Pharmacologic class SSRI, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.

Brand names Sertraline is sold as Zoloft in America and Lustral in Great Britain.

Indications Licensed to treat clinical depression.

Pharmacology Low serotonin levels were observed in depressed patients. Therefore, the SSRIs were developed, which prevent the body from reabsorbing serotonin, and so allow a higher level of it to build up in the brain.

Contraindications It really should not be given to patients under the age of eighteen. Few doctors seem to abide by this. It should certainly never be given to patients under the age of twelve. It should also be avoided by patients who are breastfeeding or pregnant, and those planning to have ECT. People who have had an adverse or allergic reaction to it in the past should not take it. Patients should stop taking sertraline if they have an allergic reaction or seizures.

Precautions It should only be given to elderly patients (over sixty) with close monitoring. It has been known to impair liver functions or cause liver damage. Obviously, any other physical or mental illness, or medical treatment, should be taken into account.

Interactions Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are the main one. SSRIs should not be taken within five weeks of MAOIs, and MAOIs should not be taken within two weeks of SSRIs.

Adverse reactions The most common are dry mouth, nausea, sexual dysfunction, diarrhoea, dizziness and altered sleep patterns. These are often temporary, and are common to all the SSRIs. More serious side effects can include chest pain, liver damage, seizures, hallucinations and altered senses and numbness. All SSRIs have been accused of leading to an increase in violent and/or suicidal behaviour in a small minority of patients. The plural of anecdote is not data, but equally the plural of denial is not disproof.

Additional information Sertraline is neither physically nor psychologically addictive. To my knowledge, fluoxetine (Prozac) is the only SSRI licensed to treat eating disorders, obssessive compulsive disorder and anxiety, but others, including sertraline, may be prescribed for them at the doctor's discretion. There is a get-out clause which, in the UK at least, allows a doctor to prescribe any medication he or she believes will help, whether it is licensed to treat that condition or not.

Date of most recent update August 3, 2002.

Sources:, those little leaflets you get with the pills, observation and experience. E2 FAQ: Prescription medications.