Fluoxetine Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline and Prevention

Fluoxetine Withdrawal

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Prozac, the brand name of Fluoxetine, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor used to treat depressive and anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, bulimia and other eating disorders, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Withdrawal is commonly associated with coming off an addictive substance. Is Prozac addictive? This is a debatable question, as is the existence of a Prozac high for that matter. Most users report gradual mood stabilization as opposed to a sudden feeling of euphoria. People who stop Fluoxetine experience certain withdrawal symptoms, known collectively as SSRI discontinuation syndrome.

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Table of contents:

How to Stop Taking Prozac: Don’t Go Cold Turkey

Every ninth American took antidepressant medication between 2011 and 2014 according to national survey data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Fluoxetine is one of the most common ones on the market. Those planning to stop Prozac should do so under the supervision and care of a physician. A gradual decrease in Fluoxetine dosage is recommended to help alleviate the discomfort of Prozac withdrawal. Stopping Prozac cold turkey is not advised, especially if the person has been taking it for a long time, in high doses, or had the incidents of overdose on Fluoxetine because they are more likely to experience more pronounced withdrawal symptoms. Here is how to taper off Prozac according to Harvard Health – if the starting dose was 60 mg, the first dose reduction should be 40 mg, second dose –30+ mg, third dose – 20 mg, and fourth dose – 10++ mg.

Withdrawal from Prozac: Common Symptoms

One or more of the symptoms listed below may be present as the brain adjusts without the antidepressant:

  • Confusionhuman head model made of barbed wire
  • Dizziness
  • Agitation
  • Headaches
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sleeplessness
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Memory and concentration problems

Is it withdrawal or a relapse? This is a question many former users ask themselves. Prozac’s half-life is relatively long – up to three days for a single dose and 4 to 6 days after long-term use. Norfluoxetine’s half-life is 16 days after long-term use. Frequently, people go into delayed withdrawal up to three months after taking their last dose. It is difficult, then, to answer this question – it is necessary to wait 2-3 months to be sure. If symptoms surface after this period, then it’s probably a relapse, and one is advised to look for professional help to determine if this is the case. Stopping Prozac and weight gain connection also exists as some individuals use food for comforting after weaning off this antidepressant.

Fluoxetine Withdrawal: How Long Will It Last?

The duration and severity of withdrawal symptoms can vary. The main factors are in what doses and how long the person was taking the medication. Prozac stays in the body longer than many other antidepressants because of the longer half-life, and someone who has been taking it over an extended period is much more prone to experience withdrawal. Likewise, people who have been on a higher dose of Fluoxetine, such as 60 mg, will be more likely to experience symptoms of withdrawal than people who have been on 10 or 20 mg. The symptoms don’t begin at the same time for everyone. It takes up to two weeks for some to begin noticing them, while others start experiencing them immediately after discontinuing use of the antidepressant.

Coping With Severe Prozac Withdrawal Symptoms

We come to the most important part – preventing and dealing with the symptoms. There are many approaches, which can prevent or help make them more bearable. Stopping Prozac should involve reducing the dose gradually, allowing two weeks to a month and a half or more between dose reductions to cope with possible side effects. To prevent more severe Fluoxetine withdrawal, doctors instruct their patients in tapering their dose and prescribe the respective dosage. Sometimes a pill cutter can be used to create smaller doses, but one will need to check if this is possible. For adjustments of smaller doses, it may be possible to use a liquid formulation. The tapering schedule will depend on the current dose, how long one has been taking the antidepressant, and any symptoms one might have had during previous medication changes. It may be recommended to taper off more gradually depending on the individual response to each dose reduction. This includes longer intervals between dose reductions, using smaller dose reductions, or both. If discontinuation symptoms are experienced following a particular dose reduction, it may be necessary to add back half of the dose or more and go on from there with reductions in smaller increments.

How to cope with withdrawal symptomswoman relaxed in hot bubble bath

  • Warm or cool baths: Depending on the way a person feels, a cool or warm bath might help relieve withdrawal symptoms. If they feel cold, soaking in a warm bath might help. Alternatively, a cold tub could help with profuse sweating, which is a common withdrawal symptom.
  • Social support. The support of loved ones, friends, or a counseling group can be very helpful in managing withdrawal symptoms. They are harder to deal with when a person doesn’t have anyone to talk to.
  • Sleep. When someone goes off Prozac, they frequently feel restless and agitated, and these feelings spill over into the night. Sleeplessness, in turn, exacerbates withdrawal symptoms. It is essential to get enough sleep, even if it isn’t at night. One should rest whenever they feel tired. This is the body’s way of telling them they are sleep-deprived. A good rest in a quiet, dark room will relieve many painful withdrawal symptoms.
  • Water: Dehydration will intensify negative sensations, making one even more irritable and upset. Make sure to drink at least 1.5 l of water a day, either slightly cooled or at room temperature, but not at once, preferably at regular intervals throughout the day.
  • Exercising can also be very beneficial in managing withdrawal symptoms, as it helps relieve stress and tension, provided one doesn’t go overboard. Overly intensive exercise can cause the body harm.

Foods That Help With Withdrawal Symptoms

Serotonin-boosting foods such as whole grains, lentils, and spinach help regulate the body’s serotonin levels. Eating foods high in serotonin can have a relaxing effect because they counter the effects of withdrawal. Foods that help release serotonin include turkey, which is high in the amino acid L-tryptophan, and carbohydrates like brown rice and oatmeal. Avocados and other foods that contain a lot of monounsaturated fat can help regulate serotonin uptake as well. Foods high in magnesium, such as almonds and kale, are known to help fight stress, anxiety, and depression. Other foods to try are dairy products, bananas, and mushrooms. Coffee, chocolate, and alcohol are to be avoided. Albeit having mood-enhancing effects in the short term, their longer-term effects are almost entirely adverse.

Getting Help

If symptoms persist for months after getting off Prozac or one is unsure whether they are of withdrawal or relapse, it’s important to ask for professional help. Such is available at a wide variety of inpatient and outpatient rehab centers. When looking for a rehab facility, make sure to consider the price, whether insurance is accepted, the services offered, the location, and the accreditation of the center. Know that everything passes eventually, even overwhelming withdrawal symptoms.

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View Sources
  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/how-to-taper-off-your-antidepressant

Comments

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  • Kelley King
    I am going off prozac. I have been on 20mg for years. My doctor said this is a low enough dose that I dont need to taper off it. Is there something I can do to ease the withdrawal symptoms.
    • CANDACE E COLLINS
      My sister just stopped 20mg cold turkey and was ok.no withdrawal symptoms.I am weaning from 60mg starting tommorow.I would wean yourself just to be sure.It can’t hurt
      • Adam Lewis
        how did it go? can you tell me your ween schedule? I am on 60 mg for a year now and want to ween off.
    • Larry Lancit
      I had been taking 20mg for about 10 years and decided to stop. I first went to 10 mg for 8 weeks and then went off altogether. That was about10 weeks ago. About 4 weeks ago I started to feel lightheaded. It has continued for the past 4 weeks, but does seem to be less and less as time goes on. The lightheadedness was sort of like when you have a fever….not quite dizzy, but just annoying. It is not constant, but comes and goes and is especially present when I am tired. Hopefully this is a side effect that will continue to dissipate over time.
    • Roselle
      I tried to taper off my 20 mg. of Prozac after taking it for 7 or 8 years and it was a disaster. I was mean and miserable, irritable and lost my job! I did it too fast an without professional help. I went on for post partum in 1998 and want to stop.
      • Sioned Wynn
        That’s similar to my experience xx
    • sarah rosengren
      How are you doing with your taper??? I have been on Prozac for 18 years at various doses… the highest was 40…. I dropped from 40 to 20 back in 2017 and had no issues other than a little aggitation…. I’d love to get off the rest of it…… but want good feedback before I even attempt it.
      • Faisal
        Dear Sarah, I m also on prozac since few years & want to know yr experience on it Thnx / Faisal
    • Tom Kloepping
      I see your comment is almost a year old. So how about an update. I’ve been on fluoxetine since Dec 2005 and was at 80mg once a day at my peak. Been on 20mg for around 3 years now and I just started taking it only every other day. So I am interested in your progress. Hope to hear back and I wish you well. Tom K.
  • Jodi Rondeau
    I am on Prozac and Xanax and remeron and zyprexa…. I don’t want to be on these meds anymore because I feel like a zombie and the weight gain is crazy I don’t feel like me anymore I have no energy and I’m more depressed than before I started all these meds…. I need help to come off safely
    • Shelly
      Me and you both. I don’t know where to start.
  • Cindy
    My son was prescribed Fluoxetine 20 mg for one month and after 40 mg. He has been taking the meds for 4 months now. How to taper off the meds? I feel the doctor is too aggressive to prescribe medication and I see some adverse reaction after switching to 40mg. Please advice.
  • B Nicole
    I have been on antidepressants for years now for anxiety but the side affects have rulled my life I have decided to go cold turkey but the withdrawals are real, cant sleep at night only day which makes me feel sick I have nausea and I thought I was getting a cold which found out from reading tonight is another side affect, I have short patience also, but I dont feel like this 24/7 so im going to stick it out, Im over a week in now
    • Daisy
      Interested in how your progress would s going?
  • Stephanie
    I have been on 20 mg Prozac for 6 years for extreme anxiety..I tried cutting back to 10 mg but within a month I felt like I couldn’t breath or take a deep breath so I had to go bk to 20mg..think I will start again when the weather gets nicer.
  • Tracy
    I have only taken prozac for 6 days 10 mg don’t like the way it makes me feel very sick and irratable can I just stop.
    • Denise
      Yes you can just stop it bc it’s the lowest dose and you haven’t been on it long at all
    • nadia
      I’m about to do the same after4 days on 10mg. How did you do?
  • Blair Sterling
    Most psychiatric drugs numb the brain and CNS. Slowly,slowly slowly taper off these drugs !!! Go SLOW. Ask your doctor to help. See a talking therapist. No side effects!!! Zero side effects!!!!!…No chance of tardive dyskinesia, akathesia with talking therapy !!
  • Maritza Soto
    A psychiatrist prescribe this to my son about 7 months ago and the highest dose was 10mg and I lowered him to 5 mg for the past 2 months. Is this amount sufficient for him to quit taking it Or should I try to continue going down to an even lower dose ? being that he is autistic I can’t communicate with him on how he feels… and the psychiatrist keeps pushing higher and higher doses even though that is not what I want for him
  • Sissy
    I have been on Prozac 20mg since january so 5 months… I want to stop can I go cold turkey?
  • Jenny Yap
    my 15 year old daughter is been on Prozac since Feb 15, 2019, her mood is so relax and calm, but this past few weeks I observed after she back from school, she just go straight to her bed and sleep until next day. And I talked to her psychiatrist she said Prozac can’t makes you tired, and she wants to continue her 20mg. I want to lower to 10, can I just cut half the pills? any suggestions?
  • Dorothy Burns
    I have been on Prozac for as long as I can remember and I often wonder what effects has this had on my brain I am currently on 80 mg daily I would love to come off of it how to do that is the question
    • Greg
      Not easy I’m taking 80 mg and side effects kick in fast
  • Greg
    I’m on 80 mg a day and trying to wean myself off and it’s a extremely difficult time. I’ll Take 80 one day then 40 for two days and by then the side effects are horrible nausea. Body aches hot and cold flashes I’m running out and I am having hardly any success
  • Paulette Sessions
    How do I wean off of 40mg Prozac? Mine is in capsule form.I tried taking it every other day. I did that for about a week, then just stopped all together and that has turned out to be bad. I have been numb all over, hot and cold flashes. I feel fuzzy brained.
    • Michele
      Trying to get off 40 mg capsules. Started just taking one every other day this past week. Feeling ok so far.
    • Truth
      I stopped 20mg Prozac exactly 3 weeks ago. I still feel like crap. I hope it ends soon.
      • Katie
        I’ve been on Prozac since it first came out in the 80’s!!! I tapered down from my original dose of 40mg to 10mg every 3rd day. I’ve done this over the last several months and have started getting a light headed feeling the last couple of weeks. From what I understand this is quite common so I’m not too worried. I realize now that I should have cut down to 5mg daily, then 2.5 etc instead of reducing the amount of days a week I take it. I have crushable tablets so think I will start doing that instead.
  • Mauricea Timberlake
    I’ve been on Prozac since February 2019 I started at 10mg, Then 20 mg, And Jist in the last 2-3 months I’ve Been on 40mg, I AM ABOUT TO RUN OUT, AND I WANT TO STOP IT!!! WILL I HAVE BAD WITHDRAWALS?