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How to Stop Taking Zoloft

Two Methods:Tapering off ZoloftIncluding Lifestyle Changes and Alternative Therapies

Zoloft, or sertraline, is an antidepressant in a class known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It is often prescribed to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, social anxiety disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Since Zoloft affects brain chemistry, it should not be stopped without consulting your doctor. In addition, discontinuation of Zoloft should only take place under the supervision of your doctor and according to the gradual schedule your doctor prescribes.

Method 1
Tapering off Zoloft

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    Consider why you want to discontinue taking Zoloft. You should generally continue taking Zoloft if the medication has effectively controlled your depression or disorder. However, there are good reasons to discontinue or change your medication under the supervision of a doctor. These reasons include:
    • If you experience severe or continuous side effects.
    • If your depression or disorder is not under control with Zoloft. This may mean persistent sad, anxious, or empty feelings; irritability; loss of interest in pleasurable activities or hobbies; fatigue; difficulty concentrating; sleep disturbances such as insomnia or excessive sleeping; appetite changes; thoughts of suicide; or physical aches and pains.[1] It is important to note that Zoloft generally takes up to eight weeks to fully work and may require dosage increases.[2]
    • If you have been on Zoloft for a while (6-12 months) and your doctor feels that you are not at risk for (or do not have) chronic or recurrent depression.[3]
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    Monitor any side effects you have experienced. Some side effects of the medication can include: nausea, dry mouth, drowsiness, weight loss, insomnia, changes in sex drive, and uncontrollable shaking. Let your doctor know if any of these side effects are severe or do not go away.
    • In addition, ideas of suicide may be present in younger adults and children. Let your doctor know right away if you have thoughts related to suicide.
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    Talk to your doctor. Discuss your side effects or other reasons for wanting to stop taking Zoloft with your doctor. This will help your doctor make an informed decision and decide if the time is right for you to stop taking Zoloft.
    • If you have been on the medication for less than eight weeks, your doctor will likely suggest you give the medication the full eight weeks to take effect.
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    Discontinue Zoloft slowly. Antidepressants need to be slowly discontinued with gradual decrease in doses to avoid discontinuation symptoms. This is called tapering. Tapering can take weeks to months depending on the antidepressant, how long you have taken it, your dose, and your symptoms.[4] If you stop right away—go “cold turkey”—your body does not have enough time to adjust, and you may experience worse discontinuation symptoms. Symptoms may include:[5]
    • Abdominal issues such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or cramps
    • Sleep issues such as insomnia or nightmares
    • Balance issues such as dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Sensory or movement issues such as numbness, tingling, tremors, and lack of coordination
    • Feelings of irritability, agitation, or anxiety
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    Taper based on your doctor’s schedule. The length of time it takes to completely stop taking Zoloft may depend on how long you were on the medication and the dose you were prescribed. Your doctor will determine the best schedule for you to taper off Zoloft while minimizing the potential for discontinuation symptoms.
    • One suggested way is decreasing the dose by 25mg per dose reduction, giving at least two weeks in between each dose reduction.[6]
    • Keep track of your tapering schedule by writing down the dates and the dosage changes.
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    Document any effects you experience. Even if you are tapering Zoloft, it is still possible to experience discontinuation symptoms. You may also be at risk of experiencing a relapse with regard to your depression or disorder. Keep track and talk to your doctor if you develop any of these symptoms.
    • Discontinuation symptoms have a quick onset, slowly get better over 1-2 weeks, and include more physical complaints. In order to differentiate between relapse and discontinuation symptoms, look at when the symptoms start, how long they last, and the type of symptoms.
    • Relapse symptoms gradually develop after 2-3 weeks and get worse over 2-4 weeks. Contact your doctor if any symptoms last more than 1 month.[7][8]
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    Keep your doctor informed. Your doctor will monitor you for at least a few months after discontinuation. Inform him or her about any relapse symptoms or concerns you may have.
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    Take any new medications according to your doctor’s prescription. If you are discontinuing Zoloft because of side effects or if Zoloft is not controlling your depression, your doctor may prescribe a different antidepressant. The choice of medication depends on many aspects such as patient preference, prior response, effectiveness, safety and tolerability, cost, side effects, and drug interactions.[9] If you experienced side effects or inadequate control of your depression, you doctor may recommend:
    • A different selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), including Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), Celexa (citalopram), or Lexapro (escitalopram)
    • Serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), such as Effexor (venlafaxine)
    • Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCA), such as Elavil (amitriptyline).
    • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) can also be used after waiting at least five weeks after discontinuation of Zoloft.[10]

Method 2
Including Lifestyle Changes and Alternative Therapies

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    Try to exercise regularly. Studies show that regular exercise can help produce endorphins and increase neurotransmitters that may help with symptoms of depression.[11] Try to exercise for approximately thirty minutes each day.
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    Change your diet. A healthy diet can help you overall. In particular, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help as an adjunctive therapy for depression.
    • Omega-3- fatty acids are contained in foods such as kale, spinach, soybean or canola oil, flaxseeds, walnuts, and fatty fish such as salmon. They are also available over the counter, usually as fish oil gelatin capsules.
    • Studies that showed benefit of omega-3 fatty acids in mood disorders included doses between 1-9 grams. However, more evidence supports the lower doses in that range.[12]
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    Follow a consistent sleep schedule. Sleep is often disturbed by depression. It is important to follow good sleep hygiene to ensure you are getting proper rest. Good sleep hygiene includes:[13]
    • Going to bed and getting up the same time each day
    • Avoiding stimulation before sleeping, such as exercise, watching TV, or doing computer work
    • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bed
    • Associating your bed with sleep as opposed to reading or doing other work
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    Get some sun. There is not a consensus on how much exposure you need to help symptoms of depression. However, researchers agree some types of depression, such as seasonal affective disorder, may benefit from getting more exposure to sunlight. Research also suggests sunlight can affect your levels of serotonin.
    • Generally, there isn’t a maximum amount of exposure for sunlight. Make sure you do wear sunscreen if you are going to be in the sun longer than 15 minutes.[14]
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    Have a good support system. Throughout the process, stay in touch with your doctor and let your doctor know about your status, feelings, or symptoms. Keep a relative or close friend involved as well. They may be able to provide emotional support or recognize signs of relapse.[15]
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    Consider psychotherapy. An analysis of different studies found that people who undergo psychotherapy while discontinuing an antidepressant are less likely to have a relapse.[16] Psychotherapy is a way to help people with mental disorders by teaching them ways to deal with unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. It gives people tools and strategies to manage their stress, anxieties, thoughts, and behaviors. There are different types of psychotherapy. Treatment plans depend on the individual, the disorder, severity of disorder, and numerous other factors such as if you are on medications.[17][18]
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy’s (CBT) goal is help a person think more positively and influence behavior. It focuses on current problems and solutions to those problems. A therapist helps the person identify unhelpful thinking and change inaccurate beliefs, thus aiding a change in behavior. CBT is particularly effective for depression.
    • Other therapies—such as interpersonal therapy, which focuses on improving communication patterns; family-focused therapy, which helps by resolving family conflicts that may be influencing the patient’s illness; or psychodynamic therapy, which focuses on helping people gain self-awareness—are also available options.
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    Consider acupuncture. Some studies have shown benefits of acupuncture for depression. Although it is not part of guideline recommendations, acupuncture can be useful for some.[19] Acupuncture is a technique in which thin needles are inserted through the skin to stimulate specific points on the body and relieve symptoms of diseases. If needles are sterilized properly there is little concern for risks.
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    Consider meditation. A Johns Hopkins analysis of previous studies suggests that thirty minutes of daily meditation may improve symptoms of depression and anxiety.[20] Practical ways you can practice meditation are repeating a mantra, prayer, taking time to focus on breathing, or reflecting on what you have read.[21] Aspects of medication include:
    • Focus - Focusing on a specific object, image, or breathing can free your mind of worry and stress.
    • Relaxed breathing - Slow, deep, even paced breathing increases oxygen and helps you breathe more efficiently.
    • Quiet setting - This is an important aspect to meditation, especially for beginners, so that you have fewer distractions.


  • It is imperative to get proper sleep while withdrawing from Zoloft, as one uncommon, yet highly disturbing, side effect is wake dreaming.
  • Report any symptoms of racing thoughts or sleeplessness after starting Zoloft right away, as these can be indicative of bipolar disorder.
  • Some people tolerate discontinuation of SSRI's better than others. You may want to talk to your doctor about the oral version of the drug, which allows you to step down your dosage more gradually.


  • This article offers medical information; however, it should not be taken as medical advice. Consult with your doctor before altering or discontinuing any prescribed medications.
  • Stop taking Zoloft and contact your doctor immediately if you begin experiencing any of the serious side effects associated with the medication, especially if you begin having thoughts related to suicide.
  • Some reasons you should not discontinue Zoloft include:
    • If you have recently (past couple months) started Zoloft, your depression has lifted, and you feel that you no longer need the medication
    • If you don’t want to take an antidepressant or medication for reasons not listed above when your depression is still uncontrolled
    • If you want to switch medications when it is not due to side effects or ineffectiveness

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Categories: Taking Pills and Medicine