Oftentimes, persons struggling with substance abuse will combine various drugs and alcohol in order to produce heightened effects. What most people are unaware of, however, are the specific interactions from combining substances. One such combination is Zoloft and Alcohol; though commonly taken together, this mix can be dangerous and even fatal.
What is Zoloft?
Zoloft, also known as Sertraline, is a prescription medication taken orally, belonging to the class of antidepressants known as SSRIs. Zoloft is frequently a prescription to treat conditions such as:
- Panic Attacks
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
Especially for persons displaying depression symptoms, Zoloft is known to improve mood, energy, and ‘zest for life’. However, there are numerous side effects which can occur, including diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, insomnia, and decreased libido.
In terms of efficacy, Zoloft (and other SSRIs) have been proven advantageous in treating persons suffering from melancholic depression as compared to Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs). This other class of antidepressants, TCAs, is more effective in treating severe depression in inpatient settings.
What is an SSRI?
SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are a category of antidepressants, whose distinguishing characteristic is an increased level of serotonin in the brain. This neurotransmitter, Serotonin, is primarily responsible for feelings of happiness and contentment. The process by which this occurs is scientifically complex, as are all matters relating to neurochemistry. Put simply, serotonin is “held in place” (inhibited) so that is more available for neurons (brain cells). While Zoloft is an SSRI, it is not the only; other SSRIs include Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Pexeva.
How long does Zoloft stay in your system?
In order to understand how long Zoloft stays in your system, it is important to understand the concept of half-life. In the world of substances, half-life refers to how long it takes for 50% of a drug to be gone from a person’s body. So, for instance, if a substance’s half-life is one week, then it is 50% out of the system after one week.
For Zoloft, the half-life is approximately 25-26 hours. Thus, after one day, the levels of Zoloft in a person’s system will be decreased by 50%. Two days after stopping usage, the levels will be at 25%. This process continues until Zoloft has completely left the body.
Is Zoloft Addictive?
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) schedules or categorizes thousands of drugs based on their potential for abuse and medical utility. Zoloft, and by extension, Sertraline, is not included in the Controlled Substance Act, and thus has no scheduling attached. SSRIs in general are not classified as controlled substances.
Because of this, most do not typically regard Zoloft as addictive or narcotic. When compared to other prescription medications, such as opiates and benzodiazepines, many feel that Zoloft is not dangerous.
However, many persons taking Zoloft can become psychologically and physically dependent. This mostly occurs when individuals attempt to wean themselves off of the drug, and discover that there are in fact withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include aggression, depression, insomnia, anxiety, and paranoia.
If you are currently prescribed Zoloft and would like to stop taking it, please consult with your doctor first. Withdrawal symptoms can and do occur if an individual rapidly decreases the level of the medication in their system. Speaking with your doctor about how to effectively wean off of the medication will save you lots of uncomfortability.
Mixing Zoloft and Alcohol
While Zoloft on its own, following a prescription, is generally safe, the combination of Zoloft with other substances can be dangerous. The most common co-occurring substance people use with Zoloft is alcohol.
Again, Zoloft is not typically dangerous. When combined with alcohol, there are many side-effects that can occur, because of how the biochemistry behind the two substances interact. Some of the side effects potentially include:
- Reduced heart rate
- Suicidal Thoughts
Alcohol and Zoloft share these common side effects, and when combined in the system, the side effects tend to be amplified. For this reason, the FDA has recommended not drinking alcohol while prescribed Zoloft.
One more piece to be aware of is that both alcohol and Zoloft affect levels of serotonin in the brain. Remember, Zoloft is an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor); it actively affects serotonin levels in order to mitigate depression symptoms. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it will commonly exacerbate symptoms of depression. Mixing the two is not advisable.
Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction to Zoloft and alcohol? If you need help, please call us today so that we can provide adequate information and education. Or, keep reading about other drug combinations here!