A report published by RiskAnalytica in 2011 estimated that over 19 percent of adults in Canada live with a mental illness. So, if you're one of them, you're not alone.
It's just as important to treat your brain as it is your body, as mental illness can have a serious impact on your life.
Plus, it's understood to be directly linked with physical illness. Taking care of your mind is taking care of your body.
If you and your healthcare practitioner are exploring treatments, you might have heard about sertraline.
It's a safe and common medication prescribed to combat things like anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.
You might not recognize “sertraline,” but you've probably heard its brand name, Zoloft. Sertraline, the generic name for Zoloft, is an antidepressant drug that is prescribed to treat several mental health conditions.
As part of a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRIs), sertraline works by increasing your serotonin level, which, in turn, helps your brain maintain a healthy balance. When prescribed correctly, it may be able to:
All of which could help lessen the interruption the condition might have on your daily life. Sertraline is primarily prescribed to treat:
A healthcare practitioner might also prescribe sertraline to treat a severe form of premenstrual syndrome.
When used to treat premenstrual dysphoric disorder, sertraline could help with mood swings, breast tenderness, irritability, and bloating.
Sertraline can be a huge relief to patients that use it. But it's not without potential side effects, including:
You might experience a side effect when you first start sertraline, but it should go away once your body is used to it.
If side effects persist for a long period or you experience serious side effects, you should call your healthcare practitioner immediately. These include:
When used as directed by your healthcare practitioner, sertraline is considered to be safe and effective. There are no known long-term side effects or problems associated with its use.
Sertraline should be taken as directed by your healthcare practitioner.
It's also recommended that you read all information provided by your pharmacist and ask any questions you have before you start taking it.
Sertraline can be prescribed in both oral and liquid forms.
Oral sertraline tablets must be taken whole, with no crushing or chewing. Liquid sertraline is very potent and needs to be mixed with a specific liquid to be taken safely.
The particular dose of sertraline you take daily will depend on various factors, including the condition you're trying to treat and the severity of it.
A daily dose of between 50 mg and 200 mg of oral sertraline is most effective in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and major depressive disorder. For social anxiety disorder, the daily dosage starts at 25 mg.
Sertraline, like other antidepressant medications, should not be stopped without consulting your healthcare practitioner.
Even if you feel better. Depending on your dose, you might need to slowly reduce the dosage before stopping it completely.
Sertraline doesn’t work immediately. It can take four to eight weeks (sometimes even longer) for you to feel the full effect. Sertraline is usually prescribed for a year or longer, depending on the condition it’s treating.
Sertraline is safe and effective for many patients, but it’s not the solution for everyone. You should not take it if you have:
Or if you are:
Sertraline may also make it more difficult for a diabetic to stabilize their blood sugar. And while children between six and 17 can take it, it should only be used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Sertraline doesn't always play well with other drugs. There’s a relatively long list of other drug interactions you should avoid while taking it, including:
It's important to discuss any medications that you are currently taking with your healthcare practitioner before starting sertraline.
You don’t want to overdose on any medication. But, as far as overdoses go, sertraline is relatively safe. Those who have experienced a sertraline overdose report:
In extreme but rare cases, an overdose could lead to serotonin syndrome, seizures, and even death.
While you don’t want to miss a dose of your sertraline (hello, daily reminders!), it happens to the best of us.
If you forget a dose, take it as soon as you remember – unless it’s almost time for your next one. You don't want to take a double dose of sertraline. So, if your next one is right around the corner, skip it and continue with your regular schedule.
For most people, symptoms of a skipped dose are mild, if any. However, some have reported experiencing nausea, imbalance, hyperarousal, or sensory disturbances.
While you’re taking sertraline, you’ll want to avoid consuming alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, marijuana, and cola drinks. Pairing these with your medication could increase the side effects you experience and decrease its benefits.
If your healthcare practitioner has prescribed sertraline, it's because they believe the benefits outweigh any side effects you might experience.
There are drug interactions with sertraline that you want to completely avoid, but there also might be times when your healthcare practitioner prescribes it despite the risk.
Those medications could include:
While there is no evidence that sertraline can damage your brain when used properly, you should not take it if it is not prescribed by your healthcare practitioner. There is some speculation that it could harm nondepressed brains.
You want to avoid drinking alcohol while taking sertraline. It is designed to interact with your brain, which can change your cognitive process. Likewise, alcohol also affects your brain, and the combination of the two could be dangerous.
It’s believed that alcohol intensifies the side effects of sertraline. With both in your system, you could experience more dizziness, have a harder time concentrating, and feel more tired.
Sertraline is considered to be one of the best choices of antidepressants, particularly when it comes to major depression. However, not all bodies are the same – you and your healthcare practitioner will have to figure out the best medication and dose for you.
Sertraline can be prescribed to treat social anxiety.
There isn’t a right or wrong answer for when to take Zoloft. It’s often recommended that you take it in the morning or the evening, but consistency is what’s important.
You want to make sure that you take your prescription at the same time every day.
It might take you a bit to figure out when the best time to take it is. You’ll want to consider what symptoms, if any, you experience. For example, if you find that it makes you drowsy, before bed might be the best option.
If you have questions about when you should take your medication, discuss it with your healthcare practitioner.
You should only increase your sertraline if your healthcare practitioner instructs you to.
Your healthcare practitioner may start you on a dose lower than intended and ask you to increase it over a period of time.
This could help reduce the side effects experienced.
Drowsiness is a possible side effect of Sertraline, so you may feel tired while using it.
This side effect often goes away after your body is used to the medication.
But if you are experiencing this side effect, you’ll want to avoid driving vehicles or operating other heavy machinery (you know, like a forklift).
Combining this antidepressant with other fatigue-inducing medications or alcohol can also add to your drowsiness.
Drowsiness and fatigue are also symptoms of depression. If you are taking sertraline to treat depression, the medication combined with your symptoms might make you feel more fatigued.
The views expressed here are those of the author and, as with the rest of the content on Health Guide, are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare practitioner.