Is Zoloft an MAO Inhibitor?

With the wide variety of drugs available for depression and anxiety, it can be hard to know which drugs fall into which class, and what the accompanying effects are. Zoloft is not an MAO inhibitor but is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).

A young woman despairs as she leans against a window sill. Credit: David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

What is an MAOI?

MAOI is short for monoamine oxidase inhibitor. The MAOIs are the first types of antidepressants, discovered in the 1950s, according to the Mayo Clinic. Drugs in this class include phenelzine and tranylcypromine.

How do MAOIs Work?

MAOIs stop an enzyme called monoamine oxidase from metabolizing norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters associated with mood. If these neurotransmitters cannot be metabolized, the levels of the chemicals stay high, which boosts mood.

What is an SSRI?

SSRIs are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The first SSRI to be prescribed was fluoxetine in 1987. Drugs in this category include sertraline, paroxetine, citalopram and escitalopram.

How do SSRIs Work?

The exact mechanism by which these drugs work is not known, but it is suspected serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood, is blocked from being taken back up by nerve cells, and this leads to a higher level of serotonin in the brain, boosting mood.


Sometimes, antidepressants can lead to harmful or suicidal thoughts, especially for individuals age 18 to 24. This tends to happen more in the beginning of treatment with the medication, so it is important to tell your physician if you have any of these thoughts because you might need a different medication.

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