Prozac is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs) that was first used to treat depression. It works by preventing the absorption of serotonin in the brain. Thus, Prozac improves the communication highways in brain cells, resulting in less anxiety and better moods. The generic name for this antidepressant is fluoxetine.
Uses of Prozac
Fluoxetine, or Prozac, is used as a first-line treatment for the following conditions:
- Panic Attacks
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Premenstrual syndrome
People who have a positive experience with Prozac report a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms. They feel more relaxed and less anxious, as well as have better sleep and appetite. There is an increase in energy levels, improved focus and they often find that their Interest in life is restored.
In fact, Prozac is the first-line treatment for many anxiety disorders. Research shows that adults who were on this medication had restored plasticity in the brain. This, in turn, results in therapy being more effective. It is not surprising then that there are studies that suggest that combining cognitive behavior therapy with fluoxetine results in a decrease in depressive symptoms.
Dosage and administration
Your doctor will probably start with a low dosage which will then be gradually increased. Maximum dosage of Prozac is 80mg per day. This medication comes in both liquid and capsule form. If you are on the liquid form, do use a proper measuring spoon so that you get the correct dosage.
It may be a few weeks before the effects of this drug show, so do not stop taking it abruptly even if you feel that it is not effective. You should, however, start seeing some effect in about 1 to 2 weeks. Stopping this medication suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms, so do consult your medical practitioner if you plan on stopping. Only take the dosage that is prescribed by your doctor. This ensures that side effects are minimal and that there is no overdose.
Take the prescribed dose as soon as you remember if you missed it. However, skip the missed dose if you are close to the time for the next dose. Never take a double dose to make up for the one that you missed.
How quickly does Prozac work for anxiety?
You will need a minimum of 1 to 2 weeks before you see improvements in anxiety symptoms. The full benefit of the drug can only be seen 4 to 6 weeks from when you first began taking it. This is due to the time needed for fluoxetine to build up in your body before it can be fully effective.
Can Prozac make anxiety worse?
Antidepressants can cause anxiety in the early days of treatment. This side effect is referred to as ‘activation syndrome’. Research shows that up to 31% of people who had never taken antidepressants before had activation syndrome when they took antidepressants.
However, this side effect is usually temporary and disappears as your body adjusts to the medication. If you are taking Prozac for anxiety and feel worse off, inform your doctor. Your doctor may lower your dosage, or give you other medication to counteract this side effect. Do not stop the medication before consulting your doctor.
Side effects of Prozac
While Prozac may cause several side effects, do remember that medication is usually prescribed because there is more benefit for the patient as compared to side effects risk. Having said that, contact your doctor or seek medical help at once if you experience side effects, or if the side effects worsen.
Common side effects
Common side effects of taking Prozac include:
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling tired
- Always yawning
Severe side effects
Severe side effects of taking Prozac include:
- Changes in mood
- Feeling agitated
- Feeling excited or having very high energy
- Suicidal thoughts
- Bruising or bleeding easily
- Muscle weakness or muscle spasms
- Tremors / shaking
- Changes in sexual ability
- Loss of interest in sex
- Sudden or unusual weight loss
- Bloody or black stools
- Vomiting, especially if the vomit looks like coffee grounds
- Changes in the amount of urine being passed
- Changes in vision, especially if there is blurred vision
- Eye pain
- Widened pupils
- Changes in blood sugar levels if you are diabetic
- A prolonged erection lasting 4 hours or more in males
There is also a risk of serotonin syndrome which is also known as serotonin toxicity. The chance of this happening increases if you are taking other medication that increases serotonin. Signs that you may have serotonin syndrome include hallucinations, severe dizziness, increased heart rate, severe nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea, unexplained fever, feeling agitated or restless and twitching muscles.
While allergic reactions to this drug are not common, do get medical help immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Itching and/or swelling, especially on the face, tongue and/or throat
- Severe dizziness
- Trouble breathing
Precautions to take when using Prozac
You need to be aware that this medication may have inactive ingredients. Thus, it is best that you inform your doctor if you have any allergies before taking fluoxetine. Besides this, it will be wise to tell your doctor your complete medical history, including that of your family’s.
Be aware that this medication can cause dizziness and drowsiness. As such, do not attempt to drive or use machinery until you know how your body reacts to fluoxetine. Adding alcohol and marijuana to the mix will cause you to feel even more dizzy or drowsy.
If you have an alcohol dependence, diabetes, or liver disease, take note that the liquid form of this drug has alcohol. Be aware that there can be serious side effects when some other medications are mixed with alcohol. Consult your doctor if you are on Prozac and plan to start any new medication.
Children who are on fluoxetine may experience weight loss, so do take note of your child’s weight and height if they are on this drug.
Older adults may experience loss of coordination which increases their risk of falling. If they are on diuretics, taking fluoxetine may result in low sodium levels in the blood.
You need to inform your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to get pregnant or are breastfeeding before taking Prozac. This drug may cause harm to the fetus and may even cause Prozac withdrawal symptoms if this drug is taken in the third trimester. Be aware that this medication can pass into breast milk, and thus affect your baby if you are breastfeeding.
Always talk to your doctor before taking or stopping this medication. Do remember that untreated mental disorders, and anxiety disorders can result in serious consequences.
Drug interactions refer to how other medications, whether prescription or nonprescription, can change the way your medication is supposed to work. Drug interactions can also cause serious side effects. Thus, it is always best that you inform your doctor or your pharmacist about all the medication and supplements that you are on before taking a new medication.
Drugs that might have an interaction with Prozac include:
- Medication that can cause bleeding or bruising – antiplatelet drugs such as ibuprofen, NSAIDs, clopidogrel and blood thinners
- MAO inhibitors – This can possibly be a fatal interaction, so you should not take MAO inhibitors 2 weeks before or 5 weeks after you take fluoxetine.
- Aspirin – there is an increased risk of bleeding when used with fluoxetine. Inform your doctor if you are on fluoxetine and listen to your doctor’s advice.
Besides this, fluoxetine also affects the removal of other medications from your body and thus, changes how they work. Some of the affected drugs are vinblastine, antiarrhythmics, and tricyclic antidepressants.
Lastly, you need to be aware that fluoxetine can stay in your body for a number of weeks even after you take your last dose. Let your doctor know if you have been on fluoxetine in the past five weeks before starting any new medication to avoid any complications.
Prozac withdrawal symptoms
You may notice the following symptoms if this medication is stopped suddenly:
- Trouble sleeping – Insomnia and nightmares
- Feeling confused
- Feeling irritable
- Crying spells
Hence, do not stop this medication without letting your doctor know. To prevent withdrawal symptoms from occurring, your doctor will gradually taper you off your dosage.
Symptoms of overdose include severe dizziness, irregular or increased heartbeat, trouble breathing and fainting. Contact emergency services if you know someone who has overdosed so that treatment can be administered immediately.
Storage and Disposal
Keep Prozac away from light in a dry place at room temperature. Do not store this medication in the bathroom. Do make sure that it is out of reach of children and pets.
If you need to dispose of this drug, do not flush it down the toilet, or throw it out in the garbage. Do consult your doctor or your local pharmacist on the safest way to do so.
Prozac can be a very effective drug for anxiety disorders. While there are certain side effects, as well as withdrawal symptoms if this medication is stopped abruptly, your doctor would have weighed all these against the benefits before prescribing this drug to you. If you are nervous about taking this medication, speak to your doctor about your worries.