Zoloft Side Effects And Warnings

Learn Facts About Zoloft, its Side Effects, and Associated Risks

How Zoloft Works

How Does Zoloft Work?

Zoloft is the commercial name for sertraline, which is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). SSRIs are antidepressants used to treat depression, panic disorders, different types of phobia and post traumatic stress disorder[1]. They have a complex mechanism which slows the reabsorption of of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter which is normally quickly reabsorbed in the blood stream. During Zoloft treatment, serotonin is kept between neurons longer than usual.

Zoloft can take up to eight weeks to for its effects to fully take place, because it changes the brain's activity on a large scale. While other drugs such as Prozac are first generation antidepressants, Zoloft is a second generation drug released on the pharmaceutical market. Not only does it help the brain absorb serotonin slower and more effectively in the blood stream, but it also builds new serotonin receptors in the brain, in order to increase serotonin utilization. Sertraline doesn't work the same for every patient, but it will surely affect your mood during treatment.

Understanding how Zoloft fights against depression related disorders is easy if you analyze what serotonin is and how does this drug modifies serotonin levels in the body. This hormone is linked to depression as its level must be high in order to avoid this neurological disorder. Serotonin is a natural hormone found in our nervous system and it is known to contribute to feelings of happiness[2]. It also regulates some cognitive functions such as learning and other body functions such as sleeping, appetite and mood. So Zoloft works by preventing the reuptake of serotonin, leaving more serotonin available for the body to use. The mechanism is simple: these antidepressants make serotonin drain away slower so that it remains a longer period of time in the blood stream. Also, Zoloft increases the number of receptors for this hormone, enhancing its absorption. It mainly behaves like a security code against a scanner, by authorizing the serotonin to pass through its receptors and to induce a positive state of mind to the brain.

Note that when taking an SSRI there is a potential risk of Serotonin Syndrome. This is a medical condition which may occur during long term therapy or high doses of Zoloft. Mild forms of this syndrome consist in symptoms like shivering and diarrhea and they usually disappear within a day of stopping the treatment[3]. Severe serotonin syndrome symptoms include restlessness, seizures, fever, muscle rigidity and confusion and they can be fatal if not treated on time.

Zoloft is an oral drug, so it should be taken by mouth, usually once daily. It is important to take the dose established by your doctor based on your medical condition. Because it is a strong medicine, you must take it as prescribed even when the depression related symptoms disappear or else some of them may reappear. Moreover, some signs may get even worse if you drastically stop the treatment, so you should gradually decrease the dose.


  1. PubMed Health U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sertraline, 2016
  2. Young S., Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs, 2007
  3. Ables A., American Family Physician, Prevention, diagnosis and management of serotonin syndrome, 2010