Does sertraline show in a blood test? (1+ ways to prevent it)

In this article, we will discuss whether sertraline can be shown in a blood test. We will also talk about the incidence of false positive drug tests with sertraline and how long this antidepressant typically takes to leave your system.

Does sertraline show in a blood test?

Sertraline does show in a blood test that is done specifically to detect it. It does not show up on random tests that are not focused on the detection of antidepressants. Sertraline is one of the most commonly prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (1). 

It is primarily used to manage depression, anxiety, and several other mental health-related symptoms (2). Sertraline is not considered a drug of abuse, so most tests are not focused on it. 

This is because blood or urine drug tests, in particular, check for controlled substances in your body. However, sertraline is detectable in blood, urine, saliva, and hair, and tests that are done specifically to check sertraline levels can detect this antidepressant.

Does sertraline show up on a drug test?

Sertraline, although not typically focused on in standard 12-panel drug tests, can show up on a drug test. Sertraline is known to cause false positives for benzodiazepines and lysergic acid dimethyl (LSD). (3,4)

While not commonly reported, there is enough research evidence to suggest that sertraline can indeed cause false positives and make you fail a drug test. This occurs primarily with preliminary drug immunoassays and is not common with more accurate testing procedures, such as Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS). (5)

Urine drug immunoassays use antibodies that react with the substance of abuse and show a positive result. However, these antibodies might mistakenly bind with other drugs, leading to cross-reactivity and triggering false positive drug tests. (6)

How long does sertraline stay detectable in your system?

Sertraline typically stays in your system for 5-7 days but can remain detectable for longer than that (7). The half-life of sertraline is 24-35 hours, which is not considered too long. This indicates that sertraline reduces to half its initial concentration after 24 hours. 

It usually takes 5 half-lives for a drug to get eliminated from your body completely, so sertraline can take somewhere between 5-7 days to get eliminated from your body completely. This antidepressant can be detectable in blood, urine, saliva, and hair. The approximate detection times include: (7)

FluidsDetection Time
Blood24-48 hours (can vary)
Urine Up to 5 days (detectable as a metabolite)
Saliva Up to 4 days
Hair Detectable for up to 90 days or even longer

How to avoid a false positive test while taking sertraline?

You can avoid sertraline showing up on a drug test if you opt for more accurate testing procedures. However, these testing procedures are quite expensive and may not be accessible for everyone due to cost constraints. 

Furthermore, these tests are considered good for confirming a false positive, but again, may not be accessible to every individual. However, a standard 10 or 12-panel drug test can detect sertraline as a benzodiazepine or LSD, which can affect your test results. (3,4)

The best way to deal with this is to inform the drug testing authority about all the prescription and over-the-counter medications that you are currently taking. 

Many medications are known for causing false positives, and testing authorities are well aware of that. Communication about your medications might not prevent inaccurate test results but can help prevent misunderstandings.

Ensuring accurate drug tests with sertraline

In my experience as a pharmacist, I have never come across a patient who got a false positive result because of sertraline. Many of my patients undergo drug tests for work, and a significant number of them take sertraline. 

So far, I have never heard from anyone that they failed a drug test solely because of sertraline. However, research does show us that it’s a possibility, so one should keep it in mind.

I always advise my patients, who come up to me concerned about a drug test, to inform the drug testing authority about every single medication they are taking, even over-the-counter ones. 

This is because even some OTC medications can cause false positives for controlled substances. So, you should maintain proper communication to avoid it. 


  1. Singh HK, Saadabadi A. Sertraline. 2023 Feb 13. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 31613469. Available from:
  2. Ramoo B, Funke M, Frazee C, Garg U. Comprehensive Urine Drug Screen by Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS). Methods Mol Biol. 2016;1383:125-31. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-3252-8_15. PMID: 26660182.
  3. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION. ZOLOFT (sertraline hydrochloride) tablets, for oral use. Available from:
  4. Alec Saitman, Hyung-Doo Park, Robert L. Fitzgerald, False-Positive Interferences of Common Urine Drug Screen Immunoassays: A Review, Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Volume 38, Issue 7, September 2014, Pages 387–396,
  5. 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.
  6. Hughey JJ, Colby JM. Discovering Cross-Reactivity in Urine Drug Screening Immunoassays through Large-Scale Analysis of Electronic Health Records. Clin Chem. 2019 Dec;65(12):1522-1531. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2019.305409. Epub 2019 Oct 2. PMID: 31578215; PMCID: PMC7055671.
  7. PubChem [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US), National Center for Biotechnology Information; 2004-. PubChem Compound Summary for CID 68617, Sertraline; [cited 2024 Jan. 9]. Available from: 

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