Prozac is currently the most widely prescribed antidepressant in the world. However, there is now a new contender in play – CBD.
In recent years, CBD has been investigated as a potential treatment for depression, anxiety, social phobia, PTSD, schizophrenia, and substance misuse disorders. Furthermore, initial results from these studies are incredibly positive.
This is great news for anyone who has tried conventional antidepressants and found them ineffective or those who simply want to try a more natural approach. But can CBD replace Prozac as an antidepressant? Let’s take a look.
What is Prozac?
Prozac has been used as an antidepressant since 1988. It is the proprietary name for a drug called fluoxetine, which was the first of a new type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Since its invention, fluoxetine has been highly praised as being as effective as older antidepressants, but with a far better safety profile.
Prozac is indicated in the treatment of several different mental health disorders. These include:
- Major depressive disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Panic disorder
- Bulimia nervosa
- Binge eating disorder
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
- Bipolar disorder
It may also be prescribed for post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, and borderline personality disorder, although the FDA does not approve these uses.
Prozac is generally started at a dose of 20mg daily and increased up to 60mg if necessary. It can take several days to begin working and as long as 4–6 weeks to reach its full effect. Higher or lower doses may be prescribed under particular circumstances.
How Does Prozac Work?
SSRIs like Prozac work by increasing the amount of serotonin that is available in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is thought to be reduced in people who suffer from depression.
SSRIs act in an area called the presynaptic cleft, the space where two neurons (nerve cells) communicate with one another using chemical messengers such as serotonin. Under normal circumstances, excess serotonin is reabsorbed back into neurons at the presynaptic cleft. However, SSRIs prevent this from happening, thus increasing serotonin levels in the brain.
It is thought that SSRIs may have some additional actions in the body as well as blocking serotonin reuptake. However, this theory remains unconfirmed.
Prozac Side Effects
One of the reasons why Prozac has become so popular is that it causes fewer side effects than older antidepressants such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and tricyclic antidepressants. However, some patients do still experience adverse effects. Some common side effects of Prozac include:
- Dry mouth
- Sleep disturbances
- Sexual dysfunction
These side effects are usually most pronounced in the first few weeks of treatment and usually resolve themselves over time. There are also some rarer and more severe side effects of Prozac, and these include:
- Allergic reaction
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Bleeding disorders
- Suicidal thoughts
If you are taking Prozac and experience any of these side effects, talk to your physician as soon as possible.
Although Prozac is known for having fewer side effects than many other antidepressants, they can still prove a problem for some patients. This has led many people who are suffering from mental health difficulties to seek more natural alternatives. One such remedy which has grown in popularity in recent years is cannabidiol, also known as CBD.
What is CBD?
CBD is a cannabinoid, one of the major active compounds found in the cannabis plant. However, unlike its psychoactive cousin THC, it does not cause any intoxicating effects and is best-known for its various medicinal benefits.
CBD is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective, meaning that it may relieve a wide range of different conditions. The most common reason for people taking CBD is pain and inflammation, with the second and third most popular uses being anxiety and depression.
The dosage of CBD that will be effective varies from person to person and depends on several different factors. It is usually recommended that those trying CBD for the first time start with the minimum dose and increase it gradually until they find relief. It may take up to seven days to notice any significant improvements in symptoms.
CBD Side Effects
CBD is generally considered safe and is unlikely to cause any serious side effects. However, like any medicine, some people could react unpleasantly to CBD. The most widely reported side effects of CBD include:
- Dry mouth
- Increased appetite
- Red eyes
Compared with the long lists of side effects that accompany many pharmaceuticals, it is no wonder that so many people are turning to CBD!
How Does CBD Work for Depression and Anxiety?
Since CBD comes from cannabis, which has been illegal since the 1930s, scientists are only just beginning to research its effects on the human body. Therefore, its mechanism of action for anxiety and depression is still quite poorly understood.
What we do know about CBD and other cannabinoids is that they influence the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a regulatory system which maintains homeostasis using a variety of chemicals called endocannabinoids and cell receptors known as CB1 and CB2 receptors.
One of the best-known endocannabinoids is anandamide, sometimes nicknamed the ‘bliss molecule.’ Anandamide is believed to play an important role in regulating our response to stressful situations. CBD is thought to block the reuptake of anandamide by cells, much in the same way as Prozac blocks the reuptake of serotonin. This increases levels of anandamide in the body and could be one of the reasons why CBD relieves stress and anxiety so effectively.
CBD is also thought to work outside of the endocannabinoid system to influence serotonin receptors. It may also affect other neurotransmitters such as GABA and glutamate, which work to inhibit or excite the central nervous system.
Finally, depression has been linked with increased levels of systemic inflammation. This is thought to interrupt the activity of certain neurotransmitters and may explain why some patients do not respond to conventional antidepressants. It is possible that CBD could help to combat this through its anti-inflammatory effects, although further research is required.
Although the precise way that CBD works for depression and anxiety is unclear, current research does support its use for these conditions. Animal studies have shown that CBD can encourage pleasure-seeking behavior such as exploring new surroundings, something which is often lacking in patients with depression. Human studies also support CBD’s use as a remedy for anxiety. For example, in one well-known study, subjects who took CBD felt less nervous before taking a simulated public speaking test.
Additionally, CBD appears to be useful in the treatment of other mental health issues such as:
- Social phobia
- Bipolar disorder
- Substance misuse disorders
This is of particular interest since many of these conditions frequently occur alongside anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.
Can You Use CBD and Prozac Together?
If you are considering trying CBD for depression or anxiety, you may be wondering whether it is safe to take alongside your regular antidepressants. It is possible, but it is essential to exercise caution as both CBD and Prozac are metabolized by the liver using what is known as the CYP450 pathway.
This shared pathway means that taking CBD could slow down the rate at which your body processes other drugs like Prozac, thus increasing their potency. Therefore, if you take CBD, you may need to adjust your dose of antidepressants, but be sure to fully discuss this with your doctor first.
Cautions aside, there is some evidence that CBD and antidepressants could work together very effectively. One 2018 study found that both CBD and fluoxetine produced antidepressant effects and that when they were combined, even suboptimal doses became effective.
If you are thinking about replacing Prozac with CBD or using the two together, speak to a qualified healthcare professional about how to do this safely. Making sudden changes to your medication could mean an increase in side effects, withdrawal, and may even cause your initial symptoms to return.
Can CBD Replace Prozac? Final Thoughts
Current research suggests that CBD could offer a viable treatment for conditions such as depression and anxiety. For people searching for a more natural alternative to antidepressants, it may even be able to replace Prozac.
However, if you are taking Prozac, or any other antidepressant, you should not suddenly stop taking your medication and switch to CBD instead. SSRIs should be reduced gradually over time, and only under the guidance of a qualified professional. Withdrawal symptoms can include drowsiness, flu-like symptoms, digestive issues, sleep disturbances, and mood changes. Let your physician know if you encounter any of these problems while cutting down your dose.
Finally, please note that this article is for educational purposes and should not be taken as medical advice. Always consult your doctor before taking CBD for depression or anxiety, especially if you intend to replace Prozac with CBD.