Zoloft is the trade name for sertraline hydrochloride. It is an anti-depressant of the SSRI family - Selective* Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors. It is supposed to function by blocking the reuptake of serotonin from the blood stream into cells, thus raising the serum serotonin level.*

Yes, it has side effects. Yes, these can include nausea, headache, drymouth, sexual dysfunction, and in my case, mild lockjaw(!). Withdrawal from Zoloft is not as difficult as has been made out here, as long as it's done properly! You can't just stop taking it; you need to titrate your blood levels down slowly. Your brain becomes accustomed to a serum serotonin level when you're on it (your body and brain adjusting are what cause most of the side effects while you get acclimated) and suddenly stopping all intake of it can cause massive brain chemistry shifts which are almost always bad.

So why take it?

If you've never been depressed, then I envy you, and you have every natural reason to ask this question. You will never, however, understand the answer. If you've been depressed, then you know the answer. Although I firmly believe this to be true, I'll try to explain anyway.

Depression is a physical condition, in some cases. It can be observed in, if not traced to, blood chemistry. Depression, if you're fortunate enough to not know what it's like, is not simply feeling blue. Everyone goes through that at some point. Rather, it is a condition in which the very act of getting up off a bench on which you've spent the entire afternoon, miserable, watching people go by who seem to be reasonably happy, is a physical impossibility; your muscles won't move. It's like being so tired you can't close your eyes.. There's no reason for anything, much less for you to do anything. Have you ever looked at your calendar for the next three or four days and frowned because you realize you have nothing fun written there? Perhaps due to a deadline? Imagine feeling this way about every hour of the day, asleep or awake, for the next twenty years. This may begin to give you a slight understanding of what true depression is like. My personal favorite representation of depression in a visual form is the painting Automat by Edward Hopper.

I'll stop here, because I'm sure, even though I haven't looked, that there are multiple nodes out there doing a better job of explaining this; depression, you see, is not an uncommon malady.

Now imagine that there is a drug which can make you functional. You can think about the future without it appearing to be an empty pit with nothing to look forward to. The very thought of getting up is followed almost immediately by the action, with no disconnect between the two. You have to stop and think for a moment to recall what it felt like, sitting on that bench. Given this, the price in side effects may seem rather small. The effort and inconvenience of always having the stuff available may not be such an onerous burden after all.

This drug is not for everyone. It's not even for everyone who's depressed; its use is indicated in very specific circumstances. However, if you do suffer from this condition, and are fortunate enough to respond properly to Zoloft, then you may consider yourself extremely lucky to have it.

I know I do.

Spuunbenda: I would be very careful with the writings of Andrew Weil. He's (IMNSHO) a fairly dangerous quack, preferring alternative medicine without scientific inquiry over tested medical science.

Ahab: Don't get me wrong! I'm all in favor of the stuff; it's saved most of my life.

ryouga: Hmm. Well, I suggest you tell the next person you meet with bipolar disorder (a chemical-based mood-related problem) to just suck it up and see where that gets you.

*: I'm grateful to j3z for two corrections, one made here and one not; I had originally thought it was Serum Serotonin Reuptake..when in fact it's Selective Serotonin...etc. This is a critical difference, and I've made the change. Also, apparently (according to j3z) my assertion that it blocks serotonin reuptake into cells, thus raising blood serotonin levels, is not supported by medical evidence. I'm inclined to trust the correction; I leave my original version here as another possible explanation since the actual mechanism has apparently not been proven.

Other nodes of mine concerning this stuff: