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Prozac (Fluoxetine) Side Effects, Withdrawal and FAQs

Prozac is an antidepressant drug in the class called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRI’s.
Prozac affects neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals within the brain and digestive system that help to send messages along nerve pathways. SSRI’s are used in the treatment of major depressive disorder.

According to recent statistics, Prozac is poised among the top three most prescribed antidepressant drugs; 24,961,000 prescriptions were written in the US alone in for 2011-2012, (1) and the statistics have continued to rise.

In 2017 it was reported by the National Center for Health Statistics that 13% of all US citizens 12 years of age and older took antidepressants. (4)  Many such antidepressants were originally intended for short term use, and the original studies supporting their use were short-term studies that did not include long-term efficacy or safety.

With surprising clarity, the DSM V clearly delineates the critical importance of assessment in carefully selecting persons who may or may not be good candidates for SSRI drugs to be used in therapy. (2)

While an ever growing number of doctors and nurse practitioners are legally able to prescribe medications, it remains essential for consumers to practice due diligence in fully researching a drug and possible useful adjunctive therapies for treating depression in all age categories, before either beginning or ending a prescription drug.

Below is some information that may be useful for such research, covering frequently asked questions, concerns, side effects, and additional data. Please contact us to provide more information on these or other topics by request.

What is Prozac (Fluoxetine) Used For?

SSRI drugs such as Prozac are used in treating MDD (major depressive disorder). There are about half a dozen SSRI’s that the FDA has approved for treating depression, each having similar characteristics and efficacy. Prozac is the one which remains approved for prescribing to young people, and that is possibly why the number of Prozac prescriptions tends to outweigh the other drugs in this class.

According to various psychiatric associations around the world, pharmacological solutions are not always the recommended first line of defense. Often the recommendation of psychotherapy is shown to work where prescribed antidepressants are much less effective. For example, two thirds of adolescents who were prescribed antidepressants reported relapse phenomena after completing a course of SSRI treatment in the absence of psychotherapy. (3)

One type of therapy found effective for the treatment of depression is called CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy. There are many forms of CBT that can be explored, including these:

  • Cognitive restructuring: involves identifying irrational beliefs or negative automatic thoughts or assumptions and replacing those with more positive and realistic thoughts and conclusions.
  • Behavioral Activation: creating strategies that support and explore pleasurable experiences; this may motivate and overcome those aspects of inertia or avoidance that are often associated with depression.
  • Problem solving collaboration: engaging with a skillful therapist can foster new ways to solve old problems.
  • Between therapy sessions: assigned “homework” to be done between sessions can provide meaningful opportunities to put into practice newly discovered ways of addressing challenges that may instill a sense of tangible and demonstrated progress.


Prozac (Fluoxetine) Alternative Names and Slang

Prozac is the brand name for fluoxetine hydrochloride, the active main ingredient. Slang or street names for Prozac are:

  • Wonder drug
  • Bottled smilies
  • Miracle drug
  • Happy pills

Prozac has become a slang word itself, according to the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, where the definition for Prozac used as an adjective to describe “someone lively and excited”.

Related Reading:


Prozac (Fluoxetine) Side Effects

The most troubling side effect for Prozac is the risk of suicide, and unexpected episodes of rage or violence, especially in the initial period of starting to take the drug.

Some people take Prozac and do not report any side effects, or report only mild reactions. There can be a range of adverse effects from mild to moderate to severe.

Some side effects include:

  • Elevated mood
  • Symptoms of low blood sugar, which can induce tachycardia, cold sweats, chills, shakiness, anxiety, unsteady gait, loss of balance, confusion, etc.
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Hot flashes
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Upset stomach, vomiting
  • Pain
  • Weakness
  • Strange dreams
  • Changes in vision
  • Yawning
  • Tiredness, drowsiness, may affect ability to drive or operate machinery
  • Nervousness
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Anorgasma
  • Indigestion

There are some side effects that are less commonly reported, some of which may require immediate medical intervention to avoid serious health risk:

  • Serotonin syndrome, life-threatening toxic reaction, coma, seizure, unconsciousness, rigidity, sudden fever, delirium, death is possible.
  • Hyponatremia or symptoms of low sodium such as seizure, confusion, weakness, thirst.
  • Serious allergic reaction, rash, hives, itching, swelling, etc.
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Suicidal behaviors and agitated behaviors or thoughts, feeling restless, agitated, anxious, aggressive, hostile, overly emotional, feeling of wanting to hurt oneself, feeling of wanting to hurt others.
  • Signs of bleeding in the stomach such as black tarry stool, vomiting blood, frequent nosebleeds, etc., which can occur because of decreased coagulation of blood platelets.
  • Signs of liver problems including nausea, yellowing of the skin or eye-whites, dark urine, pale stools, itching, etc.
  • Enlargement of breasts or discharge of milk from the breasts.
  • Unusual body or facial movements or tics, involuntary movements.
  • Mania, uncontrolled speech, thoughts, impulsive behaviors. 


Prozac (Fluoxetine) Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawing from Prozac should be done carefully and slowly, not all at once due to the changes that might be too rapid for the body to adjust easily to. Some withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Brain zaps (feel like jolts of electricity through the head)
  • Anxiety
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Loss of balance

Discontinuing/Quitting Prozac (Fluoxetine)

When symptoms become hard to tolerate, or seem to outweigh the benefits of the drug, a person may decide to stop taking Prozac. However, abruptly stopping is not recommended.

Always seek medical assistance from your doctor, or a competent and licensed health practitioner to safely come off Prozac.

Prozac (Fluoxetine) FAQs

Below is some information regarding some frequently asked questions about Prozac and some of the characteristics of the drug.

Ask your doctor if you have more questions about how to take Prozac, when to take it, if you have concerns about side effects, if your dosage needs to be changed, or any other important questions.

Is Prozac Highly Addictive?

Prozac is not considered to be addictive according to the organizations who regulate prescription medication. Regulatory bodies that oversee prescribing medications do not classify Prozac as habit-forming or addictive. However, recreational users do report being attracted to its speed-like high, and do at times seek treatment for what they are viewing as addiction.

Is Prozac and Xanax (Benzodiazepine) the Same Thing?

Xanax is a benzodiazepine, where Prozac is an SSRI antidepressant. For some users, Prozac has a sedating effect that may resemble a benzodiazepine type effect.

Can Prozac Make You Sleepy?

Prozac can cause the person to feel sleepy or drowsy. These effects may make it difficult to drive a car, or operate heavy machinery safely.

CFS or chronic fatigue syndrome is defined as chronic fatigue of unknown cause. However, if Prozac was the known cause of chronic drowsiness and the drug was continued for a substantial period of time, it is possible that chronic fatigue syndrome may have been diagnosed in error.

In clinical trials done, aerobic exercise has been proven more effective in the treatment of CFS than Prozac, and even when exercise and Prozac were combined, there was no further improvement than that attained with exercise alone. (5)

Is Prozac Dangerous?

Prozac is not recommended for all cases of depression, and there are clear delineations in the DSM V which offer guidance regarding who should and who should not be prescribed Prozac as a first line of treatment.

Especially where other medications are being taken, and certain health conditions exist, these types of factors can heighten certain risks, and should be taken into consideration before prescribing Prozac.

Some factors can increase the risk of what is called the “overstimulation reaction”. This is where there have been reports of people acting in dangerous ways to themselves and/or others after taking this medication. This could be a case of what is called disinhibition, where a person on a sedative, like alcohol or benzodiazepines, acts in violent ways. Careful assessment of these potentials in an individual may preclude Prozac as the right choice in such cases.

Only a competent medical doctor who has access to patient history and current information can assess and determine the risk to benefit ratio for the individual.

Concerns have been raised about the content of fluoride in Prozac and other medications and health products. There are unresolved questions concerning safety of fluoride in products made for ingestion, and this area remains under discussion within the FDA and also of interest to health advocacy groups. (6)

Does Prozac cause serotonin syndrome?

In rare cases, SSRI medications are linked to serotonin syndrome. This is a life-threatening reaction to certain medications, including symptoms such as confusion, losing consciousness, coma, impaired speech, stiffness, seizure, etc., and can lead to death if medical intervention is not immediate.

If signs such as these or other unusual reactions come on quickly, that is a sign to get to an emergency ward, or ICU for life-saving medical attention.

Treatment for Prozac (Fluoxetine) Abuse and Addiction?

At the Alternative to Meds Center, programming and assessment is done on an individual basis to design a set of protocols that may be able to assist a person to safely withdraw from prescription medications comfortably if so desired.

Many people seek relief from depression, or other unwanted symptoms, for which prescription drugs may not have provided a complete answer. Recovery of health can include relief from mental health symptoms, without relying on drugs which tend to mask symptoms, rather than fix the root causes.

Removal of neurotoxic accumulations from the body, and corrective nutrition can provide a good starting point for recovery of health. Holistic neurotransmitter repair is another treatment possibility that may be of interest where a person is seeking relief of symptoms without drugs.

We can work in many ways with individuals who are seeking bettered natural mental health.  Tapering from drugs can be part of the process. We invite you to contact us and we are happy to supply more information on request.

This content has been reviewed, and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. John Motl, M.D.

Dr Motl is currently certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry, and Board eligible in Neurology and licensed in the state of Arizona.  He holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated Creighton University School of Medicine with a Doctor of Medicine.  Dr. Motl has studied Medical Acupuncture at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine and at U.C.L.A.

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