my vision is much worse and the damage is back. Hopefully the physical, glaucoma-suspect damage will clear up again after stopping the drug, but I don’t think my vision will improve. I hope this helps someone with more alternatives besides drugs!!!

    • chris
      orange county, ca.

      I would recommend to anyone trying to get of these medications to eat lots of fruits and veggies (cliche I know). I ride bicycles alot and surf and those endorphins and adrenaline do more for me than Zoloft ever did in my opinion. If you’re older or not into sports, just walk a few times a week and you’ll feel it. Like you said, meditation and prayer helps too. I also listen to hypnosis recordings (apps) I get on my Iphone and the results are remarkable. I mostly listen to law of attraction stuff and everything I’ve focused on has come true (yes, weird I know)

  28. sittingbytheriver

    I have been taking 50mg of Sertraline daily, for 20 years. I forgot to take it with me for our 4th of July vacation, so i was off it for 3 days and decided maybe it was time to quit completely. It’s been 5 days so far, and I have to tell you I have NOT experienced any of the listed withdrawal symptoms. So Far so good !!! : ) no visions, no voices, no zaps, no dizziness, no nothing. not yet anyway : )

    • paula
      rochester, ny

      I am curious to see if you are still off the zoloft and how it has been for you.
      I would like to wean off also.
      Thank you

  29. Carly

    Hi Lisa,
    Yes my ears played up when I was coming off it. Just that horrible high pressure feeling, ringing in the ears sort of a thing. I don’t want to lead you down the garden path though, every one is different and what you’re experiencing may not be a side effect so I think it is still important to follow up with your doc.
    Let us know how you go!

  30. Lisa

    Can anyone tell me if this is a side effect of trying too come off Sertraline. …I have been on 100mg. I went to 50 for 2 weeks now I’m on 25 just started my first v of what I’m hoping well bee 2 weeks then going to cut that in half for 2 weeks. I know from reading the dizziness jolts and voices are all symptoms. … but I’m also having hearing problems. .. like someone holding their hands over my ears. .. like filled with water and pressure. My pcp said my ears are clear and had me on nasal spray. If this doesn’t work in a week I’m too see an ENT. Before spending money on an ENT I would like to know if this is a side effect of trying to come off this medicine? Could someone please let me know.

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