Prozac side effects

Originally Published: March 8, 1996 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: March 4, 2005
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Dear Alice,

What are the long-term effects of taking Prozac? I've been taking 20 mg/day for almost a year.

Happy but at what cost?

Dear Happy but at what cost?,

In the last several years, Prozac (fluoxetine) has become the most widely prescribed antidepressant in the United States. Besides treating depression, Prozac is used to treat obsessive-compulsive and panic disorders. It is the oldest SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, meaning it works by altering the action of the neurotransmitter, serotonin), with twenty years of research behind it showing no known long-term side effects. Prozac has few side effects when compared to other antidepressant drugs. These side effects may include dry mouth, constipation, urinary retention, sedation, and weight gain.

Prozac is, however, associated with insomnia, restlessness, nausea, and tension headaches, which normally go away within one to two weeks from the time it was first taken. One possible side effect, which remains for the time Prozac is taken, is its effect on sex life. It often reduces desire and can delay or interfere with orgasm, in both women and men. Fatigue and memory loss are other possible problems. These side effects subside when you stop taking the drug. In some people, the effectiveness of Prozac seems to diminish with time, and an increase in dosage is necessary. In these cases, talk with your prescribing doctor, who may alter your medication.

Stopping Prozac's use needs to be supervised by a physician. It is not advised to take this drug if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. So, talk with your doctor for an alternative.

Two books available on Prozac, which are written in plain language, are Talking Back to Prozac , by Peter Breggin, M.D., and Prozac: Questions & Answers for Patients, Families and Physicians, by Ronald Fieve, M.D. They present opposing views on the drug, anti- and pro- Prozac, respectively. You can also check out Elizabeth Wurtzel's book, Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America. Another resource is your pharmacist, who can answer more specific questions about Prozac. For more information, you can also check out the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research web site.

Alice