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Zoloft Addiction: Can it Happen?

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Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders in the United States. Antidepressants like Zoloft are some of the most commonly prescribed medications used to treat depression. Like all prescription drugs, it is possible to abuse antidepressants – but can you get high off the drugs? Can an addiction to Zoloft develop?


ZoloftZoloft, also known as sertraline hydrochloride, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that is taken orally for the treatment of depression.[1] Dosage ranges from 25 to 200 milligrams depending on the patient’s symptoms and may also be prescribed in combination with other antidepressant drugs.

Like all SSRIs, Zoloft works in the brain by barring the re-absorption of serotonin, a feel good chemical, after it has been released. The buildup of serotonin can help to improve the mood of the user. However, it can take weeks or months for SSRIs like Zoloft to create this effect in the user, and when it does occur, it is not experienced as a rush or a high but as a much more understated lack of depression.


There is very little in the way of scientific research that looks at Zoloft as a drug of abuse or an addictive drug. In fact, most studies of the medication explore how it affects users who take it in recovery for various ailments.

One recent study looked at whether or not patients in recovery for alcohol abuse and addiction would benefit from taking Zoloft and naltrexone, a drug that may diminish cravings for alcohol during detox during the early months of alcoholism treatment.

Another study sought to determine whether or not it would be helpful for patients dealing with depression after methamphetamine addiction. As yet, there have been no studies exploring Zoloft as the drug of choice for the addicted person.

Abuse of Zoloft

There is no concrete evidence that the abuse of Zoloft results in a high for the user, but there is also no solid evidence to the contrary.[2] Some say it is possible to abuse the drug by first crushing and then snorting it. If exceptionally large amounts of Zoloft are used in this way, the person may experience a high. Others report that this practice results in no feeling at all or else an experience that is painful or annoying. It has been noted that use of illicit substances while taking Zoloft may render the medication ineffective and worsen the side effects. Additionally, according to the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, combining alcohol with SSRIs like Zoloft can impair cognitive and motor functioning.

The Nature of Addiction

A drug’s high abuse potential cannot determine whether a person will develop an addiction from that drug. Users who stop taking Zoloft do not generally experience the physical withdrawal symptoms associated with addiction.

But because use of the medication is connected to a generally improved sense of well-being, it is possible that some patients may develop a psychological dependence on the drug.

This can lead to feeling uncomfortable or agitated at the idea of not having the substance.

Psychological dependency is no small issue and can be problematic for patients who suddenly find themselves unable to fill their prescription for some reason.

Will Treatment Help Your Loved One?

For someone living with moderate to severe depression, substance abuse can quickly become a problem. Rather than allow medications like Zoloft to do their job, some patients turn to alcohol and drugs in an attempt to self-medicate. If this describes your loved one’s situation, we can help. Contact us at Michael’s House today at 760.548.4032 to discuss the dual diagnosis treatment options available and how they can help your family member learn to live a balanced and drug-free life.


[1] The Mayo Clinic. “Sertraline (Oral Route),” March 1, 2017. Accessed April 24, 2017.

[2] Lauren Villa, MPH. “Zoloft Use in Substance Abuse Treatment,” Accessed April 24, 2017.