Luvox vs Zoloft

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For patients experiencing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or conditions with similar symptoms, there are specific drugs that modify the balance of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with mood. Luvox and Zoloft are two such prescribed medications for these disorders. Both impact serotonin levels in the brain and can help stabilize obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior characteristic of OCD.

Luvox is classified as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), specifically designed to treat OCD by increasing levels of serotonin at synapses in the brain. On the other hand, Zoloft also belongs to SSRIs but has a broader spectrum of uses including depression, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder aside from OCD. It acts by restoring balanced serotonin levels which helps improve mood and feelings of well-being.

What is Luvox?

Fluvoxamine (the generic name for Luvox) was one of the earliest drugs in the SSRI class of antidepressants, just like Sertraline (Zoloft). Fluvoxamine was first approved by the FDA in 1994. It is known to increase levels of free serotonin by preventing its reabsorption and thereby keeping it active in the brain for longer durations. It's mainly prescribed for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorders. Luvox has a selective influence on serotonin with only minor impact on dopamine and norepinephrine, which results in fewer side effects compared to other antidepressants that have stronger effects on these two neurotransmitters.

On the other hand, Zoloft also operates similarly but it's more often used to treat depression, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), as well as social anxiety disorders. Both medications belong to a similar drug class yet they are used distinctly based on their efficacy related to specific mental health conditions.

What conditions is Luvox approved to treat?

Luvox is approved for the treatment of various psychological disorders:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia
  • Panic disorder While Zoloft treats a broader range of conditions:
  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Panic Disorder -Social anxiety disorder.

How does Luvox help with these illnesses?

Luvox, like Zoloft, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that works by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain's synapses. Both drugs prevent neurons from reabsorbing serotonin after it has been released, leaving more available to transmit messages between nerve cells. As with Prozac, this increased availability of serotonin can help manage depression and other mood disorders because serotonin plays critical roles in regulating mood, cognition, memory, sleep patterns and appetite among others. It's believed that people with depression may have lower levels of this neurotransmitter; hence by elevating its level through these medications can mitigate depressive symptoms and stabilize patients' mood. However, Luvox is often specifically used for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) treatment while Zoloft has a broader range of applications including depression, OCD as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder and social anxiety disorder.

What is Zoloft?

Zoloft, a brand name for sertraline, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It functions by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain by reducing its reabsorption. This action can help balance mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Zoloft was first approved by the FDA in 1991.

Unlike Luvox (fluvoxamine), another SSRI, Zoloft does not have significant effects on norepinephrine or dopamine absorption; its primary effect is on serotonin levels. This means that while it shares some side-effect profiles with other SSRIs - such as potential for weight changes and sexual dysfunction - it may be less likely to cause certain side-effects like sedation.

The specificity of Zoloft's action on serotonin makes it an effective treatment option for depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Its unique profile might make it preferable over other SSRIs for individuals who haven't responded well to "typical" antidepressant drugs or those looking to minimize certain side-effects.

What conditions is Zoloft approved to treat?

Zoloft is an FDA-approved medication that has been established as effective for treating the following conditions:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

With its wide range of applications, Zoloft offers a versatile treatment option for these common mental health disorders.

How does Zoloft help with these illnesses?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which also plays roles in many processes within the body, affecting mood regulation, feelings of well-being and happiness. Low levels of serotonin have been implicated in depression. Zoloft works by increasing the levels of serotonin available in the brain, thereby alleviating some symptoms of depression. Its action on this specific neurotransmitter helps to stabilize mood and reduce feelings of anxiety. Since it does not significantly affect norepinephrine or dopamine levels, it has a different mechanism compared to other classes of antidepressants (such as Luvox), leading to potentially fewer side effects related to these systems. Therefore, Zoloft may be prescribed when a patient does not respond well to other SSRI antidepressants or might be combined with them for an enhanced therapeutic effect.

How effective are both Luvox and Zoloft?

Fluvoxamine (Luvox) and sertraline (Zoloft) are both selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), making them similar in mechanism of action. Both drugs have a long history of efficacy in treating depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. Fluvoxamine was approved by the FDA two years prior to sertraline.

In terms of effectiveness, studies have shown comparable results between fluvoxamine and sertraline. A 1997 double-blind clinical trial demonstrated no significant difference between these two SSRIs in reducing symptoms associated with major depressive disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorders. Like other SSRIs, they have favorable safety profiles but may cause sexual side effects such as reduced libido.

A meta-analysis from 2002 showed that fluvoxamine is effective from the first week of treatment onwards for many patients dealing with OCD or depression. It also has a lower potential for drug-drug interactions compared to other SSRIs due to its metabolism process which does not involve CYP3A4 enzyme extensively used by several medications.

On the other hand, a review conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration indicated that sertraline seems more efficacious than placebo for various psychiatric conditions including depression and anxiety disorders while having fewer withdrawal reactions compared to other antidepressants when therapy ends abruptly or is interrupted prematurely. One advantage of Sertraline over some other SSRI's like Paroxetine lies in its relatively mild withdrawal syndrome on abrupt cessation.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Luvox typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Luvox typically start at 50 mg/day for adults, and studies have shown this to be effective in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in most individuals. Children and adolescents may begin on a lower dose of around 25 mg/day. In both populations, dosage can be increased after several weeks if there is no response. The maximum daily dosage that should not be exceeded under any circumstances is 300 mg/day for adults and 200mg/day for children and adolescents.

On the other hand, Zoloft oral dosages often start at 50–200 mg per day which has been found sufficient to treat major depressive disorder or OCD in many patients. For children aged between six to twelve years old can take an initial dose of 25mg once daily while those aged between thirteen to seventeen are started on an initial dose of 50mg once daily. Dosage adjustments can occur over time based upon individual patient needs but it's important not exceed the maximum recommended total daily amount which stands at: Adult - Major Depressive Disorder & OCD: Maximum limit is set up to a cap of 200mg; while Pediatric - OCD: Maximum limit ranges from Age six-twelve (maximum cap up till150mg), Age thirteen-seventeen (maximum cap up till 200mg).

At what dose is Zoloft typically prescribed?

Zoloft treatment typically begins at a dosage of 50 mg/day. If required, the dose can be increased to 100 mg/day, taken once daily either in the morning or evening. The maximum dose is usually set at 200 mg/day, which may be considered if there's no significant improvement observed with the initial dosing after several weeks. It's important to note that any changes to medication regimen should only be made under direct supervision and guidance from your healthcare provider.

What are the most common side effects for Luvox?

Common side effects of Luvox and Zoloft are alike in many ways. They include:

  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Insomnia, but also somnolence (sleepiness/drowsiness)
  • Asthenia (general weakness and fatigue)
  • Tremor (unintentional trembling or shaking)
  • Anorexia and nausea
  • Dyspepsia (burning, discomfort, or pain in the digestive tract) along with diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased libido (sex drive), abnormal ejaculation, impotence
  • Skin rash -Sweating excessively -Unusual dreams.

Less common flu-like symptoms may develop as well as pharyngitis (inflammation in the back of the throat). Some patients have reported sinusitis - inflammation of sinus cavities. Occasionally yawning can be a lesser-known side effect too. Always consult your doctor if any disruptive side effects persist when taking these medications.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Luvox?

While both Luvox and Zoloft belong to the same class of drugs - selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) - they may have slightly different side effects. Potentially severe side effects of Luvox can include:

  • Increased thoughts about suicide or self-harm, especially in those aged 24 years old or younger
  • Allergic reactions such as hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Changes in vision including blurred vision or eye pain
  • Heart-related issues such as rapid heartbeat, chest tightening/pressure/pain and dizziness which could indicate a heart attack
  • Low sodium levels leading to headache, confusion slurred speech vomiting loss of coordination and feeling unsteady
  • Severe nervous system reaction with symptoms like high fever sweating fast heartbeat stiff muscles confusion tremors and light-headedness akin to fainting.
  • Signs that could indicate Serotonin Syndrome: agitation hallucinations over-active reflexes very high fever increased heart rate extreme nausea vomiting diarrhea.

These are not common but if you experience any of these serious side effects while taking Luvox it's important to seek medical attention immediately.

What are the most common side effects for Zoloft?

Zoloft, also known as sertraline, comes with its own set of possible side effects:

  • Dry mouth or increased sweating
  • Nausea, diarrhea or upset stomach
  • Sleep problems (insomnia) and feeling tired
  • Dizziness, feeling nervous or shaky
  • Weight changes; this could be either weight loss or gain
  • Changes in appetite leading to eating more or less than usual
  • Headache and other body aches such as muscle pain
  • Increased urination frequency compared to normal habits.

It's important to remember that these are potential side effects and they do not occur in everyone who takes the medication. Always consult with your healthcare provider to discuss any concerns you may have regarding medication side-effects.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Zoloft?

Zoloft, like any medication, can cause a range of side effects that require medical attention. These serious side effects might include:

  • Allergic reactions: signs may include hives, difficulty in breathing or swallowing, swelling of the face or throat.
  • Mood changes: an increase in suicidal thoughts or unusual risk-taking behavior; sudden and unusual changes in mood such as feeling agitated, restless, hostile, aggressive or overly excited.
  • Unusual bleeding: this includes spontaneous bruising or bleeding from the gums.
  • Vision problems: blurred vision, eye pain/swelling/redness/burning sensations and seeing halos around lights are all signs to be aware of.
  • Changes in heartbeat: either unusually fast heartbeats (tachycardia) or irregular rhythms should warrant immediate attention.
  • Symptoms resembling serotonin syndrome - racing thoughts accompanied by fever and excessive sweating.

If you observe any of these symptoms while taking Zoloft it is important to stop using it immediately and consult your healthcare provider for further advice.

Contraindications for Luvox and Zoloft?

Both Luvox and Zoloft, along with most other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may exacerbate symptoms of depression in some individuals. If you notice your depression getting worse or an increase in suicidal thoughts or behaviors, reach out to a healthcare professional immediately.

Neither Luvox nor Zoloft can be taken if you are currently taking or have recently stopped taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Always keep your doctor updated about all the medications and supplements you're using; MAOIs need approximately two weeks to clear from your system to prevent potentially harmful interactions with both Luvox and Zoloft.

How much do Luvox and Zoloft cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price for 60 tablets of Luvox CR (100 mg) averages around $400, which works out to approximately $13–26/day depending on your dose.
  • The price for 30 tablets of Zoloft (50 mg) averages about $340, working out to approximately $11/day.

Thus, if you are in the higher dosage range for Luvox (i.e., 300 mg/day or higher), then brand-name Zoloft is less expensive on a per-day treatment basis. It's important to remember that cost should not be the primary consideration in determining which of these drugs is right for you.

For the generic versions of Luvox (fluvoxamine) and Zoloft (sertraline), costs are significantly lower:

  • Fluvoxamine is available in packs from 30 capsules and up, with approximate costs ranging from about $0.49 to $1.20 per day at dosages between 100 -150mg/day; or between $.98 and ~$2.40 per day if taking more typical doses of 200 -300mg/day.
  • Sertraline has available pack sizes from as low as 15 up to nearly unlimited counts through mail order pharmacies, with daily costs starting from just under $.10/day if buying larger quantities upfront and generally not exceeding about ~$1.00/per day even when taken at higher doses such as up to ~200mg daily.

Popularity of Luvox and Zoloft

Fluvoxamine, available under the brand name Luvox, is an SSRI predominantly used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and was prescribed to approximately 500,000 people in the US in 2020. Fluvoxamine accounts for a small percentage of overall SSRI prescriptions due to its specific use for OCD treatment. The prevalence of fluvoxamine has been relatively steady over recent years.

Sertraline, also known as Zoloft among other brands, is another widely-prescribed SSRI used primarily for depression but also approved for panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. In contrast to fluvoxamine's more niche role, sertraline was prescribed to around 38 million people in the USA in 2020 alone. It made up about one fifth of all antidepressant prescriptions that year - a significant increase from previous years likely due largely to its broad applicability across mental health disorders.


Both Luvox (fluvoxamine) and Zoloft (sertraline) have established histories of use in patients with mental health disorders, such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and they are supported by numerous clinical studies pointing to their effectiveness over placebo treatments. There might be situations where these drugs could be used together, but this requires careful evaluation by a healthcare provider due to potential drug interactions. Given their different pharmacological profiles, with Luvox having a strong affinity for the serotonin transporter while Zoloft acts on both serotonin and dopamine transporters, they can be prescribed under varying circumstances.

Luvox is often considered specifically for OCD treatment while Zoloft may be utilized as a first-line treatment option for several conditions including depression, panic disorder, PTSD in addition to OCD. Both medications are available in generic form which offers considerable cost savings particularly for patients paying out-of-pocket.

The initiation of both Luvox and Zoloft may require an adjustment period as effects might not become noticeable straight away. The side effect profile between the two drugs is quite similar; each being generally well-tolerated but there can also occur common SSRI-related side effects like nausea or sexual dysfunction. In any case of worsening mood or emergence of suicidal thoughts during therapy commencement with either medication seeks immediate medical attention.