What is Fluoxetine Hydrochloride?

Fluoxetine hydrochloride is the generic name for the medications known as Prozac® and Sarafem®. Prozac® is a well-known medication to treat depression and has been commonly prescribed. Since 2001, the generic version of the drug has been available and doctors often prescribe the generic since it is less expensive.

The medication fluoxetine hydrochloride isn’t solely used to treat depression, though this may be its main use. Some people take this medication for obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety or panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. The degree to which it may be effective for these conditions often varies by the individual. One newer use of the medication, as prescribed in the form Sarafem®, is for the treatment of pre-menstrual dysmorphic disorder (PMDD). PMDD treatment typically only occurs for part of the month during the time women would be experiencing premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

The main action of fluoxetine hydrochloride is to inhibit absorption of the neurotransmitter serotonin. It is called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Making more of this neurotransmitter available is thought to have a beneficial effect on mood stability.

As with virtually all other SSRIs, and actually most antidepressants, care must be taken when this drug is prescribed. Fluoxetine hydrochloride carries the black box warning that it may cause increased suicidal feelings or actions especially with teens and young adults. Any such feelings need to be reported immediately to a doctor. Other side effects of Prozac® include dry mouth, reduced sexual desire, anorgasmia (inability to achieve orgasm), sleep difficulties like sleeping too much or too little, anxiety, shakiness, and stomach upset. These side effects are felt by a clinically significant number of people, according to clinical studies, but still, usually mean less than 10% of people taking this drug will experience them.

There are many medications which must be either discontinued or used with care if fluoxetine hydrochloride is prescribed. It’s best to do a medication review with the prescribing doctor and/or pharmacist before accepting new prescriptions. Be certain to list not only prescription meds on such a review but also inform the doctor about any over the counter medications, supplements or herbs taken.

Dosing of fluoxetine is tailored to the individual and can vary. Many people begin with a 20 mg dose but they may increase this to a higher dose at a later point. Children might start at 20 mgs or at a 10mg dose. It takes several weeks for the medication to reach its full effects, and this may make people impatient. It’s important to give the medication time to work unless side effects are severe, and not increase dosing without the advice of a physician. Medications like Prozac® should never be shared and people should not stop or start fluoxetine without a doctor’s guidance.

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