More than 25 million prescriptions were issued for fluoxetine hydrochloride (Prozac) in 2017 alone in the United States. Considering how popular this drug is, many people rightfully may ask questions about this medication before taking it, including “Is Prozac addictive?” The answer to this question is a little trickier than a straightforward yes or no.
Is Prozac Addictive?
Prozac is not addictive in the way that widely abused drugs like heroin and other opioids are. That said, like any medication, there is the potential for someone to become addicted to and abuse Prozac.
Take, for example, one study from Mayo Clinic, which observed two reported cases of fluoxetine abuse in patients with a history of substance abuse. Interestingly though, neither patient developed physical dependence on the drug. Experts hypothesize that instead the abuse was rooted in both physiological drug cravings and behavioral factors.
Specifically, experts have documented stimulant-like effects from fluoxetine use. Fluoxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, which means it primarily works by inhibiting the reuptake (reabsorption) of serotonin; notably, lower levels of serotonin are associated with depressed mood. As such, this sertoningenic effect of fluoxetine could potentially mimic the stimulant effects of amphetamines. In patients with a history of substance abuse, fluoxetine could thereby trigger a “conditioned” drug response, formed from past drug abuse.
Prozac is not addictive in a traditional sense, which is to say that it does not appear to cause physical dependence in the way that opioids or amphetamines might. However, research shows that some people can abuse fluoxetine, and this risk appears elevated for those with a prior history of substance abuse.