What Is Prozac?
Prozac, also known as fluoxetine, is an anti-depressant medication approved for use in 1987 as the first of its kind marketed on a large scale. Fluoxetine can help individuals suffering from depression by elevating mood, increasing appetite, and improving sleep patterns. This drug is FDA-approved to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bulimia nervosa, panic disorder, and pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder.
Abuse of anti-depressants has increased in recent years. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NCHS) reports that during 2015–2018, 13.2% of adults over the age of 18 overused anti-depressant medications in the past 30 days.
When taken as prescribed, fluoxetine is consumed orally once a day with food, and the dosage slowly increases over the coming weeks. This drug is not considered addictive, but it changes the chemistry of the brain, causing physical dependence. When someone is physically dependent on an anti-depressant like fluoxetine, they may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it or miss doses.
Prozac’s Effects on the Brain
Fluoxetine is classified in a group of drugs referred to as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). These drugs work by blocking neurons from absorbing serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for mood stabilization, cognition reward, learning, and memory. When neurons cannot absorb serotonin, more of it is available to send signals between neurotransmitters in the brain, which alleviates the effects of depression.
Common side effects of fluoxetine include:
- Sleep disturbances like nightmares and insomnia
- Dry mouth
- Excessive yawning
- Sexual side effects
A severe side effect that occurs with extended fluoxetine use is serotonin syndrome, which can be fatal if left untreated. Serotonin syndrome is the result of having excessive amounts of serotonin in the brain. Those with serotonin syndrome may experience rapid heart rate, seizures, loss of consciousness, sweating, muscle contractions, and dilated pupils.
Withdrawal vs. Discontinuation Syndrome
As mentioned, fluoxetine is not considered an addictive drug, but it does lead to physical dependence. This means when someone suddenly stops taking fluoxetine, their brain has to adjust to the body’s inability to create the same effect on its own. This can cause physical and psychological changes, including:
- Difficulty sleeping and nightmares
- Nausea and vomiting
- Body aches
- Return of depression
The presence of these symptoms following the cessation of SSRI use is known by medical professionals as discontinuation syndrome. This is considered distinct and separate from substance withdrawal syndrome. Discontinuation syndrome is not caused by misuse or abuse of SSRIs. Although discontinuation syndrome symptoms may be more intense in those who abuse fluoxetine, they can still arise even with clients who use the drug as directed by their medical professional. Withdrawal syndrome appears in the detox phase of SUD treatment, and clients may experience intense cravings and a desire to continue drug or alcohol abuse despite its negative effects on their lives. A person stopping anti-depressant use does not experience these cravings and impulses.
Prozac Misuse and Abuse
Even though fluoxetine is not on the DEA’s list of Scheduled drugs, it has still been known to be abused. Individuals most at risk for abuse have a history of SUD and abuse fluoxetine in combination with other drugs. The interaction of fluoxetine with other drugs can be very dangerous, and it also puts users at a greater risk for overdose.
In 2017, a study published in Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation reported that rates of anti-depressant misuse have increased in recent years. While information around anti-depressant drug abuse is limited, reports of emergency room overdose rates show its prevalence. This same study reported that opioids (75.2%), benzodiazepines (29.4%), and anti-depressants (17.6%) were the most commonly used in pharmaceutical overdose resulting in death.
Clients who abuse fluoxetine have a greater risk of developing serotonin syndrome.
Treatment for Prozac Dependence
Those who wish to stop using fluoxetine should never do so without medical supervision, approval, or guidance. It is critical that clients with fluoxetine dependence receive professional treatment that will focus on a tapering-off schedule and address discontinuation syndrome symptoms. The longer a person takes fluoxetine, the longer the tapering-off process should be.
Treatment plans for clients with fluoxetine dependence differ depending on their unique circumstances. People can use, misuse, and abuse fluoxetine for many reasons. If a client is abusing fluoxetine in an attempt to self-medicate their depression or OCD, treatment therapies through one-on-one sessions with a licensed therapist can be beneficial to their mental health disorder and symptoms that arise from it. Dual-diagnosis treatment is an evidence-based therapeutic approach that treats addiction and co-occurring disorders together and in accordance with one another.
Continuing treatment for mental health disorders that may have sparked the abuse of fluoxetine is beneficial in preventing relapse of fluoxetine use. Therapy, counseling, social support groups, and educational services are helpful when treating mental health issues without the need for anti-depressants. Inpatient treatment services conveniently provide all of these services in one place, which is why this kind of program is desirable for clients wishing to taper off fluoxetine.
Fluoxetine, or Prozac, is a prescription anti-depressant that is also known to treat the symptoms of other mental health issues such as OCD and panic attacks. The physical dependence on this drug can make its discontinuation endangering to a client’s physical and mental health. You don’t have to go through detox and treatment alone. Call Laguna Shores Recovery today to learn more about our services for drug detox and rehabilitation at (866) 229-9923.