According to the FDA, Zoloft is an antidepressive medication that claims to reduce “serotonin imbalance,” a leading cause, according to Pfizer, Zoloft’s parent manufacturer, of depression.
Zoloft has rather a checkered history, and it is currently embroiled in an FDA watchdog action (which began after a 2006 study in the New England Journal of Medicine), citing that it can induce “potentially life-threatening Serotonin Syndrome” in patients, particularly women who are using the drug to obviate post-partum depression. In addition, the study reveals a risk of pulmonary hypertension in the newborn infant. (Find out the zoloft during pregnancy here. )
As a result, a number of patients, particularly females, are attempting Zoloft withdrawal to prevent further deleterious effects. Health professionals warn about the consequences of too-soon withdrawal from the drug, as the alarmist mentality that follows a single study such as this fades rather quickly.
Most doctors see little harm in Zoloft as a medication, having an excellent track record for major depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, the threat of excessive Serotonin in the nervous system (the SS mentioned above) can overshadow the benefits for some.
Virtually all health professionals are agreed that one should not “cold turkey” a drug such as Zoloft; one should always consult a doctor before beginning a withdrawal program. Zoloft withdrawal symptoms usually begin within days, sometimes hours, after abandoning the drug. These can be the “reversed-placebo” psychological effect (one expects discomfort from a drug withdrawn, just as one expects relief from a drug, even a placebo). They include the “craving” for the drug, and the near-addictive desire for returning to the “safety” of regular use. Zoloft addiction, practically speaking, does not exist, but the side effects lead some professionals to believe that a psychological dependence is present.
Zoloft Withdrawal Side Effects
The most serious side effect of Zoloft withdrawal is heart palpitations, as the heart, responding to the blockage of electrical impulses from the nervous system following the withdrawing of the drug, literally falls out of synch. This can cause dizziness and fainting; theoretically, extreme cases could experience heart failure.
Even the less serious symptoms of Zoloft withdrawal feel like addictive loss. These include:
- cold sweats
- joint pain
- edema (swelling) of the lungs or face
- easy bruising and bleeding (vaginal or from bruises)
- an increase (fortunately temporary) in cholesterol in the bloodstream
- red rashes are possible, as the blood vessels swell
- skin flaking, similar in appearance to eczema
- gastric irritation, leading to irritable bowel syndrome, but this last effect is exceptionally rare
These effects, coupled with emotional and nervous disorders, keep some patients in Zoloft usage; however, most medical professionals can “wean” the patient successfully with sertaline, introduced into the system and gradually reduced over a period of a few weeks.
PLoS Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal, challenged the claim that Zoloft alleviates a “serotonin imbalance,” indicating there is no scientific support for the theory.
Consult your medical professional for more information about Zoloft withdrawal symptoms.