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My Doctor Prescribed Prozac - Now What?

My Doctor Prescribed Prozac – Now What?

Prozac (generic name fluoxetine) is a widely prescribed drug for the treatment of many mood and behavioral disorders. Though there are concerns with side effects, like with most medications, it’s considered a critical drug and is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.

However, Prozac’s adverse effects can be significant and require additional medical support to handle. Eastern therapies, and acupuncture in particular, can provide that needed support.

What is Prozac Prescribed for and What Are its Side Effects?

Fluoxetine was first produced in the early 70s but wouldn’t be used by the medical community until 1986. In the nearly 40 years since, fluoxetine has been prescribed to millions of patients. In most cases, it’s intended for use with the following:

  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Anxiety and panic disorder
  • Bulimia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

In addition to the above, Prozac has been prescribed for trichotillomania (obsessive hair-pulling), obesity, alcoholism and cataplexy.

Prozac works in a fashion similar to other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), in that it inhibits the reuptake of serotonin, so higher levels are available to synaptic tissues. And while fluoxetine doesn’t inhibit the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine – two neurotransmitters that can help with depression – fluoxetine does seem to increase synaptic levels of both. That’s according to animal studies that have studied larger doses of the medication.

Fluoxetine also increases levels of other neurochemicals that can help fight depressive episodes, including allopregnanolone – a GABA modulator.

However, with these benefits come side effects for many patients. Common side effects (those with a prevalence rate >1 percent) include:

  • Nausea, diarrhea, and general GI upset
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Difficulty sleeping and disturbed sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Sexual side effects, including erectile dysfunction and decreased libido

In some patients, these side effects can interfere with quality of life. They can be particularly debilitating in people who are prone to anxiety or nervousness, as Prozac stimulates the nervous system. In fact, it’s considered the most stimulating of the SSRI drugs.

There are some patient populations for which Prozac is not indicated. Children and adolescents, for example, may experience increased suicidality if prescribed Prozac. Research also suggests that Prozac may be unsafe to use during pregnancy, as it can increase the chances of heart abnormalities forming.

For many patients, though, offsetting nausea, headaches, and other common side effects is the primary goal. Eastern medicine and acupuncture can help with that goal.

Prozac Works for Many Conditions, But Support May Be Needed to Offset its Adverse Effects

Once patients begin Prozac, it’s highly recommended that they do not stop taking their medication suddenly, even if side effects are present. That’s because of antidepressant discontinuation syndromes – a condition marked by anxiety, flu-like symptoms, difficulty sleeping, depression, nausea, and issues with sensory input or balance.

Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome may persist for years once it emerges, so doctors recommend gradually tapering down the dose if it’s to be stopped. Fortunately, the condition is less likely for Prozac users, as the medication has a longer half-life than other SSRIs. It takes longer to leave the system, in other words.

Still, if you’re taking Prozac and experiencing adverse effects, immediately stopping treatment is not recommended. However, adjunct therapies like acupuncture may mitigate some of those side effects, including:

  • Headaches – Some of the strongest medical research backing acupuncture is related to its use with headaches. This includes evidence that supports its use for migraines, tension headaches and cluster headaches. One piece of medical evidence includes a meta-analysis that considered 22 clinical trials (4,985 patients). That meta-analysis reported dramatic reductions in headaches, with more than 40 percent of patients having reduced their migraine episodes by 50 percent or more.
  • Anxiety – Research into acupuncture and anxiety is still ongoing, but initial studies are promising. For instance, a 2015 study found that acupuncture improved symptoms better than psychotherapy and medication. It’s possible that nerve stimulation via acupuncture needles, as well as the calming therapeutic environment, contribute to this reduction in anxiety.
  • Fatigue – Again, research into acupuncture and fatigue is still developing, but at least one study has shown potential benefits. That study, published in 2015, showed that acupuncture could help with chronic fatigue syndrome. In fact, for patients with chronic fatigue, the benefits of acupuncture treatment could persist for weeks following treatment.
  • Erectile dysfunction – Eastern medicine practitioners have used acupuncture to treat erectile dysfunction for centuries. There is also recent research that suggests it can be effective for the condition. One study, published in the International Journal of Impotence Research, demonstrated positive results in 70 percent of the study’s patients.

Houston Acupuncture can help with these side effects while offering an impressive safety profile of its own. It’s rare for people to experience significant adverse effects following acupuncture treatment, as long as that treatment is administrated by a licensed practitioner.

Houston Acupuncture and Herbal Therapy Can Also Help With Depression

Although more research is needed, a few recent studies suggest that traditional Chinese medicine modalities may help with depression. For example, a 2020 meta-analysis published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that acupuncture could reduce the severity of depressive symptoms in patients, especially when used in conjunction with medication.

There are numerous botanicals that are believed to help with balancing mood and improving stress response. Both can lead to symptomatic improvement. However, it is essential to seek professional guidance when considering herbal treatment, as precise dosing is necessary.

A Licensed Acupuncturist Can Deliver Effective Treatment Safely

Licensed Houston acupuncturists are trained and experienced in proper acupuncture techniques. That means better needle placement and insertion, but proper acupuncture techniques go beyond treatment delivery. It also includes using the right needles and ensuring they are properly sanitized. This is all done in the pursuit of better patient safety and comfort.

If you’ve been prescribed Prozac, side effect concerns are understandable. However, those concerns can be managed by proactively integrating adjunct therapies into your treatment regimen. This includes acupuncture, which has noted benefits for many Prozac-related adverse effects.

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