Safety of abrupt discontinuation of fluoxetine: a randomized, placebo-controlled study

J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1998 Jun;18(3):193-7. doi: 10.1097/00004714-199806000-00003.


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may be associated with new adverse events after abrupt discontinuation. Hypothesizing that the long half-life of fluoxetine would be protective, this study analyzed the effects of abrupt fluoxetine discontinuation during a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of depression maintenance treatment. After 12 weeks of fluoxetine treatment (20 mg/day), 395 responders were abruptly randomized to placebo (N = 96) or to continued fluoxetine (N = 299). Patients were seen at weeks 1, 2, 4, and 6 after randomization. Reports of new or worsened adverse events were similar for both groups at each visit after randomization. Patient discontinuations related to adverse events were also similar in both groups. Mild, self-limited lightheadedness or dizziness occurred in a small percentage of patients who discontinued fluoxetine treatment but was of little clinical significance. No cluster of symptoms suggestive of a discontinuation syndrome was observed. Abrupt discontinuation of fluoxetine treatment was well tolerated and did not seem to be associated with significant clinical risk. Fluoxetine may offer a potential safety advantage over shorter-acting agents with respect to treatment interruption and/or discontinuation and may be a better choice for those patients who are likely to miss doses because of travel or forgetfulness.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / administration & dosage
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / adverse effects*
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Dizziness / chemically induced
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Fluoxetine / administration & dosage
  • Fluoxetine / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome*


  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Fluoxetine