Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/5/2020
Sertraline is a popular antidepressant—and that’s what it’s generally prescribed for—but did you know it’s also prescribed off-label to treat sexual health issues like premature ejaculation? Sertraline for premature ejaculation isn’t generally something most people think about, but the supporting evidence is there, and you should be aware of it.
Premature ejaculation (PE) is one of the most common sexual dysfunctions, affecting up to 39% of men according to study data. If you’re dealing with premature ejaculation, you’re most certainly not alone. PE affects men of all ages, body types and backgrounds, causing everything from a hit to your confidence to serious, persistent anxiety about your sexual performance.
Luckily, premature ejaculation doesn’t need to be something you’ll live with forever. Today, there are a variety of treatments—from home remedies for premature ejaculation, to a veritable smorgasbord of pills and supplements—available to help mitigate the effects of PE.
Sertraline is one of them.
Below, we’ve explained what sertraline is, how it works and how it can potentially help you avoid premature ejaculation. We’ve also listed several other premature ejaculation treatments that can work alongside or instead of sertraline to help you improve your sexual performance.
Sertraline is an antidepressant that’s part of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class of medication. It’s one of the most widely used antidepressants in the world, with more than 30 million prescriptions in the United States alone.
You might have heard of sertraline before as Zoloft, the original brand name used by Pfizer to market this medication.
Originally developed as an antidepressant, sertraline is used today to treat a variety of health conditions. It’s a common treatment for social anxiety disorder (SAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It’s also prescribed off-label as an effective premature ejaculation treatment. We’ve covered this in greater detail below, along with links to study data on sertraline’s effectiveness as a PE treatment.
Although sertraline was originally developed as an antidepressant, it also works effectively as a premature ejaculation treatment.
In fact, studies of sertraline show that men affected by premature ejaculation can potentially increase their average intravaginal ejaculation latency time (“IELT,” the amount of time during sex before ejaculation) by a significant amount through regular use of sertraline.
In a 1998 study, 46 men between the ages of 22 and 63 with premature ejaculation were given oral sertraline tablets. The men began the study at a dose of 25mg per day before increasing to 50mg per day by week three and 100mg per day by week six.
At the start of the study, the men had a mean ejaculatory interval of one minute, with a range of zero to five minutes.
With a 25mg daily dose of sertraline, the mean ejaculatory interval increased from one minute to 7.6 minutes, with a range of zero to 20 minutes. With a 50mg dose, the men’s mean ejaculatory interval increased to 13.1 minutes.
With a daily dose of 100mg of sertraline, the men’s mean ejaculatory interval increased to 16.4 minutes. The minimum ejaculatory interval also increased, with a total range of seven minutes to anejaculation (inability to ejaculate).
During the study, side effects were limited. At the full dose of 100mg per day, the most common side effects were dyspepsia (indigestion), feelings of anxiety, transient drowsiness and anorexia, as well as erectile dysfunction and reduced libido.
These side effects were reported by less than 10% of the men who took part in the study, with most participants reporting no side effects from the medication.
Other studies of sertraline show similar results. In a 1999 study, men with premature ejaculaton who used sertraline increased their mean ejaculation latency from 23 +/- 19 seconds before any treatment to 5.9 +/- 4.2 minutes after treatment with 50mg of sertraline per day.
This same study also found that sertraline works as a treatment for premature ejaculation when used on an as-needed basis.
When the men used sertraline as needed on the day of intercouse at a dose of 50 to 100mg, the mean ejaculation latency for the group increased from 23 +/- 19 seconds prior to any treatment to 5.1 +/- 3.8 minutes after two weeks, and 4.5 +/- 2.7 minutes after four weeks.
Both the men and their sexual partners recorded an increase in their sexual satisfaction scores over the course of the study (5 being extremely satisfied, with 0 being extremely unsatisfied).
Their partners recorded a mean sexual satisfaction score of 1.1 +/- 0.7 before treatment, which increased to a mean score of 3.3 +/- 1.2 after four weeks of as-needed sertraline treatment.
The men recorded an improvement in mean sexual satisfaction score from 0.8 +/- 0.8 prior to treatment to 3.4 +/- 1.0 after two weeks of treatment with 50 or 100mg of sertraline as needed and 3.2 +/- 0.7 after four weeks of treatment with 50 or 100mg of sertraline as needed.
Just like in the 1998 study, side effects were rare. One patient experienced excessive delay of ejaculation, with one other patient reporting numbness and two experiencing fatigue.
In short, studies show that using sertraline for premature ejaculation works.
As the studies linked above show, sertraline can be used as needed or daily as an effective premature ejaculation treatment.
Like with other medications, there’s no “best” way to use sertraline for PE. The most effective approach is to follow your doctor’s instructions and take your prescribed sertraline dosage as needed or on a daily basis.
Most of the time, it takes a few weeks for sertraline to become fully effective. In the studies linked above, most men experienced the biggest improvement in ejaculation latency after using sertraline for four weeks.
Like all SSRIs, sertraline can potentially cause side effects. These side effects are usually mild and only affect a small percentage of men who use sertraline, especially at the mild dose that’s used to treat premature ejaculation. We have a detailed guide on Zoloft(sertraline) sexual side effects focusing on erectile dysfunciton for you.
Our complete guide to sertraline side effects lists all of the common and uncommon side effects of sertraline, with detailed study data on how often each side effect occurs.
While sertraline is safe, convenient and highly effective, it’s not the only treatment available for premature ejaculation. Other options for treating PE include topical sprays, behavioral therapy, sexual techniques and even medications like sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra).
We’ve listed these options below—including some effective home remedies for premature ejaculation—along with other resources to help you learn more about stopping premature ejaculation.
Topical sprays containing lidocaine are a popular, effective treatment for increasing ejaculation latency and stopping premature ejaculation.
Lidocaine is a safe, widely used local anaesthetic. If you’ve ever had dental surgery, there’s a good chance your dentist used lidocaine or a similar local anaesthetic to desensitize your gums before the procedure.
Used topically, lidocaine works by making your penis less sensitive to touch. During sex, you’ll feel slightly less, stopping you from ejaculating early due to physical stimulation. You’ll still stay hard and enjoy the experience, just with a slightly reduced level of sensation.
Studies show that lidocaine sprays work well as a treatment for premature ejaculation. In a 2003 study, a topical lidocaine spray increased average intravaginal ejaculation latency time from just 84 seconds to 11 minutes and 21 seconds for men with premature ejaculation.
Interested in learning more about sprays for treating PE? Our guide to lidocaine and premature ejaculation goes into more detail on how premature ejaculation spray can help you increase your ejaculation latency and enjoy a better, longer-lasting sexual experience.
The precise mechanism by which erectile dysfunction drugs treat premature ejaculation isn’t known. However, studies tend to show that men with premature ejaculation who use erectile dysfunction drugs tend to have longer ejaculation times than their peers.
In a 2007 study, researchers noted that sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra) produced a larger improvement in PE symptoms than paroxetine, a widely used SSRI. The researchers concluded that sildenafil is “very effective and safe to treat PE.”
Sildenafil, tadalafil and other erectile dysfunction drugs can also shorten the refractory period, potentially improving sexual performance for men who masturbate before sex to reduce their risk of experiencing premature ejaculation.
Our guide to premature ejaculation pills goes into more detail on how ED drugs like sildenafil can be used to treat premature ejaculation and improve sexual performance.
While medications are usually the most effective way to increase ejaculation time and treat PE, they’re far from the only option.
If you have mild premature ejaculation, you might be able to increase your ejaculation time by practicing the “stop-start” strategy or “squeeze” technique.
Both of these techniques are easy but effective when used properly. The stop-start strategy is exactly what it sounds like—during sex, when you feel yourself about to orgasm, slow down or stop moving completely and give yourself some time to recover, then continue.
The squeeze technique is equally simple—when you feel that you’re approaching orgasm, use your thumb and finger to gently squeeze the area between the shaft and glans of your penis for about 30 seconds. Once you feel relaxed, go back to having sex as normal.
These techniques aren’t 100% effective, meaning there’s a chance you might ejaculate even if you try to use them in time. However, they provide real benefits for many men (according to one study, as much as 65% of men with PE notice benefits from using the stop-start strategy).
As simple as it might sound, masturbating shortly before you have sex can be a great way to increase your ejaculation latency and avoid ejaculating too early.
The idea behind this approach is simple. After you orgasm, you’ll start the refractory period—a recovery phase in which you’ll find it more difficult to orgasm again. This means you’ll last find it easier to last longer during sex, improving your sexual performance and satisfaction.
Our guide to stopping premature ejaculation goes into more detail on this technique, as well as other treatments for avoiding PE and improving your sexual performance.
Surprisingly common and easily treatable, premature ejaculation is a condition that affects tens of millions of men every year.
Interested in learning more about treating premature ejaculation? Our Premature Ejaculation 101 guide goes into more detail on why premature ejaculation occurs, how common it really is and what you can do prevent it from affecting your sex life.
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