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Statistics suggest that around 16 million people across the United States, including young adults and teenagers, abuse prescription medications. One of these medications is Sertraline, an antidepressant chemical that can quickly become psychologically addictive in people using it excessively. Approximately one-fifth of the people using this medication or other similar drugs also develop severe withdrawal symptoms as they attempt to cut back on it following addiction.
Commonly available as Zoloft, sertraline addiction is real and can affect life from different angles. It can make day-to-day living difficult, strain individuals financially, and break their relationships. Fortunately, overcoming this addiction is possible but may require help and support from a professional rehab center equipped to deal with these cases more safely and effectively.
An Overview of Zoloft and its Uses
Commonly available under the name Zoloft, sertraline hydrochloride is a commonly used antidepressant medication belonging to a drug class called selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These drugs boost the activity of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood, emotion, and sleep. As a result, the user finds it easier to feel happier and more pleasant while controlling their anxiety levels. In general, experts prescribe Zoloft to treat different conditions, such as the following:
- Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
- Panic disorder
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Major depressive disorder
In addition to handling the issues mentioned above, antidepressants like Zoloft are often used to help people overcome substance abuse. This is particularly true for people enrolled in a dual diagnosis program for the treatment of an underlying addiction along with a co-occurring mental health disorder. Researchers have been studying the efficacy of this drug for a very long time and have found it to have varying levels of success for different people.
Zoloft Addiction and Dependence: Common Symptoms to Look Out For
Despite pharmaceutical companies trying their best to market Zoloft as a non-addictive medication, it does carry the potential to cause dependence. Although these cases are rare, they do exist and continue to affect many lives. Mentioned below are some signs to look out for if you suspect that you or someone you know has developed an addiction to this medication:
- Taking more Zoloft than originally prescribed
- Seeking the medication illegally
- Continued use when it is no longer needed
- Pretending to be sick to get a Zoloft prescription when there is no legit medical reason
- Experiencing uncomfortable symptoms when the drug effects start wearing off or due to a missed dose
- Ignoring self-hygiene
- Losing interest in everyday activities that were previously pleasurable
- Having relationship issues due to excessive dependence on Zoloft
The Dangers and Risks of Zoloft Addiction
When used as prescribed for a legitimate medical reason, Zoloft can deliver various management while controlling different psychiatric issues. However, as a person develops an addiction to this medication, the risk of experiencing complications gradually heightens. Some of these risks likely to happen to abuse Zoloft may include the following:
Serotonin syndrome describes a severe drug reaction that happens when a drug like Zoloft leads to a high buildup of serotonin in the body. These high serotonin levels may lead to physical symptoms, such as sweating, coma, chills, and fever, and can easily become life-threatening if a person fails to seek treatment for it. Many factors can precipitate serotonin syndrome, such as using it for the first time, suddenly increasing its dose, or combining it with other drugs that follow a similar mechanism of action.
The liver is primarily responsible for breaking down, metabolizing, and eliminating Zoloft from the body. Because it regularly comes in contact with the organ, Zoloft can sometimes cause secondary hepatitis. Long-term medication use can also worsen this condition, specifically in people who routinely combine it with other hepatotoxic substances, such as alcohol.
Most people undergoing prescription drug dependence recovery are at a very high risk of acquiring malnutrition-related disorders, such as osteopenia, osteoporosis, etc. These nutritional deficiencies can negatively impact the recovery process and overall mental health, as multiple research studies confirm. The biggest factor inducing nutrient deficiencies is most people’s difficulties in maintaining a regular, healthy dietary intake during an active dependency. Sometimes, other factors, such as hormonal and chemical changes that Zoloft induces within the body, worsen these deficiencies.
Reversing Zoloft addiction and keeping it under control, on the other hand, gives patients a chance to restart working on their dietary lifestyles and cover these deficiencies with time.
Zoloft Withdrawal Symptoms
Many people who have been using Zoloft for a long time risk experiencing withdrawal when they stop using it. This withdrawal is a type of SSRI discontinuation syndrome and affects approximately 20% of the people using this drug. Because Zoloft has a shorter half-life, i.e., the time a medication stays in the blood before it completely leaves the body, its effects wear off very quickly when someone decides to stop using it. As a result, the high serotonin levels in the brain begin to decline, and because of this abrupt decline, the body responds by creating withdrawal symptoms.
Due to the discomfort associated with Zoloft withdrawal, most experts advise patients to slowly wean off the medication by reducing its amount through a carefully planned tapering program. This tapering program allows the body to slowly adjust to the declining Zoloft and serotonin levels in the body. Nevertheless, some may still experience withdrawal symptoms that typically last for one to three weeks before full resolution. The severity of these symptoms can vary depending on the duration and dosage of Zoloft use. Following are some common withdrawal symptoms of Zoloft withdrawal to anticipate if you stop using the medication after a long time:
- Lack of concentration
- Suicidal thoughts
- Recurring nightmares and vivid dreams
- Tingling sensations in the skin
Some people also experience rebound symptoms of depression or anxiety when they stop using Zoloft and may have no choice but to restart using it.
When a person develops an addiction to Zoloft, they may start finding the medication ineffective unless taken in progressively higher doses with time. In an attempt to experience the soothing effects, some people may go overboard and take very high doses of the drug, potentially triggering an addiction. While most symptoms of a sertraline overdose are uncomfortable, they may not necessarily be life-threatening. However, in severe cases, it may lead to organ damage and lead to life-threatening complications. Following are some common symptoms associated with Zoloft overdose:
- Increased heart rate
- Shakiness and tremors
- Nausea and vomiting
Zoloft Dependency Treatment and Rehabilitation
The best way to get over Zoloft addiction is to join a rehabilitation program and choose the right treatment type. To ensure that you end up choosing the right facility, consider the following factors:
- Your health insurance coverage
- The location of the rehab you wish to join
- Your financial standing and the cost of the program
- The severity of your underlying addiction
- Your personal treatment needs
- The type of programs the rehab offers
Most addiction rehabs offer two basic types of programs: inpatient and outpatient. As an inpatient in a Zoloft rehab program, you may expect to:
- Live on-site at the rehab or another supervised living arrangement for as long as you continue your treatment
- Follow a structured schedule every day
- Participate in different types of behavioral therapies, such as family therapy
- Be a part of family therapy and group counseling sessions
- Have access to clinical and medical care on site
An outpatient program for addiction management, on the other hand, may ask you to:
- Live at home as you complete your rehab treatment
- Attend one-to-one sessions
- Complete all homework and program work assignments
- Regularly attend weekly meetings at the designated place
- Have limited access to medical and clinical care during ongoing treatment
- Continue taking care of your everyday responsibilities at school, home, or work while completing treatment at the same time
Even though inpatient and outpatient programs for Zoloft dependency are completely different, neither can be more effective or better than the other. The right program choice for each patient will depend on which one meets their treatment needs more effectively.
A Zoloft addiction program can also vary in terms of cost based on factors like the type of rehab, the level of care, amenities, location, and treatment services. As you consider joining one of these rehabs, you may be offered different ways to cover the costs, such as the following:
- HAS funds
- Health insurance benefits
- Privately financed healthcare loans
- Employee Assistance Program (EPA) benefits
- Treatment scholarships
- Personal loans, taken from family members
- Out-of-pocket payments
Continued Care Options for Zoloft Addiction and Dependency
Once a patient successfully finishes a rehab program to overcome Zoloft addiction, they may choose to enroll in a continuing care program. In most cases, these continuing care services include an aftercare or sober living program. Still, some treatment centers may add other components, such as personal monitoring and peer recovery support programs.
Sober Living Programs
A sober living home provides safe, structured, and drug-free housing for both men and women in recovery. Also known as halfway houses or transitional living arrangements, these houses help people who have recently finished an inpatient program and now wish to transition back into the community with minimal risk of relapse. Sober living helps such people remain drug-free and accountable for their actions while providing support and help. Some services available at a sober living program may include the following:
- Drug and alcohol testing
- Peer recovery support programs
- Tiered recovery programming
- Employment, education, and volunteer assistance
The cost of living in a sober home may vary depending on its location, services, amenities, and room types.
Aftercare programs are specifically designed programs that help provide support to alumni members who have previously completed a treatment program at the rehab. Many individuals use these services to meet with their sober peers regularly. Most aftercare programs provide a supportive, judgment-free, and safe area where people in recovery can openly share their struggles, successes, and failures without fear. These programs are highly therapeutic and can support people at any stage of recovery.
Is Zoloft addictive?
Despite many companies strongly emphasizing Zoloft as a non-additive drug, the fact is any formulation of sertraline carries a tendency to cause addiction. While initial research did show it as a non-addictive medication, these clinical trials were short-term and did not pay heed to the long-term side effects or the adversities related to discontinuation of the medication. After being virtually ignored for decades, experts now confirm that Zoloft and other similar medications can cause dependence and addiction. Some users may also experience trouble when they stop using it following a legitimate medical course as prescribed.
How common is Zoloft abuse?
Zoloft currently remains the seventh most prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States. While many use it for medical purposes, such as the management of depression and anxiety, others abuse it because of its easier accessibility than other illegal drugs. The prevalence of Zoloft or sertraline addiction is currently on the rise, causing become to become dependent on it and use the medication as a quick fix to escape daily problems.
Will using Zoloft cause any side effects?
Using Zoloft or any other antidepressant medication can be extremely dangerous and may lead to serious psychological or medical issues. Apart from making a person dependent on this medication, its persistent use and abuse may lead to one or more of the following side effects:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Abnormal bleeding
- Neuroleptic malignant syndrome
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abnormal bleeding
- Dry mouth
- Decreased sex drive