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Depression often co-occurs with anxiety. For that reason, many anti-depressants are also anti-anxiety treatments. Zoloft treats depression, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
Back in the early 1970s scientists at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals were researching psychoactive compounds. They believed they had discovered a weak dopamine reuptake inhibitor they named tametraline, but the project was set aside when animal studies failed.
Years later, a different set of researchers, searching for something else, combined the original compound with other drugs and wound up with a serum serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that they later named sertraline.
After years of successful testing, this accidental discovery was released to the public in 1991 under the trade name Zoloft and has since made billions of dollars for Pfizer.
Zoloft is one of a group of antidepressants that work by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is manufactured in the brain and the intestines. While it is unclear how it works, serotonin is widely regarded as a chemical that is responsible for maintaining mood stability, social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory and sexual function.
Serotonin is also associated with depression. It is unclear whether decreased levels of serotonin contribute to depression or whether depression is actually the cause of decreased serotonin levels. Either way, it is believed that increasing the activity of serotonin in the brain helps improve mood levels.
The antidepressants in this class of drug cause the levels of serotonin in the brain to remain at higher levels by blocking the re-absorption of the neurotransmitter, once it has transmitted its neural impulse.
As with most drugs in this category, it can take 4 to 8 weeks before the patient will fully benefit from the medication. During this time other supportive therapies may be used, including other medications or psychotherapy.
For some, there may be a need to adjust dosage levels to gain the maximum benefit from the drug. When used as treatment for PMDD, these adjustments might be daily. Any dosage changes should be done in consultation with the prescribing prescription.
Do not stop taking Zoloft suddenly, as unpleasant side effects may occur. Discontinuing Zoloft should be done only under the supervision of a physician.
The medicine should be taken exactly as directed, and at about the same time each day. It may be taken with or without food.
Alcohol should not be consumed while using Zoloft, as it might increase certain side effects.
This medicine can cause a false positive drug screening test. Be sure to tell laboratory staff if you are subject to random drug screening.
Talk to your doctor before taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, celecoxib, diclofenac, indomethacin, meloxicam and others. Using an NSAID while taking Zoloft may cause bruising or bleeding.
Image courtesy Pfizer
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