Will I relapse to depression after quitting Prozac?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on November 20th, 2010 - Last updated: June 28th, 2019
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Dear Stanton,

I have been taking Prozac since I was 13 years old and I am now 23. I was prescribed prozac initially because of severe depression and anger about my life situation. Now, I am in college, engaged to be married, hold a job etc. I thank Prozac for my success in life so far but for the past year I have been pondering the idea of stopping the drug, and finally I have. It has been almost 4 weeks and I feel pretty good, surprisingly good actually. My question is, when I was started with Prozac my doctor told me I would probably need to take it for the rest of my life due to a chemical imbalance in my brain. Will stopping the drug send me back into depression and make me angry again? Or is it possible that mind over matter will get me through without medicine? I am also curious to know if there are any serious or semi-serious side effects involved with suddenly stopping prozac after 10 years? Please respond, my email address is below.

Thank you for your time.


Dear Amy:

I need first to say that I am not a physician and I cannot prescribe or “unprescribe” drugs to anyone.

Nonetheless, I consider your physicians to have been unethical in not having attempted to wean you from Prozac before you decided to quit on your own, after having taken the drug since early adolescence. You know, anger is not usually considered a genetic trait. That you were angry suggests something was occurring in your situation that could be remedied by life changes, changes you have obviously now undergone.

I write at my site about Prozac being addictive, and people experiencing withdrawal from it. But I also consider withdrawal and dependence are determined by a person’s life situation — and you have very much changed yours, to a point where you have passed the period of maximum withdrawal danger. When (if) you desire Prozac from here on in, it isn’t called withdrawal.

In fact, you are proof of the misidentification of depression as a chemical imbalance and lifetime trait, just like it was crazy for therapists to decide that Drew Barrymore was a lifetime drug addict due to her behavior in her early teens.

Amy, you have already been brave enough to figure out to disregard your doctor’s lifetime sentence into depression. I don’t think you need much advice from me about how to leave your diagnosis behind, other than for me to commend you, to tell you many people cease being depressed, and to encourage you to tell others about your experience — there are enough people already on television informing everyone that, if they are depressed, that their only solution is to take antidepressants forever.

Yours with best wishes,

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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