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Zoloft Withdrawal

Hello, all-  

I just joined this community today after having read several posts from people who have had negative experiences trying to discontinue using Zoloft.  However, besides tapering, I didn't see much advice regarding what to do about extreme withdrawal.

I've taken Zoloft for Generalized Anxiety Disorder for almost 3 years.  I quit cold-turkey exactly one week ago.  I know this isn't advisable, but I've attempted to wean myself off the medication twice already--once last December, over a course of two weeks, and again last April over a course of 6 weeks.  Both times I tapered off of my 100mg dose slowly, and both times my discontinuation symptoms were so intense (with no difference between the two different tapering schedules) that I had to resume taking the drug. My symptoms are no worse this time either, but I don't know what to do to manage them--perhaps that is why I was never able to quite before.  

I have the standard hot/cold flashes, electric zaps, nausea, exhaustion, vivid dreams, and INTENSE light sensitivity.  The symptoms have not decreased at all, and because I am a teacher and a coach, they are starting to impact my everyday life.  Although I have been able to control my reactions to these symptoms while at work, I usually fall apart as soon as I get home, and this is effecting my marriage.  My poor husband has really had enough of my outbursts and tantrums.  All I want to do is sleep.  Even though I'm getting 6-8 hours most nights (more on weekends), I'm crashing mid-afternoon, and I've actually fallen asleep at the wheel twice this week on a very short 20 minute drive home.  I fell asleep this afternoon after getting 10 hours last night and dreamt of passing out at work and then not being able to navigate through a dark, foggy cloud that encompassed me...

I refuse to go through the rest of my life using a drug that is so incredibly addictive that missing a dose can ruin one's day, but I don't know how to get through the next few weeks.  I feel like I should be in rehab., and I'm seriously considering calling in sick tomorrow...maybe this counts as sick...

Please help!
10 Responses
370181 tn?1428180348
Well, you said it yourself, quitting a med like Zoloft cold turkey is most definitely NOT advisable. Your other two attempts probably failed because you went too fast. Tapering off any psychiatric med should be done only under the guidance and supervision of your doctor. And that's who I recommend you get in to see as soon as possible.
He/she may put you back on the med until you stabalize and then work out a taper plan.
If you are at the point that you've fallen asleep at the wheel twice, I think calling in sick would be the safest thing for you and everyone else on the road.
I wish you the best and the peace you seek.
Avatar universal
Fish oil is said to help with the brain zaps.  St. John's Wort is said to help with some of the emotional part of withdrawal.  Keep in mind that the taper depends on the person; some fly by, some take forever.  But if you're going to continue with your cold turkey attempt because tapering didn't work, the above remedies might ease it a little.  Something else some psychiatrists try with short half life ssris such as Zoloft is, as you're tapering off the Zoloft, they'll add Prozac.  The reason is that Prozac is a long half-life ssri and is therefore easier to taper off of.    Personally, I'm with Greenie, I'd taper since you're experiencing some emotional stuff, but if you choose to tough it out it's certainly understandable given your lack of success so far.  Good luck whatever you try.
Avatar universal
I would have to agree with greenlydia.  Why would you try to wean yourself off of this by yourself?  I assume you are trying to taper through the advice of your prescribing doctor.  When I weaned off of Zoloft, I initially had a very hard time and decided to go back to the doctor and asked if I could go on a much slower taper which helped tremendously.  My mantra has always been, 'the slower the better.'  Keep us posted!
Avatar universal
Thanks for the comments.  I know I should head in to see my doctor.  The only reason I didn't is that we are military, and my prescribing doctor has been relocated.  I'm not sure who my new provider is, and explaining my history of anxiety and failed attempts to wean off the meds makes me...you guessed it...anxious. :p  I'm going to try to make it through this week then suck it up and make that appointment if improvements don't come quickly.

I did go to work today, and until the afternoon, I was pretty sure that I was feeling much better, but just about all of my symptoms came back full-force around 5 pm.  I'm calling in tomorrow.

I haven't tried fish oil, but I will!  I've been taking a lot of B12 and a general multivitamin.  I've also started a regimen of Panicyl...an herbal antidepressant recommended by a friend.  Has anyone else used this supplement?  If so, what were your results?  I do feel less anxious than I did on my last two attempts to quit Zoloft, and I think I can attribute it to Panicyl, as nothing else has changed. Just about all of my discomfort is physical, and even the crying and crankiness don't feel anxious...just tired...if that makes sense.  Even when I do see my doctor, I'm pretty set on not going back on Zoloft.  At this point, I should be down to under 1% of the medication in my system--according to the 1/2 life for this particular med.   I would hate to start over, even for the sake of my responsible tapering.  
Avatar universal
I think if you search the archives there's a thread on Panicyl.
Avatar universal
Hi everybody, i have been on zoloft for 25 years. Finally 3 months ago i decided to abandon this medication as it has lift its efficacy and had made me numb.  The withdrawal symptoms have been disastrous.  I thought all withdrawal symptoms were gone when suddenly i had drowsiness and later vomited and felt weak all day long. It seems to me that the withdrawal symptoms continue for a long time. Some have subsided while others are emerging.

A truly sad state of affairs,



This is an old post, if you make a new one you might get more responses.  I would ask, are you saying you stopped this successfully 3 months ago -- I'm hoping after that much time on the med you tapered off very very slowly and didn't quit quickly -- and have been symptom free of withdrawal since you stopped?  What symptoms are you having -- vomiting and drowsiness could just mean you have a virus, if all other withdrawal symptoms are gone.  The really bad withdrawals that last a long time feature things like getting emotional problems you never had before starting he med in the first place such as really really bad anxiety or depression, insomnia, disorientation, brain zaps, and such.  Again, if you've been symptom free for 3 months, the symptoms you're describing sound like a virus.  So again, what are the totality of symptoms you're suffering and how long after you stopped did the current symptoms start?  You really need to be sure this is from the Zoloft stoppage and not other things that happen in life.
The withdrawal symptoms have not subsided.  I have depression and anxiety snd choking sensation.  
That sounds pretty terrible and severe. Warrants a call to your doctor.  Going back on and titrating slower is often the help that is required. Withdrawal should get less and less per day.  Is there anyway you are having a resurgence of the anxiety symptoms though?
Avatar universal
I took Zoloft for a couple of years then quit and had no problems stopping.  I slowly tapered off with no issues at all.  Do not try to taper off too quickly.  Even if it takes a month to slowly reduce your dosage, you should be fine.  I started taking Zoloft because I was getting anxious  because I have this chronic disease, Interstitial Cystitis (IC), also known as Painful Bladder Syndrome.  I was stressed out going to doctors that did not really help me with my symptoms.  I eventually started a blog to share my story and hopefully give others support and encouragement.

Avatar universal
You are lucky that you had no withdrawal, i took it for 25 yrs and stopped it because it lost efficacy.  Now for the past 3 months i have gone through hell. But I am not giiving up and hoping to overcome these crazy  
Gosh, really sorry to hear that!  So, sometimes doctors will decide to titrate you off or take you off more slowly if someone has a lot of reaction to stopping the medication. they can give you a small dose and try to wean you off more slowly again??  What kind of withdrawal issues are you having and we'll try to talk you through.  :>)))  We want to support you!
Yes, please tell us what you mean by going through hell.  This could mean you didn't taper off slowly enough when you stopped -- and after that long a period of time on the med, your brain is bound to have a very hard time adjusting to operating without it again.  Maybe it can't.  But brains are very adaptable for the vast majority of people, but it helps to do this correctly and most docs do not know how to do this well and don't take the time to attend to you.  They therefore depend on you to tell them when it doesn't go well, they aren't going to telephone you and ask.  Here are your options:  wait it out and hope it goes away.  Live with it even if it lasts forever.  Go back on the drug at the last dose at which you felt fine and taper off more slowly.  I don't know of a fourth choice.  I don't know anyone who can tell you what's going to happen, as it's a very individual thing.  But all of this depends on what it is you're going through -- whether it's withdrawal, whether it's the original illness that was never fixed but only medicated rising up again, and whether it's the kind of withdrawal that tends to last or the kind that tends to go away.  Tell us more.  And tell your psychiatrist.  Peace.
And it does seem to be true, most people do get over it.  You just want to improve the odds to be the most in your favor.
Yes. Initially i was having dizziness,  electrical  shock in my ears and head, i would feel heaviness in my head, had diahrea, physical pain in abfomin, kidneys. Even when i did lab tests there was fluctuation in lab reading. Then of course the ocd for which i was taking zoloft has been ok, however as part of withdrawal or older depression, episodes of anxiety and severe depression emerged. Crying spills  is till going on. I think continuously of dying and eventual end of life without  having any physical illness. So folks it us a nightmare. I abandoned zoloft because after 25 yrs it has its efficacy
So, this is understandable that it was time to not take zoloft anymore if it wasn't working (meaning you were having a resurgence of the ocd and anxiety/depression you started taking it for?). Your options then were threefold . . . the one you went with which was to wean entirely off zoloft OR you could have increased your zoloft dose as that medication in particular is very often underdosed and third option would be to go to a different medication altogether.  

Zoloft and drugs like it in that class can 'poop out'. But that doesn't mean you still don't need treatment.  From what you describe, you may still need help for the mental health issues you experience.  They may have been made worse by the withdrawal it sounds like.  But you may need to stay in treatment either with a psychologist and/or a psychiatrist to see 'what's next' to help you along.  Tell me what you think of this!
I agree i need psychotherapy.  I had increased the amount, it did not work. That is why i had to abandon it.
One more thing , i think it has affected my immune system temporarily and i had fungus infection in ears that subsided. My blood test results aldo had some slight fluctuation. It us my opinion that my body us going through its homeostatic mechanism
I'm not sure what they're looking for in blood tests.  Withdrawal can't be found in a blood test, and everything you describe is classic withdrawal problems, and it sounds like you have a doozy of a withdrawal going on.  If it were me, I'd go back on the Zoloft at the last dose at which you felt fine and taper off of it even more slowly.  Many people who have been on these drugs for that long can take as long as a year to taper off, if that's what it takes.  Some of us just don't do this easily on some meds.  I've been on 4 antidepressants for long periods of time.  Three gave me virtually no withdrawals.  Paxil killed me.  Sometimes we meet one that is very hard on us.  I would say that if the emotional problems you're having are exactly the same as they were when you started the Zoloft, it's most likely a recurrence.  If they're a lot different, there are many more of them, and they have greater intensity, and especially if there's persistent insomnia, I would definitely consider going back on the Zoloft and tapering off more slowly.  Those crying jags, for example, if they're a new thing, are a symptom of a bad withdrawal that might be going badly.  The physiological stuff will probably dissipate with time, but you never know for sure.  The brain zaps and the dizziness might be helped some by taking a hefty daily dose of fish oil, but those symptoms are caused by serotonin receptors that shut down because they weren't needed when the Zoloft was running your brain trying to wake up and work again now that they're again needed.  I don't know how long your taper off was, but it clearly wasn't long enough for you and you're the only person that matter in this, not what others experience.  
Thanks very much
Try CBD/Hemp Oil, it works like magic to calm my brain down when I need to.
Avatar universal
Has anyone had increased heart rate with zoloft withdrawal or increased blood pressure
You need to talk to your doc if you are experiencing heart issues. The increased beat may be in your imagination so anyone's anecdotal evidence may also be in their imagination and when you put the 2 together to try to come up with a conclusion you wouldn't be correct.
Avatar universal
I had to restart zoloft could not deal with reemergence of ocd. It drove me crazy. This ti.e around it created massive anxiety attacks and then subsided. However each time i wake up from sleep i have palpitation
Are you having palps or just feel like you are?  Not the same thing.  If you think you're having a heart problem, we can't diagnose you and you can't diagnose you.  If that's what you think is happening you need to talk to your prescribing physician and see a doc about your heart.
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