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According to surveys, approximately 14.8 million Americans suffer from major depression, and around 80 percent of them who seek treatment for it witness improvement within 6 weeks. The most common treatment for major depressive disorder today is the use of antidepressant medications, such as Prozac. Belonging to the category of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, Prozac has multiple benefits, including the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, bulimia nervosa, and panic disorder.
By blocking the reabsorption of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation, Prozac helps the brain cells transmit clear signals to one another to stabilize mood and emotions. Despite the precautions most people and professionals take, problems like Prozac addiction continue to emerge across the country. The problem may seem trivial in the beginning but can quickly take grasp of a person’s life and badly affect its overall quality.
Can You Get Addicted to Prozac?
Introduced to the world in 1986, Prozac has been known as a miracle drug for people struggling with depression for a long time. It also holds the title of being one of the most commonly used antidepressants in history, with more than 54 million users across the world. Despite its very high popularity, many people have reported abusing it to manage personal problems instead of treating the underlying depression.
While Prozac is generally not considered an addictive drug, some individuals may develop a psychological addiction to it, particularly because it affects behavior and mood. For instance, some people start believing that they cannot eat properly or sleep well through the night unless they take this medication. Some reports suggest that the medication has also helped people lose weight, forcing others to follow suit and abuse Prozac to hit the target body weight.
At present, more than 15 million American abuse prescription drugs every day, and one of these medications include Prozac. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2017 confirmed that 281,000 adults, 52,000 young adults, and over 19,000 adolescents were abusing Prozac and other prescription-only sedatives. Most of these people are unaware of the potential risks and dangers these antidepressants, like Prozac, can bring to their lives. Following are some ways a person may abuse Prozac:
- Using someone else’s Prozac supply
- Mixing Prozac with alcohol or other drugs
- Taking larger doses of Prozac than needed or using it more often than required
- Faking the symptoms of depression to obtain a Prozac prescription
- Changing doctors more frequently to get more prescriptions for this drug
- Consuming Prozac with the aim of getting high
- Depending on Prozac as a quick fix to solve everyday life problems
Signs Someone is Addicted to Prozac
The risk of developing an addiction to Prozac is higher in people with a past history of substance abuse. Some psychological signs of this type of addiction may include the following:
- Aggressive behavior
- Problems sleeping
- Being overly talkative
- Incomplete thoughts
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, Prozac dependency may lead to the following behavioral signs:
- Frequent absences at work or school
- Loss of employment
- Strained relationships
- Financial problems
- Lack of interest in hobbies and social activities
Long-Term Side Effects of Prozac Addiction
Prozac addiction can force a person to use this medication more excessively or in higher doses than the body can tolerate. Over time, this may put a person at several risks, such as the following:
Serotonin is one of the most important neurotransmitters in the brain that helps regulate sleep and mood apart from controlling other neural functions. Having very high levels of this hormone can trigger a condition called serotonin syndrome which may quickly become life-threatening. The risk of acquiring serotonin syndrome is particularly high with SSRI drugs, including Prozac or fluoxetine. It can happen when a person takes an excessively high dose of Prozac that shoots the serotonin levels beyond the tolerable limit. Some common signs of serotonin syndrome may include the following:
- Agitation, restlessness, or irritability
- Excessive sweating
- Muscle tremors
- High blood pressure
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid heart rate
- Muscle rigidity
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
In extreme cases, people with serotonin syndrome may require hospitalization. Untreated disorders can cause seizures, respiratory difficulties, and death.
While Prozac helps people relieve the unpleasant depressive symptoms to make them feel better, it can also cause withdrawal symptoms once these habitual users stop using the medication. Also known as antidepressant discontinuation symptoms, these symptoms may persist for up to three weeks following the last dose of Prozac and may include the following:
- Agitation and restlessness
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Excessive sweating
- Mild to severe headaches
- Mood swings
- Problems with memory and concentration
Prozac discontinuation can also cause brain zaps, i.e., the unpleasant electric shock-like sensations in the brain often accompanied by pain and dizziness. These shocks may occur because of the changes in the neurotransmitters and can be highly uncomfortable and frightening.
Minimizing the Risk of Developing Prozac Addiction: Tips to Being Proactive
If you are thinking of starting an antidepressant medication like Prozac, it is imperative to understand that the risk of addiction will always continue to linger on your health. Hence, many experts recommend looking for other healthier alternatives that could possibly manage depressive symptoms without the need to take a strong psychiatric drug. Some of these alternative treatments may include the following:
The centuries-old practice of meditation can help bring stability and balance in a person’s life. Whenever you are panicking, anxious, or depressed, stop for a moment and focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale air. For extra support, consider joining a meditation class in your neighborhood.
Many people are under the impression that using stimulants can cancel the effects of depression and help them feel uplifted and happier. However, consuming stimulants in the background of depression only leads to severe mood swings with an initial surge of energy that always ends in a crash. Hence, avoid anything with stimulating properties, such as coffee.
Exercise is an excellent way to get rid of toxins stored in the body while regulating mood. Studies confirm that working out releases happy hormones in the brain, which uplifts the mood and makes a person feel calmer and happier. Some examples of exercise to fight depression include Tai Chi, yoga, stretching, and Qi Gong.
Many people struggling with depression for years may feel depleted or require extra support to maintain their overall health and energy levels. For such people, seeking nutrient-based therapy can help. Research has confirmed that certain precursors found in supplements and foods serve as essential building blocks to help the body manufacture serotonin and other mood-regulating hormones. These precursors can be obtained through nutritional supplements or IV therapy, depending on how severe your depression is and your current health status. The aim is to provide as much nourishment to the struggling body as possible to help it easily get through the hard moments.
Reassess Your Diet
Eating junk food, coffee, sugar, energy drinks, candy, and other unhealthy food items can also contribute to your overall mental health. To restructure your mental health and the overall brain working, focus on eating a healthier diet with organic foods.
If you feel like your depressive symptoms are too hard to manage alone, try ruminating about them by joining a counseling class. Many local support groups and rehabs hold counseling sessions that provide people with similar struggles to gather under one roof and discuss their issues with a therapist. Such support groups also allow people to connect with each other, offer support, and develop a healthy social circle to rely on when times get tough.
Seeing a Doctor
Consider finding a doctor who specializes in complementary, holistic, alternative, or integrative medicine. These professionals hold licensure to help people discover their underlying symptoms and focus on certain areas to achieve complete healing without the use of medication like Prozac.
Seeking Treatment for Prozac Addiction
If you have been using Prozac for a long time and feel like you cannot stop using it despite wanting to, you may be suffering from an addiction to the medication. Remember that trying to quit using this medication in these circumstances can prove very harmful to the body and may add to the ongoing distress. The best way to get out of this mess is by connecting with a professional rehab center where a team of professionals can assist you in breaking your underlying addiction.
Most Prozac addiction programs begin with a detoxification process where patients stop using the medication under careful observation to ensure that no harm comes their way. The typical detox program lasts for seven to ten days, and by the end of this process, most clients are expected to have cleansed their bodies completely.
Following the completion of the Prozac detox program, a rehab encourages patients to continue working on their addiction treatment while focusing on the underlying psychological issues that led to dependence and addiction in the first place. These rehab programs also include behavioral treatment in addition to peer support to help patients overcome all addictive attitudes and behaviors and sustain recovery and sobriety in the long run.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends engaging in a rehab program for at least 90 days for greater chances of recovery and success. Even though addiction recovery is highly individualized and may vary from one person to another, most people require long-term addiction to sustain the benefits. During treatment, a patient will work with a team of professionals to address multiple aspects of addiction. Some common components of a Prozac addiction treatment program include the following:
- Educational lectures about addiction
- Process group meetings
- 12-Step meetings
- Individual counseling
- Relapse prevention
- Life skills development
The overall goal of Prozac addiction rehab is to help patients achieve their objectives and support them as they return to their life as sober and productive members of society.
How common is Prozac use?
Prozac and its generic chemical called fluoxetine are quite common when it comes to prescribing medications to people with depression. In 2017, experts from across the United States wrote 21,913,276 prescriptions for this medication, making it the 31st most common drug in the country in that particular year.
Is Prozac a controlled drug?
Controlled drugs are substances that carry a very high potential for addiction and abuse. Drugs that fulfill this definition are added to the list of controlled substances schedules depending on their risk level. The Drug Enforcement Agency is responsible for determining this risk, and so far, it does not consider Prozac or fluoxetine to have a high risk of abuse. Hence, the medication is not on the list of controlled drugs.
Can Prozac abuse lead to side effects?
Abusing Prozac can lead to many dangerous side effects that may negatively affect psychological and physical health. Some of these common side effects include the following:
- Dry mouth
- Excessive sweating
- Reduced sex drive
- Extreme drowsiness
- Loss of appetite
Is Prozac addictive?
Because taking antidepressant medications, including Prozac, can induce a sense of euphoria in individuals, many people may start enjoying this effect. Sometimes, this habit becomes extreme, and the users cannot function without feeling the Prozac-induced euphoria every day. With time, this habit leads to addiction.
What does Prozac withdrawal timeline look like?
The withdrawal timeline for Prozac can vary from one person to another. The duration of these symptoms largely depends on the amount of Prozac a person is taking and for how long they have been abusing it. For instance, a person taking regularly high doses of this medication is much more likely to develop withdrawal symptoms of greater severity. It can be difficult to predict when these symptoms can start appearing. For some people, withdrawal begins immediately after quitting the drug, while others may take one to two days to develop them.
Why do people abuse Prozac?
There are various reasons why people may start abusing Prozac. For instance, some people believe that taking more of this medication can help manage their depressive symptoms in a better way, while others develop the addiction by mixing the drug with alcohol without understanding the risks associated with the combination. Prozac addiction can be intentional and unintentional and can even occur in people using the medication for legitimate medical reasons.