Goodbye Prozac

Rawness, weeping and clarity in the aftermath of the little pill
By CAROLINE KNAPP  |  August 6, 2010

This article originally appeared in the March 1, 1996 issue of the Boston Phoenix.

It’s official: I have entered the post-Prozac era. Started tapering the intake in December; went from one little green-and-cream-colored pill per day to one pill every two days, then every four, then every seven. Took the last one about four weeks ago; gave the three remaining capsules to a friend. So it’s over. I have left the land of anti-depressant medication.

And, at the moment, I am anything but anti-depressed. I am a mess, to tell the truth. Weepy and lethargic some days. Disoriented and vaguely under the weather other days. Irritable a lot. So far, life without Prozac feels more or less like 24-hour-a-day PMS. I don’t like it a bit.

Is this normal, to feel this rotten? Is this a direct cause and effect? I’m not even sure about that. For the past five years, we’ve been deluged with articles and TV news-magazine shows about people who have gone on Prozac: there’s been the pro-Prozac slant (“It’s changed my life completely!”) and the anti-Prozac slant (“It turned my boyfriend into a homicidal maniac!”); there’s also been the more common—and more ambivalent—philosophical slant, with articles questioning whether the popularity of Prozac and its sister anti-depressants like Zoloft and Paxil (often referred to as “designer-drugs”) reflects negatively or positively on the medical profession.

But amid all that, I very little has been said or written about the people go off Prozac. Even the medical literature on the subject is scant: there’s some discussion of plateaus and rebound effect, a smattering of articles about how people who return to drugs like Prozac after a prolonged period without it don’t always get the same effect from it. But there’s not much more. So along with feeling irritable and sad, I feel at sea. What’s life without Prozac supposed to be like? What happens? And what can people who’ve given it up tell us about how this stuff really works?

Right now I know six people who’ve been on Prozac for long periods and then gone off it. Two of these had a terrible time, felt like some horrible, incapacitating fog had descended upon them anew, and couldn’t tolerate the change; they both went back on it within a few months. Two other s felt mildly different at first — a little short-tempered and moody but not wildly so — and then kind of forgot about it; the difference was negligible. And the other two stopped taking Prozac because it didn’t seem to be working in the first place. One of these switched to Zoloft, which seems to be keeping a longstanding depression in check; the other is just limping along without anything.

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Related: Kramer: No one knows if Americans are overmedicated, Flashbacks: March 3, Brain-O-Matic, More more >
  Topics: Flashbacks , Health and Fitness, Mental Health, Depression,  More more >
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