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What Is Fluoxetine Withdrawal?

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  • Written By: Melanie Smeltzer
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2016
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Fluoxetine is a medication used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and certain eating disorders. Although this drug is widely used for its effectiveness, it may have a number of side effects. Some of the most worrisome side effects are the withdrawal symptoms that can occur when this medication is stopped. Fluoxetine withdrawal symptoms are not common, but some users may still experience symptoms, which can include irritability or anxiety, headaches, and insomnia.

There is some debate as to whether fluoxetine withdrawal symptoms are caused by a dependence on the drug or by the body purging the medicine from its system. Regardless of the reason, some people may never experience undesirable symptoms because of the extended period of time this medication takes to taper out of the body. Despite this, others will experience some side effects, though they are frequently mild and short lived, and will often take up to 25 days to appear. Additionally, withdrawal symptoms are more likely to occur in those who decide to quit all at once and without the support of a medical professional, who will often choose to wean the patient off this drug over a period of time.

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Some of the most common fluoxetine withdrawal symptoms include lethargy and insomnia, feelings of confusion, anxiety, and irritability, and headaches and nausea. Other physical reactions may include body aches, extreme fatigue, and tremors. Mental and emotional responses can range from aggression and a worsening of depression to paranoia and troubling or repetitive thinking. In some instances, side effects such as brain zaps — sudden electric shock-like sensations — hallucinations, and vision or speech changes may occur.

A person may lessen or avoid fluoxetine withdrawal symptoms in many ways. One of the most commonly recommended practices is to slowly wean the patient off this drug. In this case, a doctor may prescribe smaller doses over a long period of time until the patient can quit the drug entirely. Eating nourishing foods, drinking a lot of water, and exercising may also help diminish the effects of fluoxetine withdrawal symptoms. Some also recommend using herbal supplements such as ginseng and licorice root to help relieve symptoms; however, it is important to contact a doctor prior to taking these remedies.

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