Getting off Antidepressants: Prozac Withdrawal and Addiction
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 16.2 million American adults suffered from at least one major depressive episode in 2016, approximately 6.7% of all adults in America. They project that only about 63% of American adults with a major depressive episode receive treatment.
Prozac is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that can treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and bulimia nervosa, as well as relieve the symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder. The generic name is fluoxetine.
Prozac and other SSRIs work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in the brain. This makes more serotonin available. According to the Mayo Clinic, fluoxetine is typically started at 20mg per day for adults with major depressive disorder, and it may be adjusted by your provider as needed. An adult’s dose is usually not more than 80mg per day. It might take 4 weeks or longer before you start feeling the full benefits of Prozac.
Prozac is a prescription medication, but it is not a controlled substance as it does not have a notable potential for abuse. However, individuals may still misuse Prozac, for instance if they think increasing their dose would further help their symptoms or if they mistakenly believe they can get high from Prozac. Additionally, someone may obtain Prozac illicitly to alleviate untreated mental illness or to reduce the side effects or withdrawal symptoms from abusing another drug. Anytime someone starts or adjusts a prescription medication without consulting a medical professional, they risk serious negative consequences.
Side Effects of Prozac
As with any medication, there are potential side effects from taking Prozac. These side effects may be more likely if someone is taking too high of a dose or is taking Prozac too frequently.
- Trouble sleeping
- Dry mouth
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased libido
- Rash, itching, and/or blisters
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
- Changes in heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of coordination
- Severe muscle stiffness or twitching
- Joint pain
- Abnormal bleeding or bruising
- Extreme agitation, confusion, anxiety, depression, recklessness, and/or restlessness
Though Prozac is not addictive, you may develop some withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it suddenly. Consult your healthcare provider if you want to stop Prozac.
- Mood changes
- Numbness/tingling in the hands or feet
- Trouble sleeping
When to Stop Prozac
Individuals who are misusing Prozac, either by taking it differently from how it is prescribed to them or taking it without a prescription, should consult with a healthcare professional. Prozac can cause dangerous side effects (especially when taken excessively), can interact with other medications and supplements, and can be especially harmful for individuals with certain medical or psychiatric conditions. Individuals under age 25 especially may be at increased risk of suicidality.
If an addiction issue is suspected, discuss the concern with the prescriber. A medical professional can help to assess the situation.
The Road to Recovery
For individuals who are misusing Prozac because they mistakenly believe they can get high from it or because they are trying to reduce the side effects or withdrawal symptoms from misusing another drug, an addiction treatment program may be necessary. Although Prozac is not addictive, these behaviors could be warning signs that the individual is addicted to another substance.
If addiction is indeed present, there are many treatment options available, including residential treatment, a partial hospitalization program, an intensive outpatient program, or traditional outpatient care. Depending on the individual’s substance use history, detox may be necessary first. During both residential treatment and outpatient programs for addiction, clients may participate in motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, and/or other forms of therapy focused on giving clients the tools they need to manage their addiction.
Worried You Won’t be Able to Afford Treatment?
At Laguna Treatment Hospital, we see daily the toll that addiction takes on individuals and families, and that’s why we commit ourselves to making treatment an option for everyone who needs it. We are now an in-network treatment provider for Anthem Blue Cross, accepting plans such as:
- Blue Cross of California d/b/a Anthem Blue Cross
- Blue Cross HMO (CaliforniaCare)
- Blue Cross PP0 (Prudent Buyer)
We may also be in-network for other Blue Cross plans. Please call us or your insurance provider (the number should be on your card) to learn more about how your coverage can help you get the care you need.
When a loved one enters treatment for addiction, family support can be very beneficial both during treatment and throughout their loved one’s recovery. Family education programs can help the family learn about the disease of addiction and how to best support their loved one. For many families, family therapy is also helpful.
Though Prozac is not considered addictive, misuse of Prozac may be a warning sign that a person is struggling with the disease of addiction and/or that they are suffering from untreated or inadequately treated mental illness. If you or a loved one seem to be suffering from addiction and/or mental illness, real help is available. Laguna Treatment Hospital provides comprehensive treatment for substance use disorders, with or without co-occurring mental illness. If you or your loved one is struggling with mental illness but not addiction, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides a helpful guide to finding a mental health professional.