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neurotic2k: cold turkey off sertraline (zoloft) 6 months


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Hello everyone, new to the forum and desperately need advice



I am a 27 year old male who stopped taking sertraline 6 months ago. I was prescribed 100mg of sertraline (Zoloft) and 3mg alprazolam (Xanax) as needed/daily for 8+ years. I am still taking 2mg xanax for anxiety that has become rather extreme as of late.


I have lead what many consider to be a privileged life, although the grass is always greener on the other side. While my parents loved me, and they always provided for me there was considerable tension and stress due to their tenuous relationship.


As a teenager I developed severe anxiety/depression that led me to become a recreational drug user. This soon escalated to full blown alcoholism and marijuana use/abuse. Suffice to say I ended up on probation and in and out of inpatient/outpatient facilities. I was court ordered to take Prozac at the age of 13, although I tried my best to avoid taking it eventually the stress got to me and I just wanted to feel better. This then lead to a number of medications that I can’t fully remember the dosages or for what length of time. Off the top of my head wellbutrin, Zoloft, paxil, busbar, a half dozen more and eventually seroquil during my last inpatient stay at the age of 15-16.


Things are kind of foggy after that point for obvious reasons, but I eventually had a severe panic attack at the age of 17-18 that landed me in the ER. I hyperventilated to the point that I lost feeling in my hands and feet, over the course of 20-30 minuets this spread to my limbs and then chest. When the paramedics arrived my blood pressure was something like 130 over 220 and I couldn’t move. They insisted that I must be on cocaine or some sort of amphetamine and drug tested me twice at the hospital to find nothing but marijuana in my system. After this terrifying episode I was given some xanax and sent home. I quit smoking pot and was prescribed Zoloft and klonapin/xanax which I’ve taken as prescribed until recently.


Over the years since then I’ve had several more bouts of heavy alcoholism and I even started smoking pot again once I realized that it was all in my head (go figure). I’ve dabbled in hallucinogens (which I recently discovered are mostly blocked by SSRI’s) not the best of ideas given my history I know… which brings me to today.


My anxiety around people escalated even with the medications and smoking marijuana but it was tolerable. I still live at home with my parents due to deep seeded irrational fears of driving (that’s another story), and I realized I needed a change. After much research I made a decision to stop taking my Zoloft around 6 months ago. I stepped down my dosage for a week or two then stopped altogether. About one month ago I had a really bad panic attack after taking one hit of marijuana. I took a half hour long shower to break the mental cycle and get feeling back in my hands and feet. I quit smoking pot again and I’ve been trying to restrict my xanax intake to 2 mg’s a day (that’s as far as I’ve gotten with that).



In the past month I’ve been going through hell I'm hypersensitive to everything, one or two drinks and my heart is pounding. I sometimes can’t smoke even half a cigarette due to my breathing becoming irregular, this normally would be fine except I’m addicted to them and that does not help my anxiety. I’m very sensitive to caffeine, I’ll drink one large cup of watered down coffee instead of my usual 2-3. Loud noises, violent movies, depressing things on the news, and being alone for extended periods can be almost unbearable. Most of these things have no rhyme or reason some days they’re really bad sometimes not so much. I have a hard time falling asleep and sometimes feel I can’t breath, I’ll wake up in panic mode and not realize why until I remember the vivid sometimes terrifying dreams I had. I’m dreaming every single night, sometimes many distinctive dreams in one night. I used to dream intermittently slightly remembering one or two a week. I realize from reading other blogs/websites that all these things are distinctive SSRI withdrawal symptoms, or I’m simply losing it again.


I have a decision to make about whether to start taking Zoloft again like my doctor wants me to or to somehow stick with this. I realize now I stopped taking Zoloft entirely too quickly, I barely stepped down at all considering how long I was taking it for. I don’t want to of gone through these past 6 months only to reaffirm my need for SSRI’s. I’ve read that because I basically stopped cold turkey I may be doing more harm than good, while at the same time starting a lower dose like 25mg 1st week 50mg 2nd week might not help at all because it’s already been 6 months. In about 3 weeks I’m going to be even more isolated than I already am for about 10 days and I fear that will push me over the edge into one or more hour long panic attacks.

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  • Moderator Emeritus

Hi n2k,


Welcome! I'm sorry you're going through all of this. It does seem you are in withdrawal. As you already know, you do have the symptoms.


Since you are hypersensitive, if I were you, I would be very cautious about reinstating Zoloft. I would only try an extremely small amount, if you decide to try it. This far out, it may or may not help.


Some people have used very small dosages of Lamictal and found some relief. Again, it may or may not help because everyone is different.


In the meantime, please browse the Symptoms and Self-care sub-forum for some ideas of how to cope with the symptoms you are having.


Thanks for joining us, we are glad you are here!



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  • Administrator

Welcome, neurotic2k.


I'll bet when you had that severe panic attack at the age of 17-18, it was the result of a medication change.


As tezza said, you've become hypersensitive to all neuroactive substances. Zoloft withdrawal syndrome put the icing on the cake.


It's possible a very small amount, perhaps 2mg Zoloft, might help, as reinstatement is the classic way of alleviating withdrawal syndrome. Then you'd stabilize on that for a few months or so and taper by tiny amounts off that dose. See http://survivingantidepressants.org/index.php?/topic/1441-tips-for-tapering-off-zoloft-sertraline/

This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity." -- Albert Einstein

All postings © copyrighted.

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Thank you both for the quick response, it took me three tries to finish typing the first post. My anxiety kept rising and I couldn’t keep my train of thought, I feared my panic would overtake me again. The same thing happened to me when I was reading through a blog by someone by the name of npath which in turn lead me to this site. I could only read the horror stories for 15-20 minutes until my anxiety started to overwhelm me.


I felt relatively fine this morning but it seems I need food to maintain my state of mind. If I don’t eat within 20-30 minutes after waking up my anxiety begins to set in. I just got back from a doctor’s appointment and had to wait a few extra hours for lunch. I felt cold and weak, as soon as I began eating I started to feel better, I still feel a little jumpy but I’m able to write this now. I was browsing through the descriptions of withdrawal phases and it seems hypersensitivity is the 3rd and final stage of withdrawal. Is this true? Will it last roughly as long as the first two? Or is this the final stage a longer duration?


Just when I think I feel better I feel worse, it’s maddening. I’ve read that exercise is recommended to elevate serotonin levels and dissipate cortisol. Due to severe muscle tension from a persisting shoulder injury I haven’t been able to maintain any workout routine. The pain in my back spreads to my chest and I can’t breathe right, this then precipitates a panic attack. Not to mention exercise will elevate my metabolism and possibly make maintaining my mood more difficult.

I am so desperate to have this over that I contemplate starting Zoloft again almost every day. How do I know this isn’t the real me. I was always anxious and high strung as a child and like everyone else who took these medications as early as late puberty I fear that this is what I’ve turned into. I feel fine for the most part when there’s someone else around to talk to but being by myself is just me myself and I, very scary.


Do you really think 2mg of Zoloft will do anything aside from placebo effect? That’s 2% of what I was taking. It sounds like your warning me of a possible psychotic break if I follow my doctors wishes to start at 25mg. I was thinking possibly 10mg? Then maybe go up from there slowly until the symptoms dissipate, only then following a very slow proper tapering process. Do you think my brain is craving it that bad? My major symptoms come into play mainly when I’m alone. While I have some caring parents and friends they have lives to live and responsibility’s to take care of, I am honestly terrified of 10 days of isolation… I used to enjoy being by myself. Some of the worst memories I have are from being in inpatient programs and hospitals… now I almost wish I could go somewhere and be trapped with strangers and in-turns who barely give a ****.


Like everyone else going through this hell I apologize for my apathy and thank you for your support and patience.

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  • Administrator

Yes, you might see some alleviation of symptoms at 2mg.


I suggest 2mg because if you are so hypersensitive you'll have a bad reaction to it, it won't be so bad. After a week on 2mg, if it seems to be helping, you can always increase it bit by bit to find the lowest effective dosage to reduce withdrawal symptoms.


If you are hypersensitive and started at 10mg or 25mg, if you have a bad reaction, it will be that much worse.


A bad reaction would be worse anxiety, panic attacks, etc. than you have now.


I didn't imply you would have a psychotic break. Lamictal is a drug that dampens the anxiety reaction. Sometimes when people are hypersensitive to reinstatement of an antidepressant, a small amount of Lamictal can reduce withdrawal symptoms.


Strenuous exercise often makes symptoms worse. Walking is a good exercise to help the nervous system heal, it doesn't increase adrenaline.


Please browse our Symptoms and Self-care forum to get an idea of how you can help yourself recover.

This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity." -- Albert Einstein

All postings © copyrighted.

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