Zoloft is a popular brand of an antidepressant drug in the United States. Also known by its generic form sertraline, the drug is being used for the treatment of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Because Zoloft is also being prescribed for the treatment of social anxiety and panic disorders, it is often compared to another popular anti-anxiety drug – Xanax. Xanax, which is a brand name of the drug alprazolam, belongs to the benzodiazepine class of drugs. Benzodiazepines, also called benzos, are psychoactive drugs used for anxiety, panic disorders, seizures, insomnia, and other conditions. Aside from Xanax, some other popular benzos include Ativan (Lorazepam), Valium (Diazepam), and Klonopin (Clonazepam).
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Benzos are notorious for being highly addictive. Many celebrities have confessed to being addicted to benzos and these drugs have also caused the death of some celebrities. What usually starts as a legit prescription turns into a benzodiazepine addiction that cannot be controlled. A study by the American Psychiatric Association found that there is an increasing use and misuse of benzos in the United States with 1 in 8 adults using these drugs.
If you are being prescribed Zoloft for anxiety or depression, you might be concerned whether this drug will also give the same effects as benzos do. Is Zoloft a benzo? Can you be addicted to sertraline or is that not a possibility?
Zoloft VS Benzos
Is Zoloft a benzo? The answer is NO, it’s not. Sertraline is an SSRI or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. When you take an SSRI drug like Zoloft, it helps improve your symptoms by increasing the serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a brain neurotransmitter, often referred to as the happy chemical, because it is responsible for moderating your mood, happiness, and sense of well-being. If you have low serotonin levels, this could cause your depression and anxiety. In short, taking an SSRI drug like Zoloft could help give you a positive mood.
Benzodiazepines function differently. Benzos increase the activity of the brain’s GABA neurotransmitter and this in turn could produce a calming effect. Taking a benzodiazepine could help you relax within an hour of use and the effects could last for hours depending on the type of benzo you take.
As SSRIs and benzos are two separate classes of drugs, they should not really be compared head to head. While the conditions that they are used for overlap, the methods the drugs are administered or prescribed are different. Zoloft is usually prescribed as a long-term medication. To get the effect from taking sertraline, a patient has to follow a treatment plan and not miss the doses prescribed by the doctor. Zoloft is not an instant treatment where you get the effect immediately as it takes time for it to be effective.
Benzodiazepines, on the contrary, are not recommended for long-term use. Because benzos can be highly-addictive, they are often prescribed as a short-term treatment when an immediate effect is needed. The abuse potential of benzos is very high so even if you have a legitimate prescription, you could be addicted to benzos very quickly and misuse the drugs.
Is Zoloft addiction possible?
Sertraline is not a controlled substance and according to a study, Zoloft “did not produce positive subjective effects (euphoria or drug liking) indicative of abuse potential”. This suggests that Zoloft has a low abuse potential because it does not seem to provide euphoric effects like other psychoactive drugs. Does this mean that it is safe to take Zoloft long-term? The answer is it depends. You should only take Zoloft if prescribed by a doctor. You should not self-medicate or take more than what was prescribed to you. While the addiction potential is low compared to benzos, it is possible to be psychologically dependent on the drug even if you no longer need it, especially if you have gotten used to taking it regularly.
Even if you are not craving the drug, the daily routine of taking the drug could become a habit that you cannot stop. It is also possible to experience withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop using Zoloft after a long period of use.
You should also be warned that using Zoloft recreationally or to get a high can be dangerous. Zoloft can deliver dangerous side effects such as suicidal thoughts, irregular heartbeat, abnormal bleeding, allergic reactions, and many more.
You could also overdose on Zoloft if you take too much of it. Some people who think that Zoloft is a benzo expect the same effect that benzos like Xanax or Klonopin deliver. When they do not get the same effect, they increase the dose or mix Zoloft with other substances like alcohol or other drug cocktails. Doing this could be catastrophic and could lead to serious consequences.
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