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What is Fluoxetine HCL?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Fluoxetine hydrochloride (HCl) is an antidepressant medication that belongs to the class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Development of this medication dates to the 1970s, with Eli Lilly's Prozac® being the most famous brand name that fluoxetine HCl is sold under. Unless specifically directed otherwise, a pharmacist will fill a prescription for this medication with the generic version of the drug, rather than a branded one, because generics are much less expensive.

This drug is designed to change the chemistry of the brain to help patients with conditions such as depression, bulimia, panic disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Like other antidepressants, it usually takes several weeks to take effect, and the dosage often needs to be adjusted to meet the patient's needs. Medical professionals usually ask patients to try an introductory dosage for four weeks, and then return for a follow up visit to see how effective the drug is for the patient, and whether or not the dosage needs to be altered. The patient will require periodic visits for psychotherapy and adjustments of the dosage as needed as long as he or she remains on the drug.

Certain medications can interact adversely with fluoxetine HCl, making it important for patients to disclose all of the medications they are taking, including non-prescription drugs. The drug can also be dangerous for people with liver impairments, and these patients require special monitoring. Side effects associated with the medication include anorexia, anxiety, sleeplessness, tremors, and sexual dysfunction.

Studies on this drug have suggested that, when patients stop taking it, it is important to taper the dosage, rather than abruptly ceasing treatment. Patients can experience psychological problems if they abruptly stop taking the medication or if the dosage is adjusted too rapidly. Patients can taper off it under the supervision of a healthcare professional who can confirm that the person is being safely weaned from the drug. Those who have difficulty affording medications can experience problems as a result of stopping abruptly or starting and stopping treatment repeatedly.

Several forms of fluoxetine HCl are available to patients, including time-released versions that need to be taken less frequently. Although originally only available as a brand name medication, the drug is now available as a generic. The generic formula is pharmacologically identical to the brand name drug, and typically less costly. Due to concerns about how the drug is used and the need for supervision, this drug is not available over the counter to patients.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By ddljohn — On Apr 19, 2012

I used fluoxetine for a while and what I liked about it is that it's not addictive. Some people think that because you need to quit this medication slowly to avoid the withdrawal effects, it's addictive.But that's not true.

All medications can have withdrawal effects if you quit it abruptly and it is true that the longer you take it, the worse the withdrawal effects will be. But as long as you follow doctor's directions and cut down on the dose little by little, you will be fine. You won't crave it or anything like that.

What I didn't like about fluoxetine was that it gave me suicidal thoughts. I didn't have any suicidal thoughts before taking fluoxetine. I was just down all the time, lost all motivation and felt sorry for myself. Fluoxetine made me think about suicide, more often then I would have liked. Thank God, I was all too aware of it and would never act on it. But this should be something to be careful about, especially if teenagers or children are taking the medication.

By burcidi — On Apr 19, 2012

@fify-- Actually, that's not true. Fluoxetine is widely prescribed by doctors for generel anxiety disorders and social anxiety disorders. It does work to lessen feelings of anxiety because it increases serotonin just as anti-anxiety medications too. And fluoxetine is generally much better tolerated than some other SSRIs.

Despite this fact, there is no rule that a medication is going to have the same exact effect on everybody with the same disorder or symptoms. It can't, everybody reacts differently to it. So while it may not lessen anxiety for one person, it can lessen it greatly for someone else. Even the side effects of fluoxetine is not the same for everyone. Some people, for example, sleep too much while they're on it while others experience insomnia.

Of course, everyone needs to listen to their body and judge for themselves if a medication is right for them or not. But let's not make any incorrect generalizations that fluoxetine doesn't work for anxiety, it does. There may be exceptions.

By fify — On Apr 18, 2012

If you go to the doctor with symptoms of a mild or moderate depression, it seems like they automatically prescribe fluoxetine.

I took fluoxetine for years, first in high school, later in my twenties and it did not work for me at all. My symptoms never got better. I then started going to other doctors and was finally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Anti-anxiety medications improved my symptoms very quickly.

Fluoxetine is a good medication and as far as I know, it's pretty safe because it's herbal (in terms of addiction). But it only works for depression, not anxiety. Doctors all too readily prescribe it and send away their patients. If you try this medication and it doesn't work, make sure to go back and ask to be re-examined and re-diagnosed.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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