Prozac (fluoxetine) is a prescription antidepressant drug in a class of prescription medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It may take as long as 25 days to clear the medication from a person’s system. Fluoxetine itself should be eliminated from a patient’s system by 99 percent during this time. However, there are metabolites secreted while taking Prozac, which will take 22-82 days to clear.
Prozac works to increase serotonin in the brain, a neurochemical responsible for feelings of reward, pleasure, and well-being. When serotonin levels are low, this can result in a wide variety of mental and emotional problems, including depression, anxiety, panic, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
Prozac is not thought to be addictive in the same way as many other psychoactive drugs are, such as opioids or benzodiazepines. Moreover, its use does not generally lead to drug cravings or compulsive drug-seeking behavior. Still, when used for an extended period, the development of chemical dependence on Prozac is entirely possible. When this occurs, an individual will experience very uncomfortable symptoms, including a rebound of depression or anxiety, if they attempt to discontinue use “cold turkey.”
Drug dependency occurs when the brain and body have adapted to the drug’s presence to the extent that a person requires regular doses to function normally. For this reason, it is vital that individuals use fluoxetine only as prescribed by a healthcare provider and that they don’t try to discontinue use without a physician’s guidance.
In addition to a reemergence of symptoms formerly managed by Prozac, dependent individuals who stop using the drug will experience several withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue.
The most significant problems are related to emotional turmoil. Individuals who quit using antidepressants after months or years are likely to encounter substantial bouts of anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, or panic due to the body’s decreased ability to stabilize serotonin levels—the very issue that SSRIs are intended to treat.
As noted, stopping Prozac use can lead to rebound effects, which can be even more intense than the initial symptoms. For this reason, a tapering or weaning schedule is usually the most effective course of action, and in some instances, professional addiction treatment may be beneficial. By slowly weaning a person off Prozac, they will be much less likely to experience severe symptoms and may not experience adverse effects to any significant degree. For those whose use of Prozac has been problematic or ineffective, it may be prudent to use another antidepressant that might be more beneficial.
If you consider using Prozac or another antidepressant, talk to a doctor about the pros and cons. Antidepressants can be beneficial, but they are not intended to be a cure-all. Depression, anxiety, bipolar, and other mood disorders are most effectively treated using a broader approach that, in addition to medication, consists of psychotherapy, counseling, group support, and aftercare planning, among other therapeutic services.
How Is Prozac Used?
Fluoxetine is usually prescribed in doses between 10-380 milligrams and may be taken with or without food. For depression, doctors typically start patients on a low dose and gradually increase the amount as needed. Most individuals notice some improvement in symptoms within two weeks of initial use, but in some cases, it may take as long as 30 days to experience the full benefits.
The Food and Drug Administration approves Prozac to treat depression, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and certain eating disorders. Fluoxetine can improve a person’s overall mood and increase energy levels. It can also be used to mitigate anxiety and the urge to perform repeated tasks commonly associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
A doctor should prescribe fluoxetine only if they believe that possible benefits outweigh the potential side effects. Moreover, persons using Prozac are encouraged to talk to their doctor if any of these potential side effects become a concern:
- Dry mouth
- Profuse sweating
- Unintentional weight loss/gain
- Insomnia/sleep disturbances
- Nightmares or vivid dreams
- Drowsiness and fatigue
- Impotence/sexual dysfunction
Uncommonly, severe side effects can occur. Individuals taking Prozac should contact their health provider or emergency medical personnel as soon as possible if they should experience any of the following symptoms:
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Impaired judgment or thinking
- Impaired motor skills
- Excessive bleeding
- Allergic reactions
- Suicidal thoughts/behaviors
- Self-harming behaviors
- Sudden bouts of mania
- Vision problems
- Significant weight loss
- Serotonin syndrome
Note: Serotonin syndrome is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition caused by too much serotonin production and requires immediate treatment. Patients should use Prozac only as prescribed by a doctor, and never in excessive doses or more frequently than prescribed.
Getting Treatment for Addiction
If you feel that you or someone you love needs professional addiction treatment for a dependence on Prozac or another substance, we urge you to contact us as soon as possible. In addition to intensive treatment for substance abuse, we use a customized approach designed to address all aspects of an individual’s health and wellness. This includes treatment for anxiety, depression, and other co-occurring mental health disorders.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer research-based programs and services essential for the recovery process in both inpatient and partial hospitalization formats.