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Is Zoloft (sertraline) a controlled substance?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on Nov 4, 2022.

Official answer


No, Zoloft (sertraline) is not a controlled substance. It is in an antidepressant drug class known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Zoloft is commonly used to treat depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other mood disorders. Doses should be stopped slowly to help prevent withdrawal symptoms. Zoloft can be used for long-term treatment if needed.

Zoloft has not been shown to be associated with drug abuse or addiction as occurs with drugs like opioid pain killers or sedatives. However, withdrawal symptoms are common with SSRI antidepressants if treatment is quickly stopped, and may include:

  • irritability or other mood changes
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • nightmares
  • headaches
  • paresthesias (prickling, tingling sensation on the skin)

Do not stop taking your medicine without contacting your prescriber first. Missing doses of sertraline may also increase the risk of your mental health symptoms or side effects returning.

Can I drink alcohol with Zoloft?

Even though Zoloft is not a controlled substance, mixing it with alcohol or illegal drugs may affect how you react to this medicine. Your medicine may not work as well and it may cause drowsiness, dizziness, or other side effects. Do not drink alcohol or use illegal drugs while taking this medicine.

You should also not drive, operate heavy machinery, or do other dangerous activities until you know how Zoloft affects you.

Does Zoloft cause false positives on a drug test?

Yes, Zoloft has been reported to lead to false positive results with urine drug screens for benzodiazepines and for the hallucinogen LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide). A false positive drug test is when the test reports the presence of an illicit or prescription drug in the immunoassay, even though the person has not used these drugs.

  • A retrospective chart review of data from 522 records spanning a two-year period attempted to determine the frequency of false-positive benzodiazepine urine drug screens associated with sertraline.
  • False positives were compared to pharmacy charts to determine patients with active sertraline prescriptions at the time of initial drug scree.
  • Of the 522 records,160 were later determined to be false positives by confirmatory gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Overall, 62 of those were associated with a benzodiazepine prescription. Of the remaining 98, 26 urine drug screens were associated with a sertraline prescription.

The manufacturer of Zoloft also reports false-positive urine immunoassay screening tests for benzodiazepines and state the finding is due to lack of specificity of the screening tests. False-positive test results for benzodiazepines may be expected for several days following discontinuation of Zoloft.

When initial screening drugs tests (called immunoassays) result in positive results, a second assay, called a Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) test is performed to confirm the results. Confirmatory testing greatly reduces the chance of a false positive, almost reducing the risk to zero.

While reports of false positives often appear in the literature, it is important to remember that different assays may be used and tests are often updated to minimize the risk from false positive screening results.

Be sure to list all the of the medications you take, including prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins, herbal or dietary supplements, to the site performing your drug screen.

Why is Zoloft prescribed?

Zoloft (sertraline) is a prescription SSRI antidepressant commonly used to treat:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

Related reading: How long does Zoloft (sertraline) take to work?

This is not all the information you need to know about Zoloft (sertraline) for safe and effective use and does not take the place of your doctor’s directions. Review the full product information and discuss this information and any questions you have with your doctor or other health care provider.

  • Zoloft (sertraine) prescribing information. Pfizer, New York, NY. Accessed Nov 4, 2022 at
  • Citterio-Quentin A, Seidel E, Ramuz L, et al. LSD screening in urine performed by CEDIA® LSD assay: positive interference with sertraline. J Anal Toxicol. 2012 May;36(4):289-90. doi: 10.1093/jat/bks031. PMID: 22511703.
  • Nasky KM, Cowan GL, Knittel DR. False-Positive Urine Screening for Benzodiazepines: An Association with Sertraline?: A Two-year Retrospective Chart Analysis. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2009 Jul;6(7):36-9. PMID: 19724768; PMCID: PMC2728940.
  • Doering, PL, Boothbay LA. Drug Testing in the Workplace: What the pharmacist should know. Drug Topics (Modern Medicine) 2003;147:63.
  • Brahm N, Yeager L, Fox M, et al. Commonly prescribed medications and potential false-positive urine drug screens. Am J Health-Syst Pharm. 2010;67:1344-50.

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