Prozac Side Effects: A Complete Guide

Prozac Side Effects: A Complete Guide
Mary Lucas, RN
Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN Written by Our Editorial Team Last updated 7/18/2020

If you’re even remotely paying attention during commercials, you’ve heard the lengthy (and often frightening) laundry list of side effects that comes with many prescription drugs. 

You’ve no doubt wondered if the side effects are worse than the condition the drug is designed to treat. 

Regardless of the drug, there will be potential side effects. And it’s important to educate yourself about those side effects so you can make an informed decision on whether a medication is right for you. 

Prozac® is an antidepressant drug that’s been around for decades, and while it does have some potential side effects, healthcare professionals frequently prescribe it because the risk of those effects generally does not outweigh the potential benefits. 

What is Prozac? 

Prozac is an antidepressant that was first approved in 1987 for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Prozac was the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drug to hit the market, but since its release, several others have arrived on the scene.

Prozac is a brand name of the generic drug called fluoxetine. Fluoxetine has also been sold under other brand names, including: Zactan®, Lovan®, Fluoxin®, Philozac®, Fluxil® and others.

As with other SSRIs, prozac is primarily an antidepressant drug. But in addition to treating major depressive disorder or depression, it may be prescribed for the treatment of other conditions, including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), bulimia nervosa (an eating disorder) and panic disorder (which commonly causes panic attacks).

How Does Prozac Work? 

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase the amount of serotonin in the brain by limiting it’s reabsorption, or reuptake. 

Serotonin is a chemical messenger, or neurotransmitter, that affects mood and emotions. 

Generally, after carrying a message through the brain, it is reabsorbed by the nerve cells. It’s believed SSRIs block this action, allowing more serotonin to remain in circulation. It also acts as a hormone.

The primary benefit that SSRIs offer is fewer side effects than older antidepressant drugs. As the first SSRI, Prozac was lauded for this benefit. That said, some side effects are common with Prozac.

Prozac Side Effects 

The most common side effects you’re at risk of experiencing when taking Prozac include: 

  • Sweating
  • Feeling nervous or anxious
  • Rash
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Flu symptoms
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Strange dreams
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Yawning
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Sinus infection

Some adverse effects can be serious. If you experience any of the following serious side effects, contact your healthcare provider right away: 

  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Signs of an allergic reaction, including: trouble breathing, swelling in the face, mouth, tongue, or eyes
  • Abnormal bleeding 
  • Vision problems 
  • Seizures or convulsions 
  • Mania or extreme energy or reckless behavior
  • Weight loss 
  • Low blood sodium levels
  • Signs of serotonin syndrome, including: agitation, hallucinations, racing heart rate, high/low blood pressure, fever, nausea and vomiting, flushing, tremors and other changes in mental status

Other Prozac Risks 

Prozac may interact with other medications you take, causing serious and potentially fatal outcomes. To avoid these drug interactions, tell your healthcare provider about everything you take. Everything. This includes over-the-counter drugs, prescription medications and herbal or nutritional supplements. 

As an example, St. John’s Wort, an herbal supplement marketed as a solution for depression, has the potential to cause serious negative interactions when taken with Prozac and other antidepressant medications. 

Also, make sure your healthcare provider knows about any conditions or diagnoses you currently have — knowing your medical history and current status can ensure your safety when you start any new prescription drug. 

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions when taking Prozac, and continue taking the medication even after you begin to feel better. 

It may take several weeks before you begin to experience the full benefits of this medication, as it takes time to build within your body. 

If you want to come off of Prozac, talk with your healthcare provider about the best way to do this. Suddenly stopping Prozac can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms; slowly decreasing your dosage can minimize these effects.

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.