Xanax vs. Zoloft: What’s the Difference?

xanax and zoloft pills

Xanax and Zoloft are two commonly prescribed medications for anxiety disorder and panic attacks. Although similar, there are several differences between these two drugs. In this blog, we’ll explore the primary differences between the side effects of abuse, withdrawal symptoms, and medical uses of Xanax and Zoloft.

Xanax vs. Zoloft: What’s the Difference?
Xanax and Zoloft are both used to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks but Zoloft may also be used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). These two medications also belong to different drug classes. Xanax is a benzodiazepine and Zoloft is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant. Some of the side effects of these drugs also differ.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax is a brand name of the drug alprazolam. It is a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks. Xanax is classified as a Schedule IV drug, which means it has the potential for abuse and to cause physical dependence and addiction.

Xanax works by enhancing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA in the brain to produce feelings of calmness and reduce anxiety. Although Xanax is considered safe and effective, you may become addicted if you take it regularly for a long time. This is especially true if you misuse it in any way, such as:

  • Taking larger doses of Xanax than prescribed
  • Taking more frequent doses of Xanax than prescribed
  • Using Xanax with other prescription drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol to enhance its effects

Abusing Xanax with opioids is a common practice among people who use Xanax to get high. Unfortunately, it’s also a very dangerous practice. More than 30 percent of opioid overdoses involve benzodiazepines.1 Both Xanax and opioids are central nervous depressants so abusing them together can cause very harmful or life-threatening side effects including difficulty breathing or serious cognitive impairment.

Despite the serious risks of abuse, overdose, and addiction, data from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) revealed that 5.4 million Americans above the age of 12 misused prescription benzodiazepines like Xanax in the last year.2

People who misuse Xanax may use street names to disguise conversation. According to a 2019 report from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), some common street names or slang terms for benzodiazepines like Xanax include:3

  • Bars
  • Benzos
  • Blue footballs
  • Bricks
  • Handlebars
  • Planks
  • School bus
  • White boys
  • White girls
  • Yellow boys
  • Xannies
  • Z-Bars
  • Zanbars

How Long Does Xanax Stay in Your System?

Xanax usually stays in your system for about four days after the last dose.4 If you are drug tested, certain factors can influence the amount of time Xanax can be detected in your body, such as:

  • Your age
  • Your metabolism
  • Dosage amount
  • Frequency of use

Some other medications like Zoloft or Daypro can also produce a false-positive urine screening for benzodiazepines, so if you are being drug tested for work or a similar situation, you may want to let your employer know ahead of time that you are taking Xanax and/or these other medications.

Approximate Drug Test Detection Times for Xanax

Urine testDetectable for 5-7 days
Blood testDetectable up to 24 hours
Saliva testDetectable for up to 2.5 days
Hair follicle testDetectable for up to 90 days

Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25549207; https://www.verywellmind.com/how-long-does-xanax-stay-in-your-system-80348

Signs and Symptoms of Xanax Addiction

Similarly to other addictive substances, there are often noticeable signs and symptoms that may indicate an addiction to Xanax. Some common signs and symptoms of Xanax addiction include:

  • Having withdrawal symptoms when the effects of Xanax wear off or if you miss a dose
  • Having strong cravings and urges to take Xanax
  • Feeling like you can’t function normally without Xanax
  • Experiencing financial problems, stress in relationships, issues at work or school, or health problems due to your Xanax abuse
  • Needing larger or more frequent doses of Xanax to achieve the effects you desire (this is called tolerance)
  • Losing interest in your normal hobbies
  • Continuing to abuse Xanax despite all the problems it causes
  • Isolating yourself from friends and loved ones
  • Lying about your Xanax use
  • Hiding your Xanax use from friends and family

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

If you are physically dependent or addicted to Xanax, you may experience mild or severe withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it. Xanax withdrawal symptoms include:5

  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Uncontrollable twitching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Memory problems
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Impaired coordination
  • Blurry vision
  • Decreased appetite and/or weight loss
  • Blurry vision
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Increased heart rate
  • Suicidal thoughts

Quitting Xanax cold turkey can be dangerous, especially if you are severely addicted. Medical professionals recommend seeking professional help to detox before attempting to quit on your own. The psychological withdrawal symptoms are the biggest risk of Xanax withdrawal and sometimes benzodiazepine withdrawal can be fatal if these symptoms go unmonitored.

A highly-rated medical detox program can provide clinical and medical care to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and help you cope with the psychological ones, like cravings, depression, and anxiety.

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What Is Zoloft?

Zoloft is a type of antidepressant known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It is a brand name for the drug sertraline and is used to treat depression, OCD, PTSD, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. Zoloft works by preventing the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain. This leaves more serotonin available for other brain functions like mood regulation.6

Zoloft is not classified as a controlled substance in the United States and it is often marketed as being safer than other similar drugs like Prozac. However, Zoloft is not completely risk-free and it can be psychologically addictive if you misuse it. This prescription antidepressant also comes with a black box warning because it may increase suicidal thoughts and behaviors in some individuals.

Zoloft is prescribed in tablet form and is manufactured in 25 mg, 50 mg, and 100 mg tablets. If your doctor prescribes Zoloft for you, you should always take it exactly as directed because misusing it in any way can increase your risk for addiction. This includes:

  • Taking larger doses of Zoloft than prescribed
  • Taking more frequent doses of Zoloft than prescribed
  • Using Zoloft with other drugs or alcohol to enhance its effects
  • Taking someone’s else’s prescription of Zoloft

People who abuse Zoloft often use slang terms to disguise their conversation. Common street names or slang terms for Zoloft are:

  • Miracle drug
  • Happy pills
  • Wonder drug
  • Bottled smiles

How Long Does Zoloft Stay in Your System?

Zoloft stays in your system for about 5.5 to 6 days after the last dose. Similar to Xanax, this timeframe will vary from person to person and depending on individual factors like:

  • Your age
  • Your metabolism
  • Dosage amount
  • Frequency of use

Blood, saliva, and hair follicle drug tests are not generally used to detect Zoloft in the body. However, Zoloft may show up in a urine test for about nine days or longer. Sertraline may also show up as a benzodiazepine in drug tests.8

Signs and Symptoms of Zoloft Addiction

If you are addicted to Zoloft, you may recognize some harmful behaviors and patterns in your life. Some common signs of Zoloft addiction include:

  • Being unable to control your Zoloft use
  • Having strong cravings and urges to use Zoloft
  • Hiding your Zoloft abuse from friends and family
  • Lying about using Zoloft
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the effects of Zoloft wear off or when you try to stop using it
  • Losing interest in regular hobbies
  • Experiencing financial problems, issues in relationships, health problems, and difficulty at work due to your Zoloft abuse
  • Continuing to abuse Zoloft despite the issues it is causing
  • Isolating yourself from loved ones

Zoloft Withdrawal Symptoms

If you are physically dependent on Zoloft, you may experience mild or severe withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop. Common Zoloft withdrawal symptoms include:9

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Nightmares
  • Prickling sensation on the skin (paresthesias)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression
  • Memory problems
  • Mood swings
  • Weight changes
  • Suicidal thoughts

Doctors recommend gradually tapering your dose of Zoloft instead of quitting abruptly. Although tapering off Zoloft doesn’t guarantee that you won’t experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, they will likely be less severe and won’t last as long.

If you are addicted to Zoloft and you’re trying to stop using it, you should consult a doctor for help. A medical detox program can also provide medical and clinical care if you are addicted and help you take the next steps in the addiction treatment process. Professional treatment in detox and rehab can also greatly reduce your risk of relapse.

Xanax Uses vs. Zoloft Uses

Both Xanax and Zoloft are prescribed to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks but Zoloft may also be used to treat other medical disorders, listed below.

Xanax is used to treat:   Anxiety disorders Panic disordersZoloft is used to treat:   Anxiety disorders Panic disorders Depression Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

Xanax and Zoloft are both highly effective prescription drugs, but they are also frequently abused for recreational purposes. Zoloft, in particular, is often easy to get online without a valid prescription, which makes it a prime candidate for abuse.

Xanax vs. Zoloft: Addiction and Dependence

Xanax is classified as a Schedule IV drug and may cause dependence and addiction if it is misused. Although Zoloft is not a controlled substance in the U.S., it can still be psychologically addictive if you misuse it. Your risks of becoming addicted to either drug may be higher if:

  • You misuse Xanax and/or Zoloft in any way
  • You have had previous substance use disorders
  • You take Xanax or Zoloft regularly for a long time
  • You abuse other prescription drugs or illegal drugs

Xanax vs. Zoloft: Side Effects of Abuse

Abusing benzodiazepines like Xanax can cause the following negative side effects:10

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Blurry vision
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coma

Abusing antidepressant drugs like Zoloft can cause the following negative side effects:11

  • Anxiety
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Nervousness
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome
  • Decreased libido
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Anorexia
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Suicidal thoughts

Get Xanax or Zoloft Addiction Treatment Treatment Today

Xanax and Zoloft are two commonly prescribed drugs that can be very effective and help many people live a normal life. Unfortunately, they also come with the risk of addiction.

If you have become addicted to your Xanax or Zoloft medication, there is help available and you can get sober. Reclaim your life from the grips of drug addiction and dependence by calling (888) 857-0557 to speak with a representative from Briarwood Detox Center. We accept most forms of insurance and can help you get started with a safe and effective medical detox program.


  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2017-nsduh-annual-national-report
  2. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018.pdf
  3. https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/benzo.pdf
  4. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/018276s044,021434s006lbl.pdf
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846112/pdf/nihms947341.pdf
  6. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/019839S74S86S87_20990S35S44S45lbl.pdf
  7. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2014/019839s080s083,020990s039s041lbl.pdf
  8. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2009/019839s070,020990s032lbl.pdf
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4722507/pdf/10.1177_2045125315612334.pdf
  10. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/benzodiazepine-abuse
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4140701/pdf/sar-5-107.pdf

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