Prozac Medication: An Overview
Prozac is a medication used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bulimia, and frequently severe symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Prozac is within the drug classification referred to as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), which is believed to help maintain a elevated level of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain which is believed to affect moods. This neurotransmitter is usually quickly reabsorbed after its initial release from neurons in the brain. It is believed that excess serotonin between the neurons is blocked by medications such as Prozac from being taken back up into the releasing neurons resulting in increased levels of serotonin in the brain.
Prozac is most often prescribed to treat depression of the moderate to severe variety which interferes with daily functioning and most often is referred to as major depression. The symptoms of major depression include low mood and low energy, changes in sleeping habits and appetite, decreased sex drive, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, slowed thinking, and suicidal thoughts. However, Prozac can be taken for a variety of other mental health disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder as well as others. It is most often prescribed for adolescents, adults and the elderly but may occasionally be prescribed for children.
Prozac Medication for Obsessive- Compulsive Disorders:
In addition to being used for the treatment of depression, Prozac is also used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder. Obsessions are thoughts that won’t go away, and compulsions are repetitive behaviors and actions which are done to relieve anxiety often associated with the obsessions. Prozac is used at times to also treat bulimia which is a binge eating disorder which involves deliberate vomiting and has also been used to treat other eating disorders including obesity.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder:
Under the brand name Serafem which includes the active ingredients in Prozac, this depression medication is sometimes prescribed for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which is often referred to as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) including mood changes such as anxiety, depression, persistent anger, irritability, and mood swings. There are various physical problems associated with PMDD, including bloating, breast tenderness, headache and joint muscle pain. Symptoms usually tend to begin about 1 to 2 weeks before a woman’s premenstrual period. They are frequently severe enough to interfere with a woman’s daily activities, functioning and relationships.
Prozac Medication: Precautions
You should always be open and honest with your doctor when your taking Prozac. Always give a complete medical history, including liver problems, kidney disease, seizures, heart problems, allergies and history of diabetes. This depression medication has been known to make individuals dizzy or drowsy, making it necessary to be cautious when engaging in activities that require alertness such as driving or using heavy machinery. Alcohol should be limited when on this medication. Caution is also advised if you have diabetes, alcohol dependence or liver disease. Also, caution should be taken when this medication is being used by the elderly as they are more sensitive to the effects of the drug. This drug should only be used if necessary if an individual is pregnant as the medication passes into the breast milk. Because of the possible risk to the infant, breast-feeding while on this medication is not recommended. Consultation with your physician about the benefits and risks of Prozac used during pregnancy and breast-feeding is imperative. Obviously, you should never share your Prozac with others.
Important Facts About This Depression Medication
It has been noted that there can be some very serious and at times even fatal reactions to occur when Prozac is taken at the same time as some other antidepressants such as the MAO inhibitors. Also, you need to be careful when taking high doses of Prozac over a prolonged period of time. If you are taking any other medications for depression or any other prescription or nonprescription drugs you need to notify your physician before beginning on Prozac.
Prozac Side Effects:
Although the Prozac side effects seem to be less than some of the earlier generation antidepressant medications such as desipramine, amitriptyline and nortriptyline, there are still side effects that you need to be aware of. Some of the more common side effects of Prozac are sweating, dry mouth, drowsiness, headache, insomnia and nausea. Some of the side effects that are less likely but at times even more severe are loss of appetite and unusual weight loss, uncontrollable movements such as tremors, decreased interest in sex, flu-like symptoms, and either unusual or severe mood changes. Even less likely but even more potentially serious Prozac side effects include trouble swallowing, vision changes, white spots and swelling on the mouth and tongue, painful and/or prolonged erection and changes in sexual ability. The most severe side effects associated with Prozac are irregular and fast heartbeat, and fainting. Allergic reactions to Prozac are relatively rare but may include itching, rash, swelling, trouble breathing and dizziness. If you notice any reactions after beginning treatment with Prozac, you need to notify your pharmacist or physician immediately. A more complete listing of Prozac side effects follows.
The Most Common Prozac Side Effects:
Abnormal vision, abnormal ejaculation, abnormal dreams, increased anxiety, reduced sex drive, dry mouth, dizziness, flushing, flulike symptoms, headache, gas, impotence, itching, insomnia, loss of appetite, nervousness, nausea, sinusitis, rash, sleepiness, sweating, sore throat, upset stomach, tremors, yawning, vomiting, weakness
Less Common Prozac Side Effects:
Agitation, abnormal taste, weight gain, sleep disorders, bleeding problems, confusion, chills, weight gain, ringing in the ears, palpitations, loss of memory, increased appetite, high blood pressure, frequent urination, ear pain, emotional instability
There have been other very rare side effects reported while taking Prozac. If you develop any unexplained or new symptoms after initiating treatment with this depression medication you need to contact your physician immediately.
In addition to the Prozac side effects mentioned above, there are also concerns for negative food and drug interactions when taking this antidepressant medication. As mentioned previously, Prozac should never be taken at the same time as you are taking MAO inhibitors. This can cause a very serious medication interaction. Also, when Prozac is taken with other medications the effect may be increased, decreased or altered in other ways. You should always check with your doctor when Prozac is taken with the following medications:
Drugs that impair brain function, such as sleep aids and narcotic painkillers
Other antidepressants (Elavil)
Special Warnings if You are Pregnant or Breast-feeding:
Prozac has not been adequately studied for its effects on pregnancy. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant in the near future, you need to talk with your physician as soon as possible to determine whether you should continue taking this depression medication. Prozac is known to appear in breast milk, so breast-feeding is obviously discouraged when taking this drug.
It is most common for your Prozac dosage to be taken once or twice a day and should be taken exactly as prescribed by your physician. It needs to be taken regularly to be effective. If it is possible, you should take your Prozac dosage at the same time every day.
Some patients have found that it can take as much as four weeks to feel any significant effects and get some relief from their depression. Doctors will also commonly maintain the treatment regimen for about nine months after the first initial three-month treatment trial. Some individuals who experience obsessive-compulsive disorder may not feel the full effects for as much as five weeks.
The Recommended Prozac Dosage:
The most common starting dosage of Prozac is 20 mg daily taken in the morning. Your physician may increase your dose after several weeks if there has been no improvement in symptoms. Elderly people with kidney and liver disease, and any other individual taking other medications may have their dosage adjusted by their doctor.
When taking a dosage of Prozac over 20 mg, the doctor may ask you to take it once a day in the morning or may ask that you to take two smaller doses in the morning and also at noontime.
The usual Prozac dosage for depression ranges between 20 mg and 60 mg. For obsessive-compulsive disorder, the usual dosage of Prozac ranges from 20 mg to 60 mg per day, although at times a maximum of 80 mg may be prescribed. The usual dosage of Prozac for bulimia nervosa is 60 mg taken in the morning. As with other disorders, the doctor may start at a lower dosage and increase to this level over a period of time. The most common Prozac dosage for premenstrual dysphoric disorder is 20 mg per day.
For some individuals who have been treated successfully with the daily form of Prozac, their doctor may switch them to a long acting form sometimes referred to as Prozac weekly. Your physician may ask you to skip your daily doses for seven days and then take your first weekly capsule.
If you miss your dose of Prozac you should take it as soon as you remember. If a significant time has passed however, you should skip that dosage and resume your normal dosage schedule.
Over dosage of Prozac:
Prozac like all medications, needs to be taken as recommended. Dosages more than the recommended amount can be dangerous and even fatal. Also, combining Prozac with certain other medications or drugs may cause symptoms of over dosage. If you suspect an overdose, you need to contact your doctor or go to an emergency room immediately.
The most common symptoms of Prozac over dosage include rapid heartbeat, nausea, seizures, vomiting and sleepiness. Some of the less common symptoms of Prozac over dosage include stupor, sweating, rigid muscles, low blood pressure, mania, coma, delirium, fainting, high fever and irregular heartbeat.
By Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist