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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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:
- Excessive sweating
- Mood swings
- 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 symptoms
- 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.
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.