Understanding the Effects of Prozac

Dec 2023 Understanding the Effects of Prozac

When Prozac was introduced in the U.S. in the late 1980s, it marked a watershed moment in depression treatment. Today, more than three decades later, researchers have a wealth of data on the effects of Prozac, including answers to questions such as is Prozac addictive, what are the most common side effects of Prozac, and what happens during Prozac withdrawal

About Prozac

Prozac is the brand name of a prescription medication that is primarily used to treat depression. The generic version of this drug is fluoxetine. It was first synthesized in the early 1970s and it earned approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1987. 

Prozac was the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Its release didn’t merely add a new medication to the marketplace – it represented a breakthrough in the effort to find new ways to treat depression. 

Here are two statistics that demonstrate the impact that Prozac had on depression treatment:

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that antidepressant use in the United States increased by about 400% in the decade following Prozac’s introduction. 
  • According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), by 1990 – or a mere two years after Prozac began to be sold in the U.S. – the medication had already become the best-selling antidepressant of all time.

Today, while still being used to treat depression, Prozac is also prescribed to people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, bulimia, and other mental health concerns.

Potential Side Effects of Prozac

In addition to offering a new way to treat depression, one of the other factors behind Prozac’s success was that it was less likely to cause the disruptive side effects that often resulted from the use of older meds such as tricyclics and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Prozac poses no risk of side effects. Research has documented that the following are among the most common side effects experienced by people who used Prozac or other SSRIs:

  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Drowsiness
  • Weight gain
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

The study that cited the effects listed above did not address the likelihood of becoming dependent on Prozac. However, as we will address in the next section, other experts have explored the question, is Prozac addictive?

Is Prozac Addictive?

Most reputable sources agree that the answer to the question, Is Prozac addictive, is that no, it is not addictive in the way that we think of heroin, alcohol, and cocaine as being addictive. 

In other words, taking Prozac will not cause a person to develop symptoms such as feeling compelled to use the medication, prioritizing Prozac over their personal and occupational responsibilities, or losing the ability to control the frequency and amount of their Prozac use. 

But that doesn’t mean that someone who has been taking this medication can end their use the medication at any time without difficulty. One of the reasons why people often ask, is Prozac addictive, is because when someone abruptly stops taking it, they may develop withdrawal symptoms. 

Withdrawal Symptoms

Abruptly ceasing your Prozac use can trigger a variety of withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Mood swings
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Dizziness
  • Sense of detachment from your surroundings
  • Problems with focus and concentration

Some people also experience what they refer to as “brain zaps” during Prozac withdrawal. These are sensations that feel like brief, recurring electrical shocks.

Can You Mix Alcohol and Prozac?

Doctors typically advise patients to avoid alcohol while they are taking Prozac, other SSRIs, and certain other types of antidepressants. Combining Prozac with alcohol can increase your risk for various negative outcomes, such as the following:

  • Alcohol can negate Prozac’s effectiveness, which can cause an increase in symptoms.
  • Alcohol can exacerbate Prozac’s side effects, which can compound your distress.
  • The combination of alcohol and Prozac can cause extreme drowsiness, along with impaired judgement and coordination.

What to Do if You Want to Stop Using Prozac

If you have been taking Prozac, and you want to stop doing so, you should discuss this with the physician who prescribed it. They can help you taper your dosage (slowly reducing how much you take), so that you can wean yourself from the medication without having to endure the withdrawal symptoms we listed earlier in this post.

Your physician can prepare you for any possible side effects that you may experience as you stop taking Prozac. They can also help you determine how to best maintain your mental health once you are no longer taking Prozac. This plan may include starting on a different medication or pursuing other means of managing your symptoms. 

Though we’ve already noted this, it is important enough to justify being repeated: You should never simply quit taking Prozac (or any other long-term prescription medication) without first consulting with the professional who prescribed it to you.

Contact Phoenix Rising About Addiction Treatment Today

If you simply cannot stop taking Prozac, or if you have become addicted to another type of prescription medication, Phoenix Rising Recovery is here to help. 

Our center offers a full continuum of care, including detox, residential rehab, and multiple outpatient programs, to help adults end their substance use and build a foundation for successful recovery. We also provide dual diagnosis programming for patients whose struggles with addiction are accompanied by anxiety, depression, and other co-occurring mental health concerns.

To learn more about our rehab center in southern California or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact page or call us today.