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Sertraline (SSRI)

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Sertraline is an antidepressant, used to treat symptoms of depression. It works by affecting the level of serotonin in your brain, altering your mood.
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What is Sertraline?

Sertraline is an antidepressant. It is used to treat depression and control its symptoms. Depression is where a person is consistently unhappy or sad for an extended period of time, often over weeks or months. This is usually due to no particular reason.

Depression is a mental health problem and can have a dramatic impact on a person’s quality of life. It can cause a loss of appetite, a loss of sexual desire, physical aches and pains, up to the point where a person may feel like harming themselves or commiting suicide.

Sertraline is a prescription only medication, and comes in tablet form. It can also be used to treat social anxiety disorders, panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD.)

Women may be prescribed Sertraline to treat premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Sertraline is also available under the brand names Lustral and Zoloft. The active ingredient within Sertraline is Sertraline Hydrochloride.

For further information, you should read the patient information leaflet here.

How it works

Sertraline is one of a group of antidepressants called SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. It works by affecting levels of serotonin in the brain. It is believed that increased serotonin can improve mood and behaviour, so by increasing the level of serotonin in your brain, SSRIs can reduce the effects of depression.

Sertraline can take between four and six weeks to begin working. It comes in 50mg or 100mg tablet strengths.

Before you take it

If you are pregnant, or plan to become pregnant, it is very important that you check with your doctor before taking Sertraline. Sertraline has been linked with a slight increase in potential problems for an unborn baby. However, if your depression is left untreated, this may also cause problems for your baby. Speak with your doctor, who will be able to determine if it is suitable for you to take this medication while pregnant.

If you become pregnant while taking this medication, do not stop taking your medication without consulting your doctor first. Sertraline can cause withdrawal symptoms. However, Sertraline is one of the safest antidepressants to use while breastfeeding, and has been used extensively by breastfeeding mothers without issue. It passes into breast milk in very small quantities, which is unlikely to cause harm to your nursing baby. If you’re unsure, ask your doctor or healthcare professional.

Some patients report difficulty concentrating while taking Sertraline. You should avoid doing anything that requires heavy concentration, such as driving or operating heavy machinery, until you are fully aware of how Sertraline affects you..

Sertraline is safe to take long-term, and will not cause any harmful or adverse effects if taken for an extended period of time. There is a link between long-term Sertraline usage and an increased risk of diabetes, however your doctor will regularly monitor you for this. Sertraline may also affect your appetite, causing you to feel more hungry than usual, so there is a possibility of increased weight gain.

Sertraline does not affect any type of hormonal contraception. This includes intrauterine devices, contraceptive pills, contraceptive implants or emergency contraception such as the morning after pill.

You’re able to drink alcohol while taking Sertraline, but it may make you feel sleepy. You should avoid drinking alcohol until you know fully how the medicine affects you, and should always consume in moderation while taking Sertraline.

If you are taking other antidepressants alongside Sertraline, this can increase the risk of serotonin syndrome (too much serotonin in the brain.) Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include fast heart rate, changes in blood pressure, and seizures, among others. Talk to your doctor before taking Sertraline if you are taking other antidepressants. The herbal remedy St John’s Wort can also increase levels of serotonin, and should not be taken with Sertraline.

There is a risk that Sertraline can interact with other medicines. You should tell your doctor before taking Sertraline if any of the following apply to you:

  • If you are taking pimozide, or any drug that causes blood thinning (warfarin/aspirin)
  • If you are taking any NSAID, such as ibuprofen or diclofenac
  • If you are taking any other SSRI antidepressants, such as citalopram or fluoxetine
  • If you are taking rarely used antidepressants such as Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
  • If you are taking antihistamines, drugs for insomnia or any other drug that may make you drowsy, including some cold and flu medications that cause drowsiness
  • If you have kidney or liver problems
  • If you are diabetic
  • If you have epilepsy

This list is not exhaustive, and if you are still concerned about the effects of Sertraline if you are taking certain medications or have certain conditions, please speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

Dosage Instructions

Sertraline should be taken exactly as prescribed. For depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, the recommended dose is 50 mg daily. For panic attacks and social anxiety disorders, treatment should be started at 25 mg per day and increased to 50mg per day after one week.

You should take your Sertraline tablets once per day. You don’t need to take it at a specific time, as long as you take them at the same time every day. Take them by mouth only.

Sertraline tablets must be swallowed whole, with water. Do not crush, suck or chew them. You can take Sertraline tablets with or without food.

Sertraline is suitable for children and young adults aged between 6-17 to treat obsessive compulsive disorder. Your doctor will advise you of the correct dose to give your child. It is not suitable for use in anyone under the age of 18 for major depressive disorder. Discuss an alternative treatment with your doctor.

Common Side Effects of Sertraline

It’s possible for some people to have a severe allergic reaction to Sertraline. An allergic reaction is rare, but it is an emergency, and you should immediately seek medical help if you experience any of the following:

  • Skin rash, including blistering, peeling, swelling, redness or itching
  • Hives
  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest or throat
  • Swelling of your face

Sertraline also has the potential to cause serious side effects in some people. You should seek medical advice or contact your doctor right away if you experience any of the following possible side effects:

  • A runny nose or symptoms of a cold
  • Swelling of the face, including the eyes
  • Ear pain
  • Fast heart rate
  • Cold sweat
  • Involuntary muscle contractions
  • Painful erections in men or changes in menstrual periods in women

It’s important to note that as with most antidepressants, it may be the case that you feel worse before you feel better. This is normal and is not usually a cause for concern. However, if you notice changes in your mood, or you have suicidal thoughts or thoughts of hurting yourself, you should talk to your doctor or healthcare provider right away.

Less common, more mild to moderate side effects can also occur in some people. These are usually not a cause for concern, and should go away on their own as your body becomes used to the medicine.

  • Sore throat
  • Increased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Ejaculation failure in men
  • Palpitations or fast heart rate
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased sex drive

For a full list of possible side effects, please read the medication guide within the patient information leaflet or speak with your doctor or healthcare professional. Ask your doctor for help if you notice new or worsening symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can Sertraline be taken by children?

Sertraline is suitable for children aged over 6 years old to treat obsessive compulsive disorder. It is unsuitable for children to take to treat any other condition, including major depressive disorder. Do not administer this medicine to children for depression. You must follow your doctor’s instructions when giving this medicine to your child. We do not prescribe any medication to under 18s.

I’m pregnant. Can I use Sertraline?

Sertraline has been linked to a small increase in risk of problems in an unborn baby. You must speak to your doctor before taking Sertraline if you are pregnant, or become pregnant if you are already taking Sertraline. Your depression can also cause problems for your baby if left untreated, so your doctor will decide if the benefits of taking Sertraline while pregnant outweigh the risks.

Will Sertraline affect my contraception?

No. Sertraline will not affect hormonal contraception in women.

What happens if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose, this is not a cause for concern. Take your next dose as scheduled - skip the missed dose. Do not take more than one dose per day, and do not double up to make up for a missed dose.

What happens if I take too much?

Sertraline has the potential to cause serious side effects if you take too much. It may cause serotonin syndrome, a life-threatening condition. It can also cause fainting, changes in blood pressure and hallucinations. If you suspect you have overdosed on Sertraline, seek emergency medical advice immediately.

More Information
Dosage Instructions Please see medicine label for the dosage instructions.