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Key Points

  • Zoloft® has a half-life of 24-26 hours but stays in the system for much longer.
  • An antidepressant in the SSRI family, Zoloft® causes an increase in serotonin in the brain.
  • Zoloft® is metabolized by your liver, where it is broken down into active metabolites.
  • You can develop substance dependence when taking Zoloft® which can include withdrawal symptoms if it is taken for a longer timeframe and stopped suddenly.

Zoloft® is an antidepressant used to treat depression and other mood and anxiety disorders. The average half-life of Zoloft® is 24-26 hours, and it can stay in your system for 5-7 days. Zoloft® can be detected using a urine, blood, saliva, or hair sample test.

What is Zoloft®?

Zoloft® is a type of prescription medication used to treat major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and social anxiety[1].

Zoloft® belongs to a family of medications called selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs increase the amount of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in your brain.

Zoloft® has a half-life of 24-26 hours and takes 5-7 days to leave the body. A half-life is the amount of time it takes for half the active substance in a drug to leave the body. Zoloft® is detectable in urine, blood, saliva, and hair samples over time.

How is Zoloft® Taken?

Zoloft® is prescribed in 50 mg-200 mg doses. Zoloft® is taken in pill form or as a concentrated liquid diluted before being ingested. Zoloft® is taken with or without food once daily, either in the morning or at night.

For some illnesses, like premenstrual dysphoric disorder, Zoloft® is taken on select days over the course of your cycle.[2]

When you first begin taking Zoloft®, your doctor may gradually increase the dose over a period of weeks.

What Are the Side Effects of Zoloft® Use?

What Are the Side Effects of Zoloft® Use?

The following Zoloft® side effects are common:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased sweating

Serotonin syndrome is a rare but serious side effect associated with Zoloft® usage. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include shivering, diarrhea, muscle tightness, and seizure. Serotonin syndrome is deadly if left untreated.

How Long Does it Take For Zoloft® to Leave the System?

The half-life of Zoloft® is 24-26 hours, and it can stay in your system for 5-7 days. Zoloft® is metabolized in the liver, leaving behind desmethylsertraline, an active metabolite of Zoloft®[3]. Desmethylsertraline has a much longer half-life of 56-120 hours[4] and can stay in the body for at least 12 days and up to an entire month.

Factors Affecting How Zoloft® Leaves Your System

The half-life of Zoloft® is not dose-dependent, meaning it is unaffected by the dose you are taking. Liver health plays a large role in how quickly Zoloft® remains in the body. Impaired liver health slows down the metabolization of Zoloft®, which means it takes longer for your body to excrete the drug.

Age is another factor that influences the time it takes for Zoloft® to leave your system. While the half-life for Zoloft® is the same for children and adults, one study[5] found that the half-life of Zoloft® can increase in elderly populations.

Does Stopping Zoloft® Cause Withdrawal Symptoms?

Yes, it’s possible. If you have developed a dependence on the prescription medication, you may experience withdrawal if you stop taking it suddenly.

Zoloft® should only be discontinued under the supervision of a medical professional. Your doctor may choose to gradually decrease your dose. If you have taken Zoloft® for a long period, your withdrawal symptoms may be more intense or last longer.

Common symptoms of Zoloft® withdrawal include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Chills or sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Vivid dreams
  • Electrical zaps (also called “brain zaps”)
  • Mood swings

If you experience seizures, suicidal thoughts, muscle rigidity or a high fever, these are serious symptoms and you should seek medical attention immediately.

Can You Be Tested for Zoloft®?

Although testing for Zoloft® is rare, your doctor may ask you to complete one of the following tests if drug misuse is suspected.

Urine Test

A urine sample test is used to determine whether Zoloft® is present in urine. Your sample will likely be taken at a doctor’s office, at work, or at the lab testing site. On average,

Zoloft® is detectable in urine for up to four days.

Blood Test

Blood tests are used less frequently but provide more accurate results than other types of tests. A blood test can detect Zoloft® for up to eight hours after it was last taken. If you have taken Zoloft® for an extended period of time, a blood sample might show positive results for several days.

Saliva Test

Oral fluid screening is a less common method for detecting Zoloft®. A swab is placed against the cheek to absorb saliva, which is then tested for the presence of Zoloft®. Zoloft® remains detectable in saliva for up to two days.

Hair Test

Hair follicle tests for Zoloft® can show use over the last 90 days. Hair is taken from the head close to the root or from any other unshaved part of the body.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column]

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about sertraline.

It is important to talk with your healthcare provider about taking Zoloft® during pregnancy. Research has found that if Zoloft® is taken in the second half of pregnancy, the fetus’s risk of developing pulmonary hypertension is increased by less than 1%. 

However, major depressive disorder also has detrimental effects on the health of the mother and the fetus. It’s important to discuss all potential options and implications with a physician before taking or stopping Zoloft®.

Zoloft® is not considered an addictive drug. You may find at some point while taking Zoloft®, you need to increase your dose. Your doctor will work with you to make dosage adjustments as needed. Zoloft® misuse can present aggression, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and paranoia.


Zoloft® is used to treat major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder. 

Your doctor may also prescribe Zoloft® “off-label” to help treat binge-eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, headaches, or generalized anxiety disorder.

Zoloft® shouldn’t be taken with some types of medication, including MAOIs and St. John’s wort, as they increase serotonin levels. High levels of serotonin can cause serotonin syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal condition that requires immediate medical attention. Alcohol should also be avoided when taking Zoloft®.

Avoid these medications when taking Zoloft®:

  • MAOIs (antidepressants)
  • St. John’s wort (herbal supplement)
  • pimozide (antipsychotic)


Zoloft® is safe for long-term use when taken as prescribed.

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[1]Sertraline (Zoloft®). NAMI. (2023, January). Retrieved from®) on June 19, 2023 

[2]U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2022, January 15). Sertraline: Medlineplus drug information. MedlinePlus.Retrieved from on June 19, 2023

[3]Sertraline. Uses, Interactions, Mechanism of Action | DrugBank Online. (2023, June 16). Retrieved from on June 19, 2023

[4]Huddart, R., Hicks, J. K., Ramsey, L. B., Strawn, J. R., Smith, D. M., Bobonis Babilonia, M., Altman, R. B., & Klein, T. E. (2020, February). PharmGKB summary: Sertraline pathway, pharmacokinetics. Pharmacogenetics and genomics. Retrieved from on June 19, 2023

[5]Li, C. H., Pollock, B. G., Lyketsos, C. G., Vaidya, V., Drye, L. T., Kirshner, M., Sorisio, D., Bies, R. R., & DIADS-2 Research Group. (2013, February). Population pharmacokinetic modeling of sertraline treatment in patients with alzheimer disease: The DIADS-2 study. Journal of clinical pharmacology. Retrieved from on June 20, 2023 

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