Can you stay on Prozac for life? (A brief guide)
In this guide, we will discuss ‘Can you stay on Prozac for life?’. In addition, we will mention some key facts about fluoxetine, how Prozac should be taken, when it is necessary to get in contact with a doctor or emergency services, how the medication seems to make your life better and additional considerations if you are thinking about stopping the medication.
Can you stay on Prozac for life?
The question ‘Can you stay on Prozac for life?’ doesn’t seem to have a definitive or straight answer,however, some doctors recommend you take antidepressant medication for 6 months to a year after you no longer feel depressed. If you stop the medication before this period of time, depression can come back and can become even worse. Moreover, Prozac is considered safe for long-term use.
For instance, Deborah Serani who is a Psy.D. shares her experience and what she has learned from taking Prozac for 25 years. She says:
“In the beginning, I was told I’d likely be on Prozac for about a year. Back in the early days of SSRIs, antidepressants were originally considered a short-term treatment for depressive episodes, to be taken for six to nine months. But as I weaned off my medication, my depressive symptoms returned. So, I continued taking Prozac for a few years. Again, when I tried to discontinue the medication, after the third try, I accepted that long-term use of Prozac was a must for me.”
As you may be aware by now, Prozac is the commercial name for the main active chemical substance Fluoxetine (generic). It is known as a type of antidepressant known as SSRI or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor used to treat depression and sometimes obsessive compulsive disorder and bulimia. Prozac is considered to be effective when treating depression and it is said to have fewer unwanted side effects when compared to older antidepressants.
Now, let’s consider not everyone who suffers from depression is bound to take antidepressants for their entire life and certainly, not everyone gets to experience depression the same way and there are many people out there just like Deborah, who found relief and a better quality of life with antidepressant medication. Sadly, not the case for everyone who gets prescribed with antidepressants.
Moreover, many people believe antidepressants work immediately, as soon as you start taking them but they actually can take a couple of weeks for you to see the benefits. Also, some people don’t seem to experience any side effects while others do, so make sure to consult with your doctor if you get to experience any side effects.
*This type of medication is only available only on prescription and it comes as tablets and capsules. Let’s see some key facts about the medication.
According to the NHS, here are some useful key facts regarding the medication:
- It usually takes 4 to 6 weeks for fluoxetine to work.
- Common side effects include feeling sick (nausea), headaches and trouble sleeping. They are usually mild and go away after a couple of weeks.
- If you and your doctor decide to take you off fluoxetine, your doctor will probably recommend reducing your dose gradually to help prevent extra side effects.
In terms of who can and can’t take Prozac, check with your doctor before starting the medicine if you have had allergic reactions to fluoxetine or any other medicines in the past or if you have heart problems since fluoxetine may change your heartbeat speed.
Moreover, if you are taking other antidepressants, mention it to your doctor since some of them may interact with fluoxetine causing high blood pressure even if you have stopped the medication weeks ago.
This medication should not be taken if you are trying to become pregnant, you already are or if you are breastfeeding.
We haven’t included all the restrictions or when this medicine should not be taken so always consult with your doctor first and let them know in detail about any medical conditions or medicine you are currently taking, even if they are natural remedies or supplements.
How should I take Prozac?
This medicine is prescribed as once a day and you can take it with or without food. Also, you can take Prozac at any time, as long as you take it around the same time. However, if you started to experience problems or troubles sleeping, consider taking it in the morning.
The usual dose of Prozac is 20 mg a day in adults but you may get started at a lower dose which can gradually increase to a maximum of 60mg a day. However, some people may need to take a lower dose or less often, especially elderly people and those with liver problems.
In children, the usual dose is 10mg a day but it may increase to 20mg a day depending on the instructions from the physician.
If by any chance you forget to take it, don’t worry or panic. Take you next dose the next day at the same time you usually take it but never take 2 doses at the same time to make up for the forgotten one.
However, remember to always follow the instructions from your doctor on your normal and expected dose, so don’t attempt to reduce it or increase on your own, less alone stop the medication suddenly even if you are not seeing any benefits at first.
When to call a doctor?
If you have taken too much Prozac by accident or you overdosed and you are presenting the following symptoms, make sure to seek immediate medical attention:
- being sick (vomiting)
- feeling sleepy
- feeling agitated
- heart problems
- lung problems
- fits (seizures)
Do not attempt to drive yourself to the hospital or to seek help since it can become dangerous so try to get someone else to drive you.
How does medication help?
Many people may be reluctant at first to try medication, especially because they may know when to start the treatment but not really when it finishes. As you may know, antidepressant medication works by changing brain chemistry, more specifically, targeting neurotransmitters which can affect your mood and emotions.
Moreover, according to WebMD, “Experts have traditionally thought that they restore a chemical imbalance caused by being depressed. But some researchers now believe that depression and stress may actually destroy the connections between nerve cells — and even the cells themselves. They believe that antidepressants work by restoring these nerve pathways.”
However, many people expect them to work immediately and the truth is, you need to give it a couple of weeks or months for it to take full effect. Also, part of the success depends on how you take the medication, meaning, if you are following your doctor’s instructions. Remember they can become less effective if you skip doses, stop taking it or reduce your recommended dose.
In contrast, experts indicate how knowing when you should or should not stop the medication may become a tricky question. Many factors seem to come into play and how long someone may need to stay on them will depend on how many episodes of depression they have had. For instance, people who have had three or more episodes are recommended to stay on antidepressants for the rest of their lives since the chance of a relapse increases to 90%.
Why is this blog about Can you stay on Prozac for life important?
As discussed, the answer to the question ‘Can you stay on Prozac for life?’ is: yes, you can. Many people live their lives using the medication to improve their quality of life when the symptoms disappear or become less frequent. However, the time someone needs to stay medicated will actually depend on how many episodes and the chance of relapse if they stop the medication.
Moreover, as we mentioned, Prozac is considered safe for long term use but if you decide you would like to try to get off the medication, talk to your doctor first so they can indicate if it is the best option for you and to be monitored during the process since you could experience withdrawal symptoms.
Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Can you stay on Prozac for life
Is it safe to stay on antidepressants for life?
Doctors usually recommend people to stay on an antidepressant medication for at least one year to experience the full benefits. However, beyond this period of time it is really a personal choice if you would like to continue the medication, especially if it has been working for you. In contrast, if you feel it has too many side effects or it is not really working for you, your doctor may consider changing your medication.
Can Prozac lose effectiveness?
There is a possibility Prozac may lose effectiveness over time, especially after years of taking the medication. If this happens, we recommend talking to your physician about it so they can find an alternative solution.
Is Prozac safe for long term use?
Prozac is considered safe for long term use. To date, there are no known problems that have been associated with long term use of this drug. However, it is considered safe and effective when used as instructed by your doctor.
What are the long term side effects of taking Prozac?
More than long term side effects of taking Prozac, clinical studies have shown there are some side effects you need to be aware of such as:
– Sleeping problems such as insomnia or having strange dreams.
– Headaches, dizziness, vision changes.
– Tremors or shaking.
– Pain, weakness and/or feeling tired.
– Loss of appetite, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
– Dry mouth, sweating and/or hot flashes.
Do you have to take anxiety medication forever?
There is no definitive answer on whether you should take anxiety medication forever. However, general guidelines for treatment suggest people could be kept on medication around a year or two when they have fully responded to it or seem to be symptom free. If you would like to quit medication after feeling symptom free, talk to your doctor to assess the possibility of tampering you off medication (gradually) and see how you respond to it.
Nhs.uk: “Fluoxetine (including Prozac)”
Serani, D. (2019, Jun.) 25 Years on Prozac. Retrieved from psychologytoday.com.
Conaway, B. (n.d.) How Long Should You Take Antidepressants? Retrieved from WebMD.com.