Medication Monday: Prozac

Today’s Monday looks at the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) that started it all! Prozac (fluoxetine).

When I say that Prozac started it all, I don’t mean it was the first medication for mental health disorders. Prior to the introduction of Prozac, treatment typically involved Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). Tricyclics acted by raising the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, while also acting as a reuptake inhibitor for those neurotransmitters. Unfortunately, tricyclics also blocked numerous other receptor sites. Because of this, they were notorious for nasty side effects, including weight gain, dry mouth, dizziness, and constipation.

Prozac led the charge of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which as the name suggests were more selective and thus had fewer side effects than TCAs. This, of course,  isn’t to say that Prozac or other modern SSRIs don’t have their own form of side effects. Prozac can cause nausea, drowsiness, trouble sleeping, and dizziness. Like all mental health medications, it may prove ineffective, or may actually make some symptoms worse, which is why it is important to communicate with your doctor if you have any concerns about Prozac or any other medication.

Yet when Prozac is effective, it can be used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, certain eating disorders, and compulsive disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). It is usually taken orally, once a day, in the morning. Sometimes it will be recommended twice a day, in the morning and at noon. Your doctor will decide what works best for you.

Like other mental health medications, it will likely take a few weeks to start having an impact. If after 5 or 6 weeks you don’t feel it is working, then it might be time to go back to your doctor and try something new. It is also important to tell your doctors if you have been on Prozac for up to five weeks after your last dose, since it can stay in your system that entire time and can cause dangerous side effects if it interacts with other medications. Of particular concern is its interaction with MAOIs, since that can be fatal.

In the end, you and your doctor will be able to find the medication that works for you. Medication Monday is meant to provide a brief overview of the medication being covered that week, and hopefully reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health medication, but it should never be taken as medical advice. As with all mental health medications, your results will vary and you should always work with a doctor when it comes to deciding what mental health medication to use.

Hopefully you enjoyed this week’s Medication Monday, and join us next week for a look at Xanax.

And as always, thanks for reading.

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