A physician may have prescribed an antidepressant for you helps with your symptoms of major depression. Your physician may continue to prescribe it as long as you do well on the antidepressant and are not experiencing too many side effects. Long-term use of that antidepressant, though, may lead to an addiction and other issues. Going off antidepressants is not something you can do safely yourself. You should understand all the aspects of antidepressant withdrawal, particularly Prozac withdrawal and treatment alternatives for your depression.
Long Term Use
A recent analysis of federal data by The New York Times found that long-term use of antidepressants is surging in the US. The study found that approximately 15.5 million Americans have been taking the medications for at least five years, a rate that has almost doubled since 2010, and more than tripled since 2000. In 2018, nearly 25 million adults had been on antidepressants for at least two years, which is a 60 percent increase since 2010.
Treatment with Prozac
Prozac has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for acute and maintenance treatment of major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, bulimia nervosa, and panic disorder. Prozac is usually prescribed by itself, but it can be combined with olanzapine to treat depressive episodes in people with bipolar disorder. That combination drug is known as Symbyax.
The symptoms of Prozac withdrawal take longer to appear than with other antidepressants, but they tend to last longer. Sometimes the symptoms of Prozac withdrawal are mistaken for a relapse, particularly since they take longer to appear. Withdrawing from Prozac under professional supervision will help you identify the symptoms so you will not be tempted to start taking antidepressants again.
Prozac withdrawal and treatment for addiction should be monitored as some symptoms can be severe and incapacitating. Symptoms can include:
- Digestive: You may experience nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, or appetite loss.
- Balance: You may become dizzy or lightheaded, sometimes making it difficult to walk.
- Sleep problems: You may have nightmares, unusual dreams, excessive/vivid dreams, or insomnia.
- Overall physical issues: You may have flu-like symptoms including headache, muscle pain, weakness, and tiredness.
- Mood: You may have extreme anxiety, agitation, panic, suicidal ideation, depression, irritability, anger, mania, or mood swings.
- Bizarre sensations: You may experience brain zaps (like an electrical shock or shiver in your brain), pins and needles, ringing in the ears, strange tastes, or hypersensitivity to sound.
- Motor control: You may have tremors, muscle tension, restless legs, unsteady gait, or difficulty controlling speech and chewing movements.
Going Off Antidepressants Safely
A recent article published by Harvard Medical School suggests a step-by-step process for going off antidepressants:
Take your time. You may be tempted to stop taking antidepressants as soon as your symptoms ease, but depression can return if you quit too soon. Professionals generally recommend staying on the medication for six to nine months before considering going off antidepressants. Don’t try to quit while you’re under stress or undergoing a significant change in your life, such as a new job or an illness.
Make a plan. Going off an antidepressant usually involves reducing your dose in increments, allowing two to six weeks between dose reductions. Your provider can instruct you in tapering your dose and prescribe the appropriate dosage pills for making the change. The schedule will depend on which antidepressant you’re taking, how long you’ve been on it, your current dose, and any symptoms you had during previous medication changes. It’s also a good idea to keep a “mood calendar” on which you record your mood (on a scale of one to 10) on a daily basis.
Consider psychotherapy. Fewer than 20% of people on antidepressants undergo psychotherapy, although it’s often important in recovering from depression and avoiding recurrence. Investigators at Harvard Medical School and other universities found that people who undergo psychotherapy while discontinuing an antidepressant are less likely to have a relapse.
Stay active. Bolster your internal resources with good nutrition, stress-reduction techniques, regular sleep — and especially physical activity. Exercise has a powerful antidepressant effect. It’s been shown that people are far less likely to relapse after recovering from depression if they exercise three times a week or more.
Seek support. Stay in touch with your provider as you go through the process. Let her or him know about any physical or emotional symptoms that could be related to discontinuation. Seek professional support for prescription medication management, such as the type of treatment you’ll find at Recovery Without Walls.
Complete the taper. By the time you stop taking the medication, your dose will be tiny. (You may already have been cutting your pills in half or using a liquid formula to achieve progressively smaller doses.)
Contact Recovery Without Walls for Help with Prescription Medication Management
At Recovery Without Walls, we will help you withdraw safely from your prescription antidepressants. We will guide you through Prozac withdrawal and treatment alternatives for your depression. We personalize your treatment based on evidence-informed research, exceptional psychotherapy, nutritional support, and integrative healing methods designed to treat your whole body. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.