Symptoms of a Zoloft Overdose

In This Article

Zoloft (sertraline) is a popular medication used to treat an array of mental disorders and belongs to a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Zoloft is usually prescribed for anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It's also used to treat major depressive ​disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

zoloft overdose symptoms
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Overdosing

A person's tolerance for a particular drug depends on several factors, including age, body weight, overall health, and whether they've taken any other substances along with it. These variables make it hard to generalize whether a particular amount of Zoloft is potentially harmful. One dose of this drug may be exactly right for relieving symptoms for one person, while the same amount of medication could lead to an overdose in another.

If you think that you or someone else has taken an overdose of Zoloft, get help right away. If you're feeling suicidal, call your doctor, a suicide hotline, or emergency medical services.

Symptoms

Someone who's taken too much Zoloft could have any one or a combination of many potential reactions. However, there are a few symptoms of Zoloft overdose that are common. There are others that are less common but more severe, with medical consequences.

Common Symptoms
  • Sleepiness

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Dizziness

  • Fever

  • Confusion

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Agitation

  • Shakiness

Severe Symptoms
  • Fainting

  • Heart problems

  • Changes in blood pressure (higher or lower than normal)

  • Seizures

  • Delirium

  • Hallucinations

  • Stupor

  • Mania

  • Inflammation of the pancreas

  • Serotonin syndrome

Serotonin Syndrome

Too much Zoloft also can also lead to a life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome, in which dangerously high levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin build up in the brain. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include muscle rigidity, hallucinations, confusion, seizures, and coma. Serotonin syndrome is most likely to happen if another drug that affects serotonin has been taken along with Zoloft.

Getting Medical Assistance

It's important to note that if you or someone you know has accidentally taken a higher dose of Zoloft than prescribed, it's a good idea to get help right away before the drug has a chance to cause unpleasant or dangerous symptoms.

If a trip to an emergency room isn't possible for some reason, call your local Poison Control center. The staff there is trained to be able to assess your situation over the phone and give advice about what to do.

Poison Control is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, you can reach their toll-free national hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or by going to PoisonHelp.org. To save this information on your smartphone so you'll always have it handy, text "POISON" to 797979.

Information to Have Ready

When you go to the ER or call Poison Control, the more information you're able to provide, the more precise the treatment can be. It will be helpful if you have the following information available:

  • How much Zoloft was consumed (actual amount or your best guess)
  • The regular dosage (what the doctor prescribed)
  • The person's age, sex, and weight
  • How long it's been since the drug was taken
  • Any other drugs or supplements that may have been taken along with Zoloft
  • Whether there was the intention to commit suicide
  • Current symptoms

Treatment

If the overdose has been taken fairly recently, it may be possible to pump your or your loved one's stomach to remove any of the drug that hasn't been absorbed yet. Another option is to use activated charcoal, which will soak up any remaining medication in the stomach.

There's no antidote for a Zoloft overdose. This means the most that can be done is carefully monitoring your or your loved one's vital signs—heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure—and treating any problems that may arise. It's important to note that SSRIs like Zoloft rarely cause death, even with an overdose; most deaths are due to co-ingestion with other drugs. 

Next Steps

Following treatment for a Zoloft overdose, people generally make a full recovery once the drug has fully left their system. The next step is to make sure that an overdose does not happen again. 

If the overdose was accidental, your doctor will advise you on what to do next, which may involve switching to a different antidepressant or adjusting your dosage.

There are a few things you can do to prevent an accidental overdose:

  • If you happen to miss a dose of your medication, you should take the dose as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, however, simply skip the missed dose and take your next dose at your regular time.
  • You should never take two doses of Zoloft at the same time, as it can lead to an accidental overdose.
  • Avoid taking Zoloft with other prescription antidepressants.
  • Talk to your doctor about any other medications you may be taking.
  • Avoid recreational substance use to reduce the risk of overdose or interactions.

If the overdose was intentional, short-term treatment may involve hospitalization until the risk of suicide is no longer imminent. Zoloft use may be suspended and health professionals may advise switching to another type of antidepressant if sertraline has not been effective in reducing depressive symptoms. 

Long-term treatments may then involve the use of antidepressants, psychotherapy, and psychosocial support to address suicidal thoughts and symptoms of depression.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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Article Sources
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  1. ZOLOFT- sertraline hydrochloride tablet. U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health. September 20, 2019.

  2. Foong AL, Grindrod KA, Patel T, Kellar J. Demystifying serotonin syndrome. Can Fam Physician. 2018;64(10):720-727. PMID: 30315014

  3. Simon LV. Serotonin Syndrome. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), U.S. National Library of Medicine, NIH. Published September 29, 2019. 

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