Antidepressants are chiefly used for the treatment of several mental health conditions. This class of drugs forms part of medication plans aimed at treating anxieties, depression and other such psychological disorders. Within the family of antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibiting drugs (SSRIs) are used for a wide range of mental health conditions. Fluoxetine is one such drug, belonging to the SSRI genre. The most popular branded form of this drug is Prozac. These drugs are however known to trigger a few adverse side effects. It is hence important to know about the side effects such drugs may trigger, especially before commencing your medication plan to treat a mental health conditions.

Fluoxetine is administered for a wide range of mood related problems and mental disorders. The most common uses of this drug include treatment of panic spells, depression as well as conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). People who live with most of the aforesaid conditions may have sleeping problems, loss of appetite and may take a detached approach towards many things in life. Fluoxetine is known for its properties to boost your appetite and enable better sleeping patterns. Above all, this SSRI drug can bring back the lost-interest in living, by eliminating needless fears and anxieties.

As an extended use, fluoxetine is taken for the treatment of a pre-menstrual conditions / a related syndrome that involve persistent spells of depression, craving to have more foods as well as being in an irritated frame of mind. In the same light, fluoxetine is used to control binge-eating disorders. In some cases, people living with anxieties may repeatedly ask a continuous volley of queries to clarify the same thing, or get excessively concerned over finer details; fluoxetine is known to treat such signs of mental conditions.

Safe use of fluoxetine

It is important to carefully study the medication booklet or guide book available with your pharmacist every time you go for a refill. You are advised to study this guide before starting a medication plan involving the intake of fluoxetine. Remember that this drug is also available in a liquid form. While taking the liquid or suspended variant of fluoxetine, it is highly recommended to measure each dose with the spoon or measuring device provided along with the pack. Use of a ladle from your kitchen may often lead to inaccurate measurements, and may at times result in an overdosed condition.

Fluoxetine is taken orally, before or after a meal; it is usually administered as a single dose every day along with the morning meal i.e., your breakfast. In very rare cases, fluoxetine is administered twice a day; in such instances, it is taken during the morning meal and in the lunch hour. Your underlying medical condition can influence the frequency of dosages. For example – if women are prescribed with fluoxetine to treat problems experienced during the pre-menstrual stage, doses are taken for 15 days prior to the monthly periods.

Side effects of fluoxetine

Fluoxetine is likely to cause a few adverse side effects. The most common among the side effects triggered are insomnia, drop in appetite levels, feeling dizzy or drowsy, abdominal discomforts such as nausea, indigestion, etc. Commonly observed discomforts also include sweating profusely, being in a restless state of mind, frequent yawning and excessive levels of weariness. Almost all of these adverse side effects are likely to disappear once your body gets used to this drug and its active ingredients. You must quickly reach out to your treating physician or pharmacist if one or more of  these adverse side effects persist for long.

A few serious side effects of fluoxetine

In general, this drug is unlikely to trigger acute reactions and serious side effects. However, in some rare circumstances, intake of fluoxetine has led to heightened levels of anxiety or restlessness. Other equally serious side effects include sudden drop in libido or loss in sexual activity, inexplicable loss of body weight, internal bleeding, nursing of suicidal thoughts, cramping of muscles, epileptic fits, convulsions or muscular spasms. In all such instances, you are advised to seek medical help without any delay. Very serious or near-fatal side effects caused by fluoxetine are very rare; but, in some remote cases, a small minority of users has reported acute signs such as symptoms of renal problems, blood in stool, epileptic seizures or fits, changes in eyesight or blurring of vision, etc.

Allergic reactions and related side effects

Fluoxetine is unlikely to cause any major allergies. As stray occurrences, you may notice allergic reactions like inflammation of throat or lips, respiratory conditions such as wheezing or shortness of breath, rashes on skin and hives. In very rare cases, a few people have reported an acute spell of dizziness, which may lead to loss of consciousness, fainting or passing out.

Toxicity and other side effects

People with mental conditions may also be taking a few other drugs. It is possible for these co-administered drugs to increase the levels of serotonin in your system. Excessive build-up of serotonin can result in a condition known as serotonin toxicity or syndrome. This condition may show up as abdominal discomforts such as indigestion, loosened stools, diarrhea, nausea, etc., increase in body temperature, erratic heartbeats, being restless, acute spells of drowsiness or feeling dizzy.

People living with diabetes mellitus

Long term intake of fluoxetine can alter your blood sugar levels. Your treating physician may advise regular monitoring of blood sugar. If you are taking diabetic drugs, your medical team may alter the strength or frequency of dosages of fluoxetine. Your dietitian may also recommend a few changes in your diet and in your workout regimen.

Fluoxetine and risks of interactions with other drugs

In general, you are advised to tell about your treatment procedures currently pursued, if any as well as about present medication plans to your treating doctor. You need to know that traces of fluoxetine can remain in your system for at least 4 weeks. So, before starting a new treatment plan, it is important to tell your doctor if you have taken fluoxetine in the recent past. If you are currently taking fluoxetine, you need to exert needful caution before taking blood thinning drugs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. Also, if you are currently taking MAO inhibiting drugs such as linezolid, tranylcypromine, methylene blue, etc., you must stay away from co-administering fluoxetine as it can lead to near-fatal or fatal outcomes.

Fluoxetine is more likely to interact adversely with drugs that make you to sleep – such as diazepam, opioid-based pain killers like codeine as well as drugs that may cause dizziness (especially, drugs used for the treatment of common cold or cough). It is also not recommended to take SNRI drugs like venlafaxine, duloxetine, etc. or SSRI drugs like paroxetine and citalopram. Intake of these drugs may often lead to excessive presence of serotonin and may soon lead to toxicity or serotonin syndrome.

You are advised to remember that the aforesaid adverse effects and allergies do not form an entire list of all such discomforts. Hence, it is likely to experience a few signs or symptoms that are not mentioned above. If you notice any such unknown signs or unlisted side effects, it is highly recommended to consult your treating doctor and take needful medical attention as quickly as possible.

Fluoxetine – A safe dosage plan

Your treating doctor may start the dosage plan of fluoxetine at very low dosage levels. Once your body gets used to the ingredients of this drug, the doses are slowly increased over a period of time. This approach is known to reduce the impact of a few adverse side effects of fluoxetine. In order to make the most of your medication plan, you are advised to take your daily dose at the same timeslot. Also, it is a good practice to take fluoxetine without any breaks in your medication plan. Such regimented and regular intake is known to yield better mental wellbeing. Above all, you need to remember that the medication plan is based on many factors – key variables are your age, gender, your overall being and how well your system responds to doses of fluoxetine.

An overdose of fluoxetine may occur when you take a double dose. This can occur when people forget to take a dose and consume it twice to make up for the dose they missed. Distinctive signs of a likely overdose are respiratory disorders, inflammation of facial parts, an acute spell of drowsiness or dizziness, a marked change in your pulse rate, passing out, etc. If you suspect a likely overdose, you are advised to seek needful medical help as promptly as possible.

Risks of discontinuing fluoxetine based on early-stage improvements

When the results-intended are starting to show up, a few people may stop taking this drug. This practice can do more harm than good. You must remember that a regular and non-stop intake of fluoxetine is required for the wholesome treatment of your mental condition. So, never discontinue the intake of fluoxetine without the explicit consent of your treating physician. In most cases, you may start seeing some changes in your system in less than 15 days from the start of the medication plan. If you continue with your medication plan – as advised by your doctor – fluoxetine is likely to yield fullest results in 30 days to 40 days. However, if your mental condition remains unchanged, you need to promptly consult your treating physician.

Above all, if you notice any of the serious side effects or allergic reactions listed above, you are advised to call 911 quickly. Those living in the US can reach out to a poison control center located nearer to where they live. You can also consider calling the emergency helpline numbers of the food and drug administration (FDA) for needful guidance on an urgent basis. If you are living in any of the provinces in Canada, you need to immediately call Health Canada or contact the closest poison control unit for medical help.

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