Prozac (fluoxetine) is part of a group of relatively newer antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This prescription medication effectively increases the amount of serotonin—a neurotransmitter related to mood—in the body. Newer antidepressant medications like Prozac were developed to produce fewer side effects than older antidepressant medications such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), tricyclics, and tetracyclics.
This medication is chiefly used to treat depression in adults, teenagers, and children. It may also be prescribed for the treatment of obsessive compulsive thoughts and behaviors in adults and children, bulimia nervosa in adults, panic attacks in adults, treatment-resistant depression in adults, and adults with depressive episodes associated with bipolar I. Prozac may help to control the behavior, emotions, and thoughts that sometimes accompany these conditions, but it is not intended to cure the diagnosis.
- How should I take this medication?
Prozac comes in several different forms, including a tablet, a capsule, a delayed-release capsule, and a concentrated liquid. Your doctor will help you determine which version of this drug is best for you. The tablet, capsule, and liquid forms of this drug are usually taken once (in the morning) or twice (morning and noon) each day; extended-release capsules are usually taken once per week. Do not bite, chew, suck, or crush tablets or capsules; swallow this medication whole. It may take up to five weeks before you begin to feel the full effect of this medication. It is very important that you continue taking Prozac as directed by your doctor, even if your symptoms subside. Read the medication guide each time you refill your medication as new information may have been added.
- What should I do if I forget to take a dose?
Take the dose you missed as soon as you are able to. If it will soon be time for your next regular dose, then do not take the dose you forgot. Taking too much Prozac too quickly may lead to an overdose.
- What should I do if I overdose on this medication?
If you believe you may be overdosing on Prozac, contact a poison help line, call your healthcare provider, and seek urgent medical care right away. Prozac overdose is a medical emergency and should be treated as quickly as possible. Symptoms of overdose may include stomach pain or nausea, vomiting, tremors, seizures, and a slowed heart rate.
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People who are allergic to fluoxetine hydrochloride, people who are currently taking an MAOI or who have taken an MAOI in the past two weeks, people who are taking Mellaril, people who are taking pimozide or thioridazine, people who are being treated with methylene blue injection, and children who are under the age of seven should not take this drug. Do not share your medication with anyone else, even if he or she has been diagnosed with a similar health condition.
- How can I get the most out of my treatment with Prozac?
Many mental health conditions this drug is designed to treat have also shown positive results when treated with psychotherapy. If you are prescribed this medication for depression, disordered eating, obsessive compulsion, or panic or anxiety, consider finding a therapist or counselor to aid in your treatment. A mental health professional may be able to help you understand what you are experiencing better and help you work on positive coping strategies and a self-care routine that produce an overall higher quality of life. In some cases, this may lead to a better, longer-lasting mental health outcome.
- How should I store this medication?
Keep this and all other drugs out of the reach of young children. Keep this medication tightly sealed in its original container. Store this medication at room temperature, away from excess heat or moisture.
This medication may lead to or increase suicidal thoughts and actions in young adults (aged 24 or younger), teenagers, and children—especially at the start of treatment or if the dosage is altered. In addition to acts and thoughts of suicide, one study suggests that this drug may increase self-harm, aggression, and violence in children and adolescents. Pay attention to new or sudden changes in mood, thoughts, or behavior. Contact your health care provider if any changes appear severe, or if they concern you.
People who use this drug may develop a potentially life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome. This condition is characterized by high or low blood pressure, racing heartbeat, muscle stiffness, muscle twitching, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, tremors, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
If you have ever had a heart attack, a history of heart disease, diabetes, glaucoma, or liver disease, talk to your health care provider before you take Prozac. Talk to your doctor about any electroshock therapy you are receiving or have received prior to beginning this medication. Adults over the age of 65 may experience severe side effects; if you are in this age group, work with your doctor to find an alternative treatment for your condition.
It is possible for this drug to interact with other medications or supplements, including antihistamines, anticoagulants, other antidepressants, antifungals, medication for sleep issues, herbal supplements, pain relief medication, blood pressure drugs, migraine medications, vitamins, minerals, and more. If you are taking any prescription drugs or regularly taking supplements, ask your doctor about any possible interactions before taking Prozac.
Prozac, like many SSRIs, carries significant risks of which to be aware. If you are prescribed this medication, talk to your doctor and pharmacist about the following:
- You should talk to your doctor about alternative treatments for your condition if you are pregnant or become pregnant during the course of your treatment. Prozac may cause breathing issues in newborns if taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
- This antidepressant drug may make you extremely drowsy; do not engage in potentially hazardous activities such as driving, working with heavy machinery, or climbing until you discover how this drug affects you.
- Avoid using alcohol with this medication as it may worsen potential side effects.
- If you plan to have surgery, let your surgeon know that you are taking this medication.
If you experience side effects from this medication, you should inform your doctor or psychiatrist right away. Serious side effects may include:
- Hallucinations or hearing voices
- Irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Muscle stiffness or joint pain
- Hives or skin rash
- Facial swelling or swelling in the extremities
Less serious side effects may include:
- Drowsiness or weakness
- Dry mouth
- Changes in appetite or weight loss
- Restlessness or nervousness
- Change in sex drive or ability
- Tremors or shaking
- Sore or scratchy throat
Work out a plan with your doctor before reducing or stopping this medication; you should not stop taking it abruptly. You may reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms by tapering off of this medication over time. Possible symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Agitation, anxiety, or irritability
- Tiredness or dizziness
- Burning or tingling sensations
- 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). Prozac. Retrieved from http://www.drugs.com/prozac.html
- Medline Plus. (2014). Fluoxetine. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a689006.html
- RxList. (2014). Prozac. Retrieved from http://www.rxlist.com/prozac-drug.htm
- United States Food and Drug Administration. (2009). Medication guide: Prozac. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/downloads/drugs/drugsafety/ucm088999.pdf.
Page content reviewed by James Pendleton, ND