Prozac (fluoxetine) is classified as an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), which are, in most cases, generally recommended to be slowly tapered down over time, to avoid potential withdrawal symptoms.
However, there is no single recommended method to safely decrease your dose of Prozac (fluoxetine), regardless of whether you are trying to eventually discontinue the drug or you are just adjusting your dose down.
Reported potential withdrawal symptoms of SSRI's (e.g. Prozac) include:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Neurological effects (e.g. headaches)
- Sensory disturbances
If withdrawal symptoms do occur, they generally begin and peak within one week and can last anywhere from one day to a few weeks.
The one exception regarding SSRI tapering recommendations may be with Prozac, due to its extremely long half-life, making withdrawal reactions less common when compared to other drugs in the class. This is discussed more below.
SSRI Tapering Recommendations
Sources vary in regard to tapering recommendations for drugs in the SSRI class. One source recommends to:
- Taper over at least four weeks if the SSRI medication has been taken for at least six weeks.
Other sources give a more specific recommendation for certain drugs well known to cause withdrawal symptoms (e.g. Paxil):
- Reduce the dose by 25% every four to six weeks.
- If withdrawal symptoms occur, return to a previously well-tolerated dose and resume tapering in a more conservative manner.
Most studies indicate that out of all the SSRI medications, Prozac has the least risk of causing withdrawal symptoms. This is due to its extremely long half-life of 4 to 16 days, meaning that the drug is slowly eliminated and stays in the body long after the last dose.
In fact, the prescribing information for Prozac warns that any dose change may not be reflected in the plasma for several weeks. The prescribing information goes on to say:
"The long elimination half-lives of fluoxetine and norfluoxetine [fluoxetine metabolite] assure that, even when dosing is stopped, active drug substance will persist in the body for weeks (primarily depending on individual patient characteristics, previous dosing regimen. and length of previous therapy at discontinuation)."
In your situation, where you are decreasing your Prozac dose from 30 mg to 20 mg, your doctor may recommend simply dropping down to that new dose, without tapering. In fact, it is difficult to taper Prozac by 10 mg or less, as 10 mg is the minimum dose increment commercially available.
Due to the long half-life of Prozac, withdrawal reactions should be relatively mild if only decreasing 10 mg, if they occur at all. It is important to remember however that it may take some time to realize a decrease in side effects (again, due to the long half-life of the drug).
If your doctor is recommending a taper to decrease from 30 mg to 20 mg, you may need to use Prozac tablets, as they can be cut, making it easier to taper by small amounts.
Prozac is classified as an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). Most SSRI drugs are recommended to be tapered slowly to avoid withdrawal reactions. Prozac has an extremely long half-life and therefore, is less likely to cause withdrawal reactions, even if stopped 'cold turkey'. Nevertheless, be sure to speak with your doctor regarding how to safely decrease your dose of Prozac.
- Prozac Prescribing Information. AccessFDA
- Guidance for the discontinuation or switching of antidepressant therapies in adults. PubMed
- Antidepressant discontinuation syndromes. PubMed
- Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome: consensus panel recommendations for clinical management and additional research. PubMed
- Pharmacotherapy of mood disorders and treatment discontinuation. PubMed