Using the Antidepressant Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
Fluvoxamine is a generic drug, found primarily under the brand name Luvox, which is prescribed to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder. Occasionally, it is prescribed off label to treat panic disorders, social phobias, depression, and eating disorders. This antidepressant is in the class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
What Is Fluvoxamine
As an SSRI, fluvoxamine increases the amount of serotonin the brain releases and reduces how fast neurotransmitter receptors uptake the chemical. When there is more serotonin present in the brain, mood stabilizes, and the person feels less depressed.
Luvox was originally approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1994. ANI Pharmaceuticals, Inc. manufactures this antidepressant.
The brand name drug Luvox comes in as either a tablet or an extended-release capsule. Tablets can be taken either once or twice daily, while the extended-release capsule is usually only taken once per day. Tablet doses are 25 mg, 50 mg, or 100 mg; capsule doses are either 100 mg or 150 mg. A prescription dose typically begins at 50 mg per day but can increase to as much as 300 mg, if needed. Doses are adjusted depending on what condition the psychiatrist or physician prescribed fluvoxamine to treat. Do not adjust daily dose without consulting a medical professional.
It can take several weeks for a person to get the full benefit of fluvoxamine. It is important to continue taking the dose and report any changes to the overseeing therapist or physician.
Side effects of Fluvoxamine
There are several potential side effects of taking fluvoxamine. Most of these are not serious. They can include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Drowsiness, sleepiness, or fatigue
- Constipation, gas, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Other stomach pain
- Dry mouth
- Changes in weight due to appetite changes
- Changes in the taste of food or drink
- Physical weakness
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Changes in sex drive
- Unsteady balance
Fluvoxamine can cause some serious side effects. These should be reported to a doctor immediately. They can include:
- Chest pain
- Severe dizziness
- Loss of coordination
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat
- Muscle stiffness and pain
- Tingling, burning, or numbness, especially in the extremities
- Rash, hives, or other sign of an allergic reaction
- Reduced or difficult breathing
- Uncontrollable shaking, especially in one part of the body
- Loss of consciousness
- Bloody, tar-like, or black stools
- Vomit that looks like coffee grounds
As with other SSRIs, one of the potential serious side effects of fluvoxamine is increased suicidal thinking or self-harming actions. People who are 24 years old or younger are particularly at risk of developing this rare condition, but it can occur in people over 24 years old as well. This is a symptom that the medication is affecting brain chemistry in unintended ways, so it is important to consult a doctor immediately. People who take fluvoxamine should also consult a doctor if mood does not improve after a month of regular use.
Other serious side effects of fluvoxamine include:
- Recurring depression or worsening depression
- Intense worry or anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Agitation, irritability, or mood swings
- Severe restlessness
- Impulsive behaviors
- Abnormal excitement
Because fluvoxamine changes brain chemistry, the brain can become dependent on this medication to moderate serotonin and other neurotransmitters. If a person stops taking their fluvoxamine prescription suddenly, they could experience withdrawal symptoms due to the body’s dependence on this medication. It is important for a person to discuss ending the prescription with their doctor if they do not want to take this medication anymore. The doctor can work with the person on a taper to ease the body off dependence on the medication.
Overdose on Fluvoxamine
Although it is difficult to overdose on fluvoxamine, it is possible. Symptoms of fluvoxamine overdose include:
- Enlarged pupils
- Loss of coordination or balance
- Extreme drowsiness
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Changes in alertness
- Changes in heartbeat, either faster or slower
- Trouble breathing
- Uncontrollable shaking, especially in just one part of the body
- Loss of consciousness
It is extremely important for a person experiencing an overdose to get immediate medical attention. Always call 911 immediately if witnessing a person overdosing on any medication.
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Fluvoxamine’s Interactions with Other Substances
Since fluvoxamine changes the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, it can interact with other prescription, over-the-counter, or recreational drugs. Some of these include:
- Blood thinners
- Beta blockers
- Dextromethorphan, which is found in cough syrups
- Narcotic painkillers
- Migraine medications
- Medications for heart burn, acid reflux, or GERD
- Dietary supplements like St. John’s wort or tryptophan
Both alcohol and tobacco can interact with fluvoxamine. Some of the side effects associated with fluvoxamine can get worse when combined with alcohol. Smoking cigarettes or consuming other tobacco products may decrease fluvoxamine’s effectiveness.
It is also important not to take SSRIs or other antidepressants together. This can lead to serotonin syndrome, which can cause seizures, hallucinations, and other serious health issues. People who have taken an antidepressant before but are switching to fluvoxamine should speak with their doctor about an appropriate length of time to detox from the previous antidepressant, so the medications do not negatively impact each other.
Physical Conditions and Fluvoxamine
Some medical conditions can interact with fluvoxamine. These include:
- Cardiovascular problems
- Kidney or liver disease
- History of strokes
- High blood pressure
- Bipolar disorder
- Low sodium in the blood
- Adrenal disease
Women who are breastfeeding, pregnant, or planning to become pregnant should speak with their doctor about fluvoxamine’s potential effects on the fetus or infant. There is a less than 1 percent chance of birth defects or premature birth, usually related to the woman taking fluvoxamine in the third trimester. However, the woman and her physician must weigh the risks of stopping an antidepressant with the risk of depression during pregnancy or postpartum depression. Ultimately, the decision is made between the woman and her doctor.
People who struggle with mental health conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression, are more likely to develop difficulties with substance abuse. Fortunately, it is very possible to overcome an addiction and manage a mental health disorder at the same time. Medically supervised detox can end the body’s dependence on intoxicating substances, while a comprehensive rehabilitation program provides therapy and social support to help the individual manage mental health issues and maintain sobriety.