One of the most maligned and misunderstood drugs of the 21st century is Prozac. "It is a miracle cure", "It can change you completely", "It induces feelings of suicide",... are a few common thoughts about this antidepressant. But aside from rumors and misconceptions, is Prozac safe for consumption? And when is it dangerous? To answer such questions, read on for an in-depth analysis of the drug, Prozac.
What is Prozac?
Prozac is actually a brand or commercial name for Fluoxetine. The pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly and Company, is the chief producer and creator of this drug. It belongs to the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI's) compound class, which work on increasing the amount of serotonin in the body. Though it has many other benefits, serotonin is often thought of as a "happiness hormone", its presence encourages feelings of wellness and contentment.
SSRI based drugs are mainly anti-depressant in nature, they are designed with reducing or eliminating feelings of sadness and depression. The effectiveness of these drugs is not medically proven, many individuals do feel better, taking antidepressants, some don't. An estimated 60-80 % of patients prescribing to Prozac, do feel better with using such a drug.
Prozac was the first of its kind, a drug which was designed to treat an actual human emotion or feeling instead of an infection or disease. While there are medications for pain, for reducing symptoms and healing, here was a medicine that could make you feel less depressed. As such, Prozac was hailed as a miracle or wonder drug.
Even with the presence of newer anti-depressant drugs, Prozac remains popular, with an estimated 22.2 million prescriptions filled out during 2007. With antidepressants being the most prescribed drugs in the U.S., the number of prescriptions must have certainly increased during the last 3 years.
Considering the diverse but major areas in which it is used, it's easy to see why Prozac is so popular. Prozac is used to treat clinical depression and anxiety or panic disorders. It helps control personality disorders like OCD and bipolar syndrome, as well as bulimia and PMS (Pre Menstrual Syndrome). Even addiction problems like alcoholism can be helped with a Prozac dosage. What Prozac cannot do is change personalities or behavior, like getting rid of shyness or dealing with attitude problems.
Is Prozac Safe?
The problem with medicines in general, is a tendency to overdo things. Instead of letting the medicine run its course and being patient, people tend to overuse or over indulge, looking for a quick fix to the problem. For example, taking an aspirin whenever a little pain or ache is felt. The same applies to antidepressants. They are effective and can work but having too many at a time and ignoring the prescribed dosage is not a good idea.
The recommended dosage for Prozac is 20 mg/day but this can differ based on the age, problem or disorder faced and other medications prescribed to the individual. The possibility of an overdose is with increasing the dosage to 80 mg/day. Common side effects caused by overuse are:
- Pain in the stomach
- Confused or dazed manner and thinking
- Feeling over excited or restless
- Shaking involuntarily
- Increase in heart rate
In extreme cases, Prozac can cause blood pressure levels to increase or decrease dangerously and a high fever. An individual could suffer from seizures and go into a coma. In certain situations, Prozac is dangerous and should not be taken. Groups and situations, in which Prozac should be avoided or not taken at all are:
- Those with a history of allergies, medical and otherwise, should be cautious with Prozac
- Patients suffering from liver disease or renal problems and diabetes, should avoid Prozac
- Pregnant women, irrespective of the extent of pregnancy, should not take Prozac. Its effects on the unborn baby are unpredictable. Prozac should be avoided even during lactation
- Other medications can interfere with Prozac and vice versa, especially in the case of other anti-psychotic or MAOI (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors) drugs. The workings of such medicines can clash with an intake of Prozac and the consequences on the individual's mental and physical health can be disastrous
- The FDA has approved the use of Prozac for patients above 7 years of age but caution should be taken with such young patients as side effects and possible complications have not been researched
So ultimately, what is the answer to the "is Prozac safe" question. Yes it is, when consumed responsibly and according to a prescribed dosage by a medical professional. The bad reputation of Prozac is due to over-consumption and over dependence. Depending on Prozac to make problems go away, is not the drug's fault, it is the individual who should be blamed.
As for suicide claims, patients suffering from depression are suicidal by nature, so accusing a drug of inducing suicidal thoughts is actually blaming the drug for being ineffective. When used in moderation and with the correct advice, Prozac can ease depression effectively.