I was watching some news coverage on that case where a 16-year-old killed someone and the defense was the fact that this kid was on Zoloft. This made me a bit nervous and I’m wondering if you’d comment on whether or not Zoloft could cause this type of irrational behavior in a child, and if it’s safe to be prescribed to children or to nursing mothers for PPD?

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

Zoloft (Sertraline HCl) is a powerful medicine that has been used to treat depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress syndrome–all situations that by themselves can have worse side effects than Zoloft.

But, Zoloft can cause irritability and confusion in some, especially if combined with alcohol. Worsening depression and suicidality have been reported in some patients. About one in 20 people on Zoloft feel unpleasant mood changes, especially agitation or emotional instability.

Zoloft can be the best choice for some kids and for some nursing moms. It has brought about many excellent results in treating some serious medical conditions. But it shouldn’t be taken lightly–it is quite a powerful medicine.

Photo credit: Andrew Neel

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

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