How Long Does It Take for Zoloft To Work?
Dr. Gerardo Sison
Millions of Americans suffering from common mental health conditions like depression and anxiety have considered turning to prescription drugs like Zoloft for relief of their symptoms.
When your mental health is suffering, it’s natural to want to see improvement as quickly as possible, but how long does it take for Zoloft to work?
What is Zoloft?
Zoloft is a brand name prescription drug that is also sold under the generic name sertraline. Zoloft is a popular antidepressant medication that belongs to a class of medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which treat a number of different mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
Zoloft was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991 and is currently one of the most commonly prescribed SSRIs on the market today. Other SSRIs include paroxetine (Paxil), escitalopram (Lexapro), and fluoxetine (Prozac).
Zoloft is prescribed for the treatment of a number of different mental health conditions, including:
- Major depressive disorder
- Anxiety and panic disorders (feelings of anxiety, fear and unwanted thoughts) including generalized anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Bipolar disorder II
- Social anxiety disorder
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
Seek medical advice to determine if Zoloft is the right medication for you.
How does Zoloft work?
Zoloft is an antidepressant that works by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that acts as a type of chemical messenger in the brain, sending signals between neurons and influencing your mood.
Under normal circumstances, the neurons of the brain absorb serotonin quickly. Patients who do not have enough serotonin may experience a depressed mood under these conditions.
SSRIs like Zoloft work by inhibiting the absorption of serotonin by the neurons, which allows the serotonin to transmit more messages and increases the levels of the neurotransmitter in the brain. As a result, many patients with depression and other mood disorders experience a boosted mood.
How long does it take for Zoloft to work?
Like all antidepressants, Zoloft works slowly compared to other medications because it needs time to impact the brain chemistry. Increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain takes time, so patients should not expect to notice a change in their symptoms right away.
Patients taking Zoloft may begin to notice an improvement in their symptoms in one to two weeks, but most patients will not notice full effects of the medication until they have been using Zoloft regularly for between four and six weeks.
The symptoms that most commonly improve in the earliest weeks of use are improvements in sleep, appetite, and energy levels. As a result, patients experiencing symptoms of anxiety may find that the medication impacts their symptoms significantly in just a few weeks.
By contrast, symptoms of depressed mood and a lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy may take up to six weeks or more before improvement is noticed. However, if you notice changes to the physical symptoms of depression, as noted above, you can have some confidence that the medication is working and your other symptoms will improve with time.
What are some common side effects of Zoloft?
Possible side effects associated with Zoloft generally fall into two categories: common adverse side effects and rare but serious side effects.
Common side effects associated with Zoloft include:
- Weight gain
- Trouble sleeping/tiredness
- Sexual dysfunction such as low libidio, delayed orgasm or inability to orgasm, and erectile dysfunction (in men)
- Upset stomach
- Loss of appetite resulting in weight loss
- Dry mouth
Rare but serious side effects associated with Zoloft include:
- Angle-closure glaucoma
- Low sodium blood levels, as indicated by weakness, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating
- Extremely high blood pressure
- Serotonin syndrome caused by high serotonin levels, as indicated by shivering, confusion, fever, severe muscle tightness, and more
- Increased risk of suicidal thoughts in young adults
Patients who stop taking Zoloft without the advice of a medical professional may experience withdrawal symptoms. There is also a chance that patients will experience an allergic reaction to Zoloft.
Zoloft is a long-term antidepressant medication that typically takes four to six weeks to reach its full effects. Physical symptoms of depression, including changes to sleep, appetite, and energy levels, are typically the first to improve while using Zoloft; patients may experience improvement in these areas as soon as the first week of taking sertraline.
However, mood-related symptoms of depression such as feelings of sadness and lack of interest in doing activities you once enjoyed may take up to six to eight weeks to improve. Zoloft may have adverse drug interactions with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Taking Zoloft at the same time as over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen can cause an increased risk of bleeding if used over a long period of time.
Speak to a healthcare provider to determine whether Zoloft is right for you.