Does Sertraline show up as a Benzodiazepine? (3+ studies)

In this article, we will answer the question, “Does Sertraline show up as a Benzodiazepine?”. We will discuss the mechanism behind the false positive result, what research has to say in this regard and the factors affecting such results. We will also discuss what to do if you receive and false positive result for benzodiazepines and how to prevent false positives while taking Sertraline.

Does Sertraline show up as a Benzodiazepine?

Yes, Sertraline may show up as a benzodiazepine during laboratory testing. Sertraline can cause a false positive response to benzodiazepines during drug testing. The FDA has also issued a warning of false-positive effects of the screening test for benzodiazepines (1).

Sertraline is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) approved by the FDA for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder (PD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) (1).

Benzodiazepines are a class of medications that can produce sedation or hypnosis. These are depressant drugs typically used in the management of anxiety, sleeping disorders and even seizures (2). 

What are false positive drug tests?

False positive drug tests are tests in which the presence of a drug or medication is shown, which in reality has not been consumed by the individual. Many different medications can cause false positive results.

Drug tests are fairly reliable but not 100% accurate. False positive drug tests may be rare but not impossible. The complete accuracy of the testing cannot be guaranteed. Drug testing may be conducted through urine, blood, saliva or even sweat samples. However, the most commonly used procedure is urine testing.

How does Sertraline trigger false positives for benzodiazepines?

The possible mechanism behind sertraline showing false-positive results on the drug tests for benzodiazepines can be the lack of test specificity. The low specificity of testing methods can lead to Sertraline causing a positive result for the presence of benzodiazepine (1).

Even if Sertraline is discontinued, it can show up as a benzodiazepine on drug tests for many days after the cessation of therapy. Tests like gas chromatography or mass spectrometry (GC/MS) can differentiate Sertraline from benzodiazepines (1).

What does research suggest?

Research studies report Sertraline to be the possible cause of false-positive benzodiazepine screening results.

A study assessing the frequency of false-positive drug test results of benzodiazepines reported that of all the cases studied, 26 cases were reported to be associated with false-positive results due to Sertraline usage (3).

Another research study assessing medications and their possible false-positive drug screens concluded that Sertraline can cause false-positive results for benzodiazepines. Three cases of adolescents were reported, showing false positives for benzodiazepines while taking Sertraline (4).

A clinical study examining the occurrence of false-positive results in individuals prescribed psychotropic medications reported that Sertraline can be considered the culprit in some cases showing positive results for benzodiazepines (5).

A research study assessing the common drug screening tests and the hindrance caused by false-positive results also states that Sertraline can show up in the form of a benzodiazepine on laboratory drug tests (6).

What factors can affect false positives for benzodiazepines?

Different factors can affect the occurrence of false-positive results for benzodiazepines while on Sertraline. Some of them are as follows:

Factor Details
Dosage The dose of Sertraline can be of great importance. Higher doses put you at a greater risk for Sertraline showing up in the drug screening for benzodiazepines.
Duration The duration for which Sertraline has been taken is crucial. Sertraline may cause a false positive result for benzodiazepines up to several days after discontinuation of therapy.
Individual variability Each individual may respond differently to each medication. Some individuals may see Sertraline give a false result, while others may not.

What to do if you get false positives while on Sertraline?

If you have tested positive for benzodiazepines and have not been using these medications, your results may be false positive. If you are on an antidepressant medication like Sertraline, it can be the cause of your false results.

Although rare, such a phenomenon has been previously reported with medications like Sertraline being the culprit. If you think that is the case, it is better to consult your healthcare provider for a detailed analysis of why this may be happening.

Techniques like gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS) are more accurate and can be performed to distinguish the causative agent of your false-positive results.

How to avoid getting false positives while on Sertraline?

You may not be able to completely avoid getting a false positive result while taking Sertraline, but it can be helpful to inform the healthcare provider ordering the drug screen, about the medications you are currently taking.

Drugs other than Sertraline can also cause false positives for medications. Medications like Hydroxyzine, Promethazine, Claritin, Claritin-D and allergy medications can cause a false positive test result for various drugs.

Understanding false positives while taking Sertraline

To the best of my knowledge and according to research, Sertraline may show up as a false positive for benzodiazepines on a drug screening test. The FDA has also warned of this potential interaction between testing.

The cause of Sertraline showing up as a benzodiazepine is attributed to the lack of specificity of testing methods. More precise testing techniques like GC/MS can distinguish Sertraline from benzodiazepines. It is important to inform the healthcare providers and drug testing authorities of the medications you are taking to avoid a false positive result and its consequences.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION. ZOLOFT® (sertraline hydrochloride) tablets, for oral use. Available from: 


Bounds CG, Nelson VL. Benzodiazepines. [Updated 2023 Jan 7]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:


Nasky KM, Cowan GL, Knittel DR. False-positive urine screening for benzodiazepines: an association with sertraline?: a two-year retrospective chart analysis. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2009 Jul 1;6(7):36.


Brahm NC, Yeager LL, Fox MD, Farmer KC, Palmer TA. Commonly prescribed medications and potential false-positive urine drug screens. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. 2010 Aug 15;67(16):1344-50.


Saitman A, Park HD, Fitzgerald RL. False-positive interferences of common urine drug screen immunoassays: a review. Journal of analytical toxicology. 2014 Sep 1;38(7):387-96.

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