HeadMeds gives young people in the United Kingdom general information about medication. HeadMeds does not give you medical advice. Please talk to your Doctor or anyone else who is supporting you about your own situation because everyone is different. Please read more important details about our site.

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Sertraline

Return to Sertraline overview
  1. Use and Action
  2. Warnings and side effects
  3. Sex, drink, weight and everything else
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I have taken about eight different medications over the past five years as I battle my diagnoses

Sertraline can be used to treat the following conditions

Headmeds fills the medicines information gaps for young people - things you might want to know about meds like will it affect my sex life? Can I still study?  Can I drink?
Headmeds does not give medical advice so this is just general information.
Each medicine has a balance of good and bad effects, and each person gets their own individual effects.
You might want to know just one thing about your medicine, but on each page we have given you the ‘safety headlines’. Please read them as they are important.

We have included lots of information about each medicine - but if you want all the details, please look at the patient information leaflet - which is inside every pack. These leaflets are also at www.medicines.org.uk - where there will be the most up-to-date information. Please be aware that the leaflets will only refer to the licensed use for your medicine. The leaflet will not mention any 'off label' use - this includes 'off label' conditions and also 'off label 'age groups.

Safety headlines

  • If you have taken more sertraline than it said on the label, you must see a doctor quickly – even if you do not feel any different.
  • Whilst taking sertraline some people may think about hurting themselves or committing suicide. You must go straight to hospital with your tablets if you have any of these thoughts.
  • Sertraline can also cause rare but serious side effects: allergic reactions (difficulty breathing, swelling of your face or throat, itching skin lumps), a seizure (fit), serotonin syndrome (see “Warnings and Side Effects” section for description), and liver problems (which may present as yellowing of skin and eyes). Go to a hospital if you get any of these symptoms with your medicine.
  • Do not take sertraline if you have taken a monoamine oxidase inhibitor antidepressant (MAOI) like moclobemide, phenelzine, isocarboxazid or tranylcypromine in the last 14 days.
  • Stopping sertraline suddenly can cause unpleasant withdrawal effects - go to your doctor if you want to stop, or if you are having these effects. Sertraline is not addictive, however stopping it suddenly can cause problems such as: feeling dizzy or shaky, sleep problems (including difficulty sleeping and intense dreams), feeling irritable or anxious, feeling or being sick, and headaches - go to your doctor if you want to stop, or if you are having these effects.
  • You might feel sleepy or restless, and may not be able to see as clearly in the first few days after taking sertraline – do not drive a car, ride a bike or operate machines until you see how this affects you.
  • If you are pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, please read the pregnancy section (see “Sex, drink, weight and everything else”) because sertraline may affect the developing baby.

Basic details

Sertraline is a Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor

A Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SSRI) helps make more serotonin available in your brain.

You can take sertraline as tablets

Sertraline can be used to help with low mood (depression), OCD and conditions involving anxiety.

How does sertraline work?

Sertraline is a type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (chemical that relays signals between the cells in your brain). 

  • Medicines like sertraline are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) because they focus on increasing brain serotonin involved in nerve activity. They work by blocking recycling of released serotonin back in to the nerve endings
  • This means that the amount of serotonin is increased and the depression and low mood get better.

You should take sertraline as agreed with your doctor

  • You will get the best effects from your medicine if you take it every day.
  • Make sure that you know your dose. If it is not written on the label, check it with your pharmacist or doctor.
  • You will usually take it once a day. When you start treatment it is recommended that you take it in the morning and not at night, in case it affects your sleep.
  • To help you to take you tablet regularly you could choose a time that you can always remember. This could be a mealtime or when you brush your teeth.
  • You will start with a low dose that increases slowly to a dose that is effective for you. This may take several days or weeks.
  • You can take it with or without food.
  • Swallow the tablet whole with a glass of water - it tastes bitter if you chew it.
  • Do not drink grapefruit juice while you are taking sertraline - the juice increases the amount of sertraline absorbed from your gut.

Reference sources

Search www.medicines.org.uk to find patient information leaflets and prescribing information on sertraline. Only tablet preparations are listed. The SmPC lists all the inactive ingredients in the product so you can check against any allergies. If you are still unsure about this then speak to your pharmacist.

  • British National Formulary (BNF) and British National Formulary for children. Download the BNF/BNFC app (blue background) on to your mobile device. No longer available for public access via the web 
  • Taylor D, Barnes T, Young A. Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines in Psychiatry, 13th edition. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons, May 2018. ISBN: 978-1-119-44260-8
  • Royal Pharmaceutical Society. Medicines Ethics and Practice (42nd edition). London: RPS, 2018. Standards for pharmacists to work to. It is not a free publication
  • World Anti Doping Agency WADA Prohibited List https://www.wada-ama.org/en/resources/science-medicine/prohibited-list-documents 
  • Choiceandmedication; an independent source of information on many mental health conditions and their medicines with easy to read fact sheets www.choiceandmedication.org Personal subscriptions to download the app available for £1 per month (with proportionate discounts for longer periods) but your local mental health Trust may subscribe and provide information sheets for free.
  • Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS). Information sheets on drugs in pregnancy http://www.medicinesinpregnancy.org/ 
  • Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). Information on drugs in breastfeeding https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/newtoxnet/lactmed.htm