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Fluoxetine: Side Effects & Drug Interactions

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Individuals who experience depression and compulsion must find safe ways to manage their symptoms. Read this lesson to learn more about fluoxetine and the potential side-effects to look out for.

Why Medication?

Amy is a 25 year old student who works part time in a clothing shop. She considers herself as a quiet person, with few friends to confide in. When she returns home over the holiday break, her family members are shocked - Amy has lost a considerable amount of weight since she started her schooling out of state.

Despite Amy's desire to appear well in front of her family, she remains frail and exhausted. Concerned, her mother schedules an appointment with their family doctor.

Amy arrives to the doctor's office and receives a physical exam. She has been tearful since her mother expressed concern over her well-being, and was exhibiting withdrawal, inattentiveness, and sadness.

The doctor conducted a depression screening, to assess for a mood disorder that can cause disturbances to her daily life. Dr. Smith noted that Amy had been experiencing the following:

  • Sadness
  • Changes in her sleep pattern
  • Difficulty concentrating and holding attention
  • Low energy levels
  • Lack of interest in hobbies that were once fun and exciting

Because Amy is experiencing these symptoms for much longer than two weeks, Dr. Smith officially diagnoses her with depression. After learning about her options, Amy is agreeable to trying a medication, fluoxetine, to help manage her depressive symptoms.

What is Fluoxetine?

Fluoxetine, also known as Prozac, is a medication frequently used to treat disorders like depression, along with disorders of compulsion including bulimia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Amy learns that fluoxetine is considered a serotonin selective reuptake inhibitor, meaning that this type of antidepressant works by increasing the amount of available serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes calmness, happiness, and is considered a mood elevator.

Side Effects and Interactions

Amy is excited to have a chance at feeling like her old self again and is eager to get started on fluoxetine. But before she can get started on this new medication, she meets with the nurse to learn more about potential side effects that can occur when taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI's).

Even though Amy plans to start the medication as soon as she gets home, she learns that she probably won't feel differently for a couple weeks. Next, the nurse teaches Amy about several of the most common side effects associated with fluoxetine:

  • Nausea. Amy learns about two strategies to help combat nausea if she experiences it when taking her new medication. She can either take the fluoxetine with food, or attempt to take it just before bed so that she will be asleep during digestion.
  • Agitation or restlessness. If the fluoxetine impacts Amy by keeping her up at night, she can choose to take it in the morning, while avoiding caffeine and energy drinks. She could also promote sleep by following a bedtime routine, drinking chamomile tea, meditating, or practicing yoga.

Other side effects include:

  • Decreased libido (low sexual desire)
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Visual problems

Serious Safety Concerns

While serious issues rarely occur with the use of fluoxetine, the nurse makes sure Amy is aware of the drug's most dangerous complications. This way, Amy can report directly to her medical team for evaluation and check-up.

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