Sertraline

  • It may take a week or two after starting this treatment before you start to feel the benefit. Do not stop taking sertraline, thinking it is not helping.
  • Tell your doctor if you feel that you are getting worse or if you experience any troublesome side-effects.
  • Sertraline may slow your reactions. If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines.
Type of medicine Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI)
Used for Depression
Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Panic disorder
Social anxiety disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Also called Lustral®
Available as Tablets

Anyone can develop depression. It can develop for no apparent reason or it may be triggered by a life event such as a relationship problem, bereavement, or illness.

Brain cells called neurons, release a number of chemicals which go on to stimulate other neurons leading to electrical impulses which result in many functions controlled by the brain. Serotonin is one such chemical in the brain. Once released, it stimulates other neurons and is then taken back up into the neuron cells and recycled. Antidepressants like sertraline increase the amount of circulating serotonin available in the brain. This may help depression symptoms in some people.

Although sertraline is often used to treat depression, it can also reduce the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder.

Before taking sertraline make sure your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are under 18 years of age. (Sertraline may be used in children from 6 years old in OCD but it is otherwise not recommended in children.)
  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you have heart, kidney or liver problems.
  • If you have epilepsy.
  • If you have diabetes.
  • If you have glaucoma (increased pressure in your eye).
  • If you have a bleeding disorder.
  • If you have ever had abnormally 'high' moods.
  • If you are being treated with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or to any other medicine.
  • If you have taken an antidepressant known as a monoamine-oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) within the previous two weeks.
  • If you are taking any other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines.
  • Before starting this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack.
  • Take sertraline exactly as your doctor has told you. It is usually taken once each day.
  • It is not important whether you take the tablets before, during or after meals.
  • Try to take your doses at the same time each day as this will help you to avoid missing any.
  • If you do forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If you do not remember until the following day, skip the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • You may feel that sertraline is not working for you straightaway. It can take a week or two after starting this treatment before the effect builds up and 4-6 weeks before you feel the full benefit. Do not stop taking it after a week or so, thinking it is not helping.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
  • You are advised not to drink alcohol while you are being treated with sertraline. Taking sertraline and alcohol may increase the chance that you experience side-effects.
  • If you have diabetes you may need to check your blood glucose more frequently, as sertraline may affect the levels of sugar in your blood. Your doctor will be able to advise you about this.
  • Do not drink grapefruit juice because it can affect the amount of sertraline your body absorbs.
  • Sertraline may cause your skin to become more sensitive to sunlight than usual. Avoid strong sunlight and sunbeds until you know how your skin reacts.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with sertraline.
  • There are several types of antidepressants and they differ in their possible side-effects. If you find that sertraline does not suit you then let your doctor know, as another may be found that will.
  • Do not stop taking sertraline unless your doctor tells you to do so. Stopping treatment suddenly can cause problems and your doctor will probably want you to reduce your dose gradually if this is necessary.
  • While you feel depressed or are taking sertraline, you may have thoughts about harming yourself or ending your life. It is very important that you tell your doctor about this if it happens.
  • If you are taking sertraline for depression, you should expect that a normal course of treatment will last for around six months after your symptoms have eased.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common sertraline side-effects What can I do if I experience this?
Feeling sleepy, tired or dizzy If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines
Dry mouth Try chewing sugar-free gum or sweets
Feeling or being sick, pain in the abdomen, diarrhoea, indigestion Stick to simple foods. Drink plenty of water if you are sick or have diarrhoea
Headache Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller. If the headache continues, speak with your doctor
Feeling restless, shaky, anxious, nervous or agitated This may happen when you first start taking sertraline but usually settles within a few days. If it becomes troublesome or severe, speak with your doctor
Difficulty sleeping, bad dreams, sore throat, weight loss, lack of concentration, eyesight problems, ringing in the ears, flushing, sweating, yawning, palpitations, constipation, difficulties having sex, change in appetite, muscle pains Speak with your doctor if any of these become troublesome

Important: if you develop any of the following, contact your doctor straightaway or go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital:

  • Any swelling of the mouth or face.
  • Any shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing.
  • An itchy rash.

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
  • Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that someone has taken an overdose of this medicine go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital at once. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
  • This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
  • Never keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
  • If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • British National Formulary; 62nd Edition (Sep 2011) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
  • Manufacturer's PIL, Lustral®; Manufacturer's PIL, Lustral®, Pfizer Limited, electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated August 2011.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Helen Huins
Last Checked:
15/12/2011
Document ID:
3430 (v24)
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