Is Zoloft considered a narcotic? 

Is Zoloft considered a narcotic? 

No, Zoloft is not considered a narcotic and it’s not a drug of abuse. Zoloft doesn’t give you a rush of excitatory chemicals in your brain. People with depression wish it did. 

This is because Zoloft takes 4 to 6 weeks to kick in and can take much longer than that to make noticeable changes in your mental health status (1). 

The entire class of antidepressants in general do not cause addiction. People who do try to misuse them by taking a high dose are generally subjected to disturbing side effects, as antidepressants are not fast-acting and they need weeks to work. 

This is why antidepressants, including Zoloft, are not characterised as narcotics or scheduled drugs. Zoloft should not be combined with narcotics like Morphine, Codeine, Hydrocodone, etc or other controlled substances, like Amphetamines (like Adderall or Vyvanse), Methylphenidate, etc.

How is Zoloft different from narcotics?

Zoloft and narcotics are two different types of medications with distinct effects and uses. Let’s talk about the key differences:


Zoloft is an antidepressant medication that belongs to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class. It is primarily used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (1,2)

However, Zoloft does not help with typical mood disorders as it does not have that affect on your brain. For personality-related mood disorders, medications like Lithium and antipsychotics are used, which are different from Zoloft.

Narcotics, on the other hand, are pain-relieving medications used to manage moderate to severe pain (3,4).

Mechanism of Action

Zoloft works by increasing the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain, which helps regulate mood. It helps restore the balance of chemicals in the brain associated with mood disorders (1,2). 

Narcotics, also known as opioids, work by binding to specific receptors in the brain and spinal cord to reduce pain signals and provide pain relief (3,4).

Potential for Abuse

Zoloft is not considered an addictive medication and does not have the same potential for abuse as narcotics. (1,2)

Narcotics, however, have a high potential for dependence and addiction when used improperly or for prolonged periods.

They are classified as controlled substances due to their abuse potential (3,4) and also show up on a drug test. However, Sertraline can also be detected in a blood test and it may cause false positives in a standard 12-panel drug urine immunoassay.

Risk of Overdose

Zoloft, when taken as prescribed, has a relatively low risk of overdose. However, taking excessive amounts of Zoloft can still be harmful and may require medical attention (5). 

High therapeutic doses, like 100-200mg, may cause side effects. However, Zoloft is well-tolerated, and doses way higher than 1000 mg are associated with life-threatening side effects. However, overdosing could be different for different people.

Narcotics, on the other hand, have a higher risk of overdose, especially when taken in large doses or combined with other substances, which can lead to severe respiratory depression and even be life-threatening (6).

Withdrawal Symptoms

Abruptly stopping Zoloft can cause discontinuation symptoms, such as flu-like symptoms, dizziness, irritability, and mood swings. These symptoms are generally milder compared to the withdrawal symptoms associated with narcotics (7).

However, coming off Zoloft improperly can cause disturbing withdrawal symptoms in some cases.

Discontinuing long-term use of narcotics. on the other hand, can lead to significant withdrawal symptoms, including intense cravings, sweating, insomnia, anxiety, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal distress (8).

Legal Status

Zoloft is a prescription medication approved by regulatory authorities for specific medical conditions. It is not classified as a controlled substance and is legally available with a valid prescription (1). 

Narcotics, on the other hand, are controlled substances due to their potential for abuse and are regulated under specific laws and regulations (9).

Zoloft Vs narcotics: Basic differences in side effects

Zoloft and narcotics may cause some similar side effects, but the intensities and incidence can vary. Let’s look at the basic differences between the side effects caused by Zoloft and narcotics (1,3,4).

Side effectsZoloftNarcotics
Mood and Mental StateIncreased anxiety or agitation, nausea, diarrhoea, headache, dizzinessEuphoria, sedation, confusion, slowed breathing
Physical EffectsFatigue, insomnia, changes in appetite, weight gain or loss, sexual side effects (e.g., decreased libido, difficulty achieving orgasm)Constipation, dry mouth, sweating, pinpoint pupils
Addiction PotentialNot addictive; low risk of physical dependence or drug-seeking behavioursHigh potential for addiction, dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms
Risk of OverdoseLow risk, but excessive amounts can still be harmful and require medical attentionHigher risk, especially in large doses or when combined with other substances
Long-term EffectsGenerally safe and effective with regular monitoring by a healthcare professionalProlonged use may lead to increased tolerance, decreased pain control, and potential organ damage

Although Zoloft does not affect the brain the way narcotics do, this antidepressant can have its own dangers. Zoloft also comes with an FDA-issued black-box warning, as it can induce suicidal behaviour in individuals younger than 24 years of age.

Final words

To sum up, Zoloft is not a narcotic. It is entirely different from those drugs and is used for different therapeutic reasons. These medications can not be used as an alternative to one another. 

Make sure you take your prescription medication as properly as you can. If you’re concerned about your medications, please reach out to your doctor or pharmacist. 

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