How Long Does Zoloft® Stay In Your System?

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?

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.

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