When And How Can You Stop Taking Zoloft?

I have been on Zoloft (50mg) for more than a year. I am 38. Before taking the drug, I was always feeling down and had no motivation. Zoloft helped a lot. Now I am pretty happy. Everything seems manageable, and I am even back in college. Can I stop the medication? I find ways to fix my mood swings without a drug? Am I going to feel down again if I stop it?

This is a common question. After depression has been successfully treated with an antidepressant, what then? Should the drug be discontinued and when? Or should it be maintained in order to prevent a relapse or recurrence? This calls for consideration in each case, but some rough guidelines have been developed.

The common rule of thumb is that an antidepressant should be continued until the patient has been well for about six months, in order to minimize the risk of relapse. After that, if a person has had a single episode of depression, tapering and discontinuing the drug is a reasonable course to consider.

A person who has had three episodes is a candidate for long-term maintenance. Other factors that would argue for longer maintenance would be depth of depression, a suicide attempt, or a strong family history of depression.

This is not a decision a patient should make on his or her own. The desire to put the depression behind you and get off the drug, while understandable, is not a reasonable basis for action. Talk it over with your doctor.

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