Prozac has attracted a lot of media attention recently. Unfortunately, much of the information, because of scientologists, has not been accurate. Prozac is a new antidepressant that has quickly become one of the most widely prescribed medications on the market. It is used primarily to treat
serious depressive disorders. These disorders cause problems in thinking, concentrating, & decision making; excessive fatigue; loss of self esteem; inappropriate feelings of unworthiness & guilt; loss of interest & pleasure in usual activities; & sleep & appetite disturbances. Prozac may also be prescribed for chronic depressive disorder (dythymia), obsessive compulsive disorder, bulimia nervosia, & anic/agoraphobia.

Many doctors think Prozac is better than other antidepressants because it has fewer, milder side effects than other antidepressants. It does not cause dry mouth or weight gain, & may cause a slight weight loss. A special diet is not necessary as with other antidepressants (those known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, MAOIs, e.g. Nardil & Parnate.) An overdose is not likely to be fatal. Prozac may be especially suitable for elderly patients, because it is less likely to cause sleepiness, irregular heartbeat, or low blood pressure, which may lead to a fall in an elderly patient.

Side effects that may occur -- primarily anxiety or nervousness, insomnia or drowsiness, headache, diarrhea, & rash-- subside in a few weeks in some people. Agitation usually subsides in 24-48 hours. Sleep problems may be alleviated by taking the medication in the morning or before 3:00 pm. If not, a sleep medication may also be prescribed. Smaller numbers of people may find Prozac inappropriate because it may inhibit orgasm or causes craving for alcohol.

Like other antidepressants, Prozac has been known to trigger manic episodes in people with a personal &/or family history of bipolar disorder. Members of the scientologist cult claim that Prozac has caused suicide or violent behavior. Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine whether Prozac was actually to blame. No court has said it is. Clearly, millions of people are successfully taking Prozac without this effect. As with any medication, psychiatric or other, most people will experience the desired effect, but a few may have an unusual reaction. Doctors & patients must be in close communication about any adverse effects. Let your doctor know if you feel worse on Prozac or experience any symptoms with which you are uncomfortable. If Prozac is unsuitable, there are many other antidepressants that can be tried. Most antidepressants can lead a patient to consider suicide in the early stages of recovery as the depression lifts & the patient becomes mobilized.

Once on Prozac, patients may notice some improvement within a few days, particularly improved concentration & increased energy. As with other drugs, it may take 3-6 weeks for the full effect to be felt. The medication should be tried at the prescribed dose for the full six weeks before evaluating its effectiveness. It is important to remember that Prozac is not a cure-all. Like clozapine for schizophrenia, it works on some, but not all. Prozac costs more than other antidepressants, averaging $1.00-$2.00 per capsule. The usual dose for depression is one to two 20mg capsules a day. Patients with obsessive compulsive disorder may need up to four capsules a day for relief
of symptoms.

This article was posted by D.J. Jaffe on behalf of the Alliance for the
Mentally Ill/Friends and Advocates of the Mentally Ill, a NYC Chapter of the
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. AMI/FAMI is located at 432 Park
Avenue South, NY NY 10016. Call (212) 684-3264 for more information. Your
support is appreciated.