Prozac is a common prescription medication used to treat depressive symptoms and other mental health conditions. Although the overuse of Prozac is unlikely to cause an overdose in the same way that opioids do by respiratory depression, if taken in excessive amounts or with other serotonin-boosting substances, a condition called serotonin syndrome can occur, leading to severe effects and even death.
What Is Prozac?
Prozac is a brand name for a drug called fluoxetine, which is used as an antidepressant in a class of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). In addition to depression, Prozac is also used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and premenstrual syndrome. It is only sold in pill form.
Prozac can be used to improve mood, sleep, appetite, and energy levels, all of which can be adversely impacted by depression and other mental health conditions. For those with OCD, it can also reduce the urge to repeat tasks compulsively.
How Prozac Works
Prozac primarily works with a brain neurochemical known as serotonin. Serotonin transmits specific messages all over the body, some of which are responsible for feelings of well-being and reward. In addition, it regulates emotional states, and it can affect energy levels. A chemical imbalance can sometimes cause depression and other undesirable mood states in the brain related to serotonin.
Excessive serotonin detached from receptors can be reabsorbed by the neuron that initially sent it. This prevents the chemical from having too much of an effect on the central nervous system (CNS) and recycles the chemical for later use. This process is known as reuptake.
Prozac can block the reuptake of serotonin, which allows more of the released serotonin to attach to receptors and remain there, sending a stronger, mood-regulating message. The stronger signal causes more serotonin to be released throughout the body.
People who experience mood disorders may have some biological or psychological issue that makes it so that the normal mood-regulating capabilities of serotonin aren’t enough to prevent depression symptoms. Prozac can, therefore, boost mood and correct chemical imbalances that lead to depression and other adverse mental health conditions.
Does Prozac Have the Potential for Abuse?
Prozac isn’t among the most commonly abused prescription medications such as benzodiazepines or opioids. Therefore, it is not considered a high abuse potential and is not a controlled substance but requires a prescription from a health provider to obtain.
Prozac doesn’t cause a significant euphoric effect desirable for would-be recreational users, unlike other commonly abused prescriptions. Although Prozac can boost mood, it doesn’t do so to the extent that it causes euphoria.
While Prozac isn’t likely to provoke a severe substance use problem, it can produce a degree of chemical dependence. As a person takes the drug, their body becomes accustomed to it being in their system. So if it is discontinued abruptly, they will experience a condition known as discontinuation syndrome, characterized by rebound effects or a reemergence of symptoms that the drug was intended to treat. These can cause anxiety, depression, loss of energy, headache, dizziness, and insomnia, among other issues.
What Happens If You Take Too Much?
Although an overdose of Prozac isn’t likely to cause death in the same way other CNS depressants do, it is possible. In addition, it may lead to some extremely uncomfortable and even dangerous symptoms. If a person just takes a little too much, symptoms are likely to be relatively mild and may include headaches, drowsiness, tremors, fever, and nausea.
That said, using excessive amounts of Prozac or combining it with other serotonin-boosting substances can cause a condition known as serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome is a severe reaction to certain drugs that work with serotonin by increasing levels in the brain. Serotonin syndrome can induce symptoms such as agitation, confusion, extreme anxiety, muscle spasms, overactive reflexes, muscle rigidity, elevated heart rate, and increased blood pressure.
Most side effects are mild and not fatal, but serotonin syndrome can lead to heart failure or muscle tissue damage in some instances.
Getting Help for Drug Abuse
Although an overdose on Prozac is unlikely to be fatal, the act of taking excessive amounts is considered abuse and should be taken very seriously. This is especially true if Prozac is taken in conjunction with other psychoactive substances.
Using an integrated approach to treatment, Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offer programs designed to address all aspects of a person’s mental and physical health and well-being. Therapeutic methodologies and activities featured include psychotherapy, counseling, group support, relapse prevention strategies, health and wellness education, art and music therapy, mindfulness therapy, aftercare planning, and more.