How Long Does Zoloft Stay in Your Body?
Zoloft (sertraline) is a commonly prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medication for the regulation of serotonin levels in the brain. Sertraline helps limit the reabsorption of serotonin by the brain’s neurons, and it can alleviate such mental health conditions as:
- Major depressive disorder, or MDD
- Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD
- Panic disorders
- Social anxiety disorders
Many people have experienced positive mental health effects after starting this antidepressant. Due to various complications, however, some individuals choose to stop taking this prescription.
Like any medication, it doesn’t affect everyone the same — especially when weaning off the antidepressant without first considering how long Zoloft stays in your body. Zoloft withdrawal symptoms are possible and can be difficult to manage without the help of an experienced medical detox team.
Employed individuals or those searching for work may also wonder if this prescription antidepressant will show up on a drug test. The answer is a little complicated and depends on several factors, such as an individual’s age or weight, as well as the drug’s half-life.
What is Zoloft’s Half-Life?
The half-life of any medication is how long it takes for half of the medication to leave the body.
Zoloft’s half-life is approximately 32-36 hours. So, in that time, half of the sertraline will leave a person’s body, leaving 50% remaining. In another day, the amount remaining decreases to 25%; the next day to 12.5%, and so forth until there’s no trace of Zoloft remaining.
The exact amount of time this takes depends on:
- The dosage taken
- How much has already built up in the body
- The person’s age, weight, and metabolic rate
- Other biological markers
Zoloft also contains a substance known as desmethylsertraline. This metabolite’s half-life is much longer, from 56–120 hours. Traces of it could therefore remain in the patient’s system for a much longer timeframe.
How Long Does Zoloft Stay in Urine, Blood, Saliva, or Hair?
While the length of time it takes for Zoloft to be eliminated from the body may differ somewhat between individuals and is linked to the drug’s half-life, detection varies widely depending on what’s tested: urine, saliva, blood, or hair.
Zoloft is undetectable in saliva rather quickly. Saliva only retains traces of sertraline for up to 48 hours after the last dose.
In a blood test, sertraline is virtually undetectable in a blood test at five days since last dose.
Finally, as with any medication or substance, hair retains detectable traces much longer. Zoloft can be found in hair samples for several weeks and as long as a few months.
Now, sertraline and other antidepressants are not included in the types of drugs that drug tests look for. However, false positive test results for other medications such as benzodiazepines have occurred with urine testing and may be attributable to the metabolite desmethylsertraline mentioned above. This could present a problem for individuals who must submit to drug testing, whether for employment, part of court-ordered drug testing, or some other reason.
What Can Affect How Long Zoloft Stays in Your Body?
The sertraline half-life noted above is a range that varies between individuals and even scientific studies. Many factors can influence how long it takes Zoloft to leave the system, such as:
- Dose. Sertraline is prescribed in doses of 50 milligrams to 200 milligrams per day. An individual’s dose greatly influences the time needed for the medication to be completely eliminated. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but a person who takes 50 mg of Zoloft per day typically can eliminate that dose faster than a person who takes 200 mg each day.
- Physiology. At the same time, two individuals prescribed 50 mg of sertraline per day may eliminate the drug’s traces at entirely different rates. Age, weight, gender, and genetics all play a role. For instance, young patients with higher metabolisms often eliminate Zoloft much faster than older patients.
How Does a Drug Test Detect Zoloft?
The short answer is it doesn’t. Drug screens don’t test for antidepressants because they aren’t classified as controlled substances.* But, as mentioned above, antidepressants sometimes create a false positive test for other drugs, although it’s not frequent,
A false positive can occur when a substance shares chemical similarities with a substance often abused. Most drug screening tests don’t have the sensitivity to distinguish between some prescriptions and typically misused drugs.
For example, tricyclic antidepressants, such as Serzone, Prozac, and Wellbutrin, can return a false positive for their resemblance to amphetamines.
*Note: The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) is currently evaluating the need for regulation of the antidepressant medication class of drugs.
How Long Does It Take to Stop Feeling the Effects of Zoloft?
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), around 20% of individuals experience Zoloft withdrawal symptoms when stopping this medication or lowering its dosage.
Medications with short half-lives can present the potential for greater withdrawal symptom sensitivity. Zoloft’s 32-36-hour half-life presents a moderate risk for withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms, also called antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, can begin within a few days after a person stops taking it. These effects can last for one to three weeks, depending on variables explained above, including the length of time the individual has been on Zoloft. Completely ceasing Zoloft suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms to persist for several weeks, and for some individuals, withdrawal symptoms can last as long as a year.
Commonly reported withdrawal symptoms after tapering or stopping Zoloft doses can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mood swings
- Ringing in the ears
Zinnia Health Can Help
Your mental health is important. If you think you have a depressive disorder, seeking help from a medical professional can help minimize your suffering with a proper diagnosis and medication.
If you or someone you know is suffering from a Zoloft addiction, Zinnia Health can ease your suffering and help you regain your quality of life. Whether you need help adjusting to Zoloft or have recently tapered or stopped your sertraline doses, you may benefit from medically assisted detox or a therapy program. Contact the team at Zinnia Health or call (855) 430-9439.