Paxil (paroxetine) is an antidepressant drug that is part of a class of medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This drug works by preventing the reuptake of serotonin—a neurotransmitter that affects mood—and thus increasing its supply in the body. People who require Paxil will need a prescription from a doctor or psychiatrist in order to obtain this medication.
Paxil is primarily used to control the symptoms that often accompany depression in adults and teenagers. It also may be used to treat obsessive compulsive thoughts and behavior, panic attacks, social anxiety, general anxiety, premenstrual dysphoric issues, and posttraumatic stress. Paxil will not cure any of these mental health conditions, but it may help to control the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that may accompany them.
- What is the safest way to take this medication?
Paxil comes in tablet, liquid, or extended-release capsule form and is usually taken once per day, with food or without food. However, taking this medication with food may help prevent an upset stomach. Swallow extended-release capsules and regular tablets whole; do not crush, bite, or chew them. Try to take this medication at the same time each day for best results. Several weeks may pass before you feel the full effect of this medication. It is important that you keep taking this medication as prescribed by your doctor, even after you begin to feel better.
- What should I do if I miss a dose of medication?
Take the medication you missed as soon as possible. But if it will soon be time for your next dose, then do not take the medication you missed; simply stick to your regular dosing program. Taking two doses of this medication in a short time frame may put you at risk for an overdose.
- What should I do if I overdose on this medication?
Get urgent assistance from a poison help line or call your doctor right away if you suspect that you have overdosed on Paxil. An overdose of this drug may be deadly. Symptoms of overdose include shakiness, confusion, dizziness, seizures, irregular heartbeat, pneumonia, breathing difficulties, kidney failure, fainting, and coma.
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Many mental health conditions for which SSRIs are prescribed also show positive results when treated with psychotherapy. For this reason, it may improve the quality of life more for a person in treatment if they pair their medication with a counseling or pyschotherapy. Connecting with a therapist or counselor may help a person better understand what he or she is experiencing, learn positive ways to cope, and develop a healthy self-care routine that could facilitate a better, longer-lasting mental health outcome.
- How should I store this medication?
Keep this drug tightly sealed in the container it came in and store the container at room temperature, in a location that is not exposed to excess heat or moisture. Ensure that this medication is kept in a place that is not accessible to young children.
This medication may cause suicidal thoughts or behavior in children, teenagers, and young adults (aged 24 or younger), particularly during the first few months of treatment. These thoughts and actions may return if the dosage is changed. Call your doctor immediately if you detect any drastic changes in mood or develop behaviors that cause you to worry.
Using this medication over a long period of time may cause serotonin syndrome or neuroleptic malignant syndrome. These conditions may be fatal. Symptoms associated with these conditions include twitching muscles, problems with coordination, fast heartbeat, high or low blood pressure, hallucinations, changes in mental state, and loss of consciousness.
Do not take this medication within two weeks of taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) as serious and possibly fatal drug interactions may occur. Do not take an MAOI drug until at least two weeks after you stop taking this medication.
If you have or have ever had heart disease, heart failure, glaucoma, stomach or esophagus bleeding, or liver or kidney disease, you should talk to your doctor before you take Paxil. You should also mention any severe reactions you may have had to similar medications. Tell your doctor if you currently have or have had any issues with addictive drugs, including street drugs or prescription medication.
This medication may cause serious complications in newborns if taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. In 2005, the United States Food and Drug Administration reported that Paxil may cause heart malformations in newborns if taken by pregnant women. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, you should discuss possible alternative treatments for your condition with your doctor.
Paxil may interact with other medications or supplements, including antihistamines, anticoagulants, antidepressants, antifungal medications, sleeping pills, pain relievers, high blood pressure medications, minerals, vitamins, and certain herbs such as St. John’s wort. If you are currently taking other prescription drugs or supplements, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking this drug.
People taking this medication should follow the guidelines outlined by their doctor. Important considerations to keep in mind when taking this drug include:
- This medication may make you very drowsy; using alcohol may worsen this side effect. Avoid driving, climbing, or working with heavy machinery until you find out how this medication affects you.
- Your surgeon or anesthesiologist needs to know that you are taking this medication if you intend to have any type of surgery, including oral surgery.
- Notify your doctor if you become pregnant while taking this prescription. Do not stop taking this medication unless advised to do so by your doctor.
If you experience serious or severe side effects from Paxil, you should call your doctor immediately. Serious side effects may include:
- Blurred vision, fainting, or weakness
- Chest pain
- Difficulty walking or unsteadiness
- Irregular or fast heartbeat; slowed heartbeat
- Abnormal bleeding, bruising, or blistering
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing, tightness in the throat or neck, hoarse voice
- Severe rash, itching, or hives; red dots on skin
- Swelling of face, eyes, throat, or extremities
- Muscle stiffness
- Fever or sweating
- Unusual, uncontrollable facial or body movements
- Tarry, black, or bloody stool
- Bloody vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
- Frequent, difficult, or painful urination
Less serious side effects may include:
- Drowsiness, dizziness, or yawning
- Sweating and flushed skin
- Feeling of nervousness or anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- Dry mouth
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Restlessness or agitation
- Upset stomach, heartburn, gas, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation
- Pain in the joints, arms, or legs
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Back or muscle pain
- Sore gums and teeth
- Strange dreams
- Changes in sex drive or ability
- Changes in ability to taste food
- Irregular or painful menstruation
You may reduce withdrawal symptoms by slowly tapering off of this medication. Do not stop taking this medication abruptly; see your doctor before reducing or discontinuing Paxil. Talk with your doctor about any withdrawal symptoms that you experience. Possible symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Citizens Commission on Human Rights International. (2012). The side effects of common psychiatric drugs. Retrieved from http://www.cchrint.org/pdfs/The_Side_Effects_of_Common_Psychiatric_Drugs.pdf
- Drugs.com. (2014). Paxil. Retrieved from http://www.drugs.com/paxil.html
- Medline Plus. (2014). Paroxetine. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a698032.html
- RxList. (2014). Paxil. Retrieved from http://www.rxlist.com/paxil-drug.htm
- United States Food and Drug Administration. (2014). Medication guide: Paxil. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/downloads/drugs/drugsafety/ucm088676.pdf
Page content reviewed by James Pendleton, ND.