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Stopping the use of any antidepressant can be difficult. When stopping the use of sertraline (commonly known as Zoloft), you can use a “sertraline withdrawal schedule” to manage your symptoms as much as possible.

Sertraline withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from two days to a few weeks. The most common symptoms include dizziness, irritability, nausea, headache, flu-like symptoms, insomnia, and sensory disturbances. Monitoring your symptoms and following a sertraline withdrawal schedule can be the difference between success and falling back into addiction.

What is Sertraline?

Sertraline is more commonly known as Zoloft. It is a commonly prescribed antidepressant and part of a class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This drug is commonly prescribed to treat various illnesses, including major depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorders, and eating disorders.

Sertraline is less commonly prescribed to treat severe pre-menstrual symptoms caused by a premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and symptoms related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The main issue found with Sertraline is that it can cause physical dependence in patients and result in addiction.

Antidepressant Withdrawal

Over 50% of people quitting antidepressants experience withdrawal symptoms. It is important to note that the experience of withdrawal is different for everyone. For example, during withdrawal from the same drug, you might experience mild symptoms while your best friend might have horrific symptoms that affect their daily life.

How Long Do Antidepressant Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

Compared to other SSRIs, sertraline has a relatively short half-life. This means that after a few days, very little of the drug will remain in your bloodstream. You are more likely to experience withdrawal symptoms as it is a short-acting antidepressant.

Your body will quickly be shocked by the lack of sertraline, and your body needs to adapt to maintain homeostasis.

Be aware that stopping your antidepressants can lead to you feeling the original symptoms you sought help in the first place. This is the first part of the sertraline withdrawal schedule. These feelings may even lead to suicidal thoughts, so it is important to manage your withdrawal under the watch of a medical professional.

Importance of Creating a Sertraline Withdrawal Schedule

Sertraline works in your body by preventing the reabsorption of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps increase the feeling of “happy” moods and emotions. When the dose of sertraline is reduced or stopped, your serotonin levels will drop and eventually reach their natural levels. If done too quickly, you will experience withdrawal symptoms because your mind and body are trying to understand the sudden change (and lack) of serotonin.

The most common symptoms that may develop during sertraline withdrawal include:

  • Digestive issues including nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, or appetite loss
  • Balance problems including lightheaded-ness and trouble walking
  • Sleep problems including insomnia and nightmares
  • Flu-like symptoms including headache, muscle pain, weakness, or fatigue
  • Mood swings, anxiety, agitation, panic, suicidal ideation, depression, irritability, anger, or mania
  • Strange physical sensations including the feeling of electrical shocks, shivering, pins and needles, ringing in your ears, strange tastes, or hypersensitivity to sound
  • Temperature changes, excessive sweating, hot flashes, or intolerance to high temperatures
  • Poor motor control, tremors, muscle tension, restless legs, an unsteady gait, or difficulty controlling speech

In order to avoid or manage symptoms, it is essential to create a sertraline withdrawal schedule.

What is a Sertraline Withdrawal Schedule?

Creating a sertraline withdrawal schedule is essentially the act of slowly tapering off your medication under a physician’s supervision. By creating a proper schedule with your doctor, you can avoid some of the worse symptoms while your body attempts to regulate your serotonin levels without the medication.

Some physicians prefer to switch their patients to a longer-acting SSRI before beginning a taper of the antidepressant dose. This is because sertraline has a short half-life, causing quick withdrawal. Many doctors switch patients to longer-acting SSRIs such as Prozac. This may help you avoid very intense withdrawal symptoms.

So how long does Zoloft withdrawal last? For most people, Zoloft withdrawal begins within three to four days of the last dose. This means you should create a sertraline withdrawal schedule that tapers your dosage over several weeks or months. New research suggests that a slower decrease over several months can be more effective.

Plan to decrease your dosage until your dose is nearly zero. This may mean that you will be switching to a liquid dose by the end of your schedule, or you may need to break pills into small pieces. Always make your plan in consultation with a physician.

Tips for Handling Your Sertraline Withdrawal Schedule

Work Closely with Your Mental Health Professional

Although you may be tempted to decrease or quit your medication as soon as you begin to feel better, this may set you up for a depressive relapse. Always plan to stay on a new medication for at least four to nine months unless your doctor instructs you otherwise. Especially if you have struggled with depression more than twice, you should stay on your medication for at least two years.

Follow Your Sertraline Withdrawal Schedule

Make sure you decrease your medication slowly, and according to your schedule you developed with your physician. This will help you to avoid severe symptoms. Although it might feel annoying, it is crucial to give your brain enough time to adjust.

Get Support

You deserve and need to speak with a mental health professional. He or she will help you manage any withdrawal symptoms. Having more than one person to speak with can be very helpful. This can also mean involving a friend or a family member.

Stay Healthy

Make sure to get at least 45 minutes of exercise three times per week. Sleep is also important. Try to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time each morning. This will help you to keep on a schedule.

Also, plan to eat healthy meals and drink lots of water. Try to stay away from alcohol, coffee, and other beverages with caffeine as they can increase anxiety.

Psychotherapy and Sertraline Withdrawal Schedule

Psychotherapy can improve your mood, reduce anxiety, and help you better cope with any possible symptoms while on a sertraline withdrawal schedule. Specifically, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may help manage symptoms of depression. This form of therapy will help you identify and modify negative thought patterns before they turn into more intense depressive episodes. Studies have also shown that psychotherapy helps decrease the likelihood of relapse and future needs to go back on medication.

Treatment at Resurgence

If you are considering beginning a sertraline withdrawal schedule, or are looking to discuss stopping the use of Zoloft in your daily life, contact us at Resurgence Behavioral Health. We will help you create a sertraline withdrawal schedule and healthily decrease your medication to reduce the risk of intense withdrawal symptoms and depression.

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