How a Touch of Prozac Could End the Hell of PMT

TINY amounts of Prozac could end the monthly misery of PMT for millions of women – and their partners, scientists believe.

In studies, the ‘happy pills’ banished the mood swings, bloating, lethargy and pain that blights the lives of up to three quarters of women in the run-up to their period.

The doses given were around a tenth of that used to treat depression and so should be free of the side-effects that have dogged the drug’s use in psychiatry.

Preliminary experiments on rats have had ‘dramatic’ results and researchers believe low-dose Prozac could be routinely used to prevent PMT – pre-menstrual tension – within two years.

Neuroscientist Thelma Lovick, from the University of Birmingham, said: ‘A lot of women experience PMT and a lot of men are on the receiving end. I can’t say we are going to cure everyone but when taken in conjunction with sensible lifestyle changes we are in with a chance.’ Dr Lovick pinned the symptoms on the sharp fall of progesterone that occurs the week before a women menstruates. Normally, a waste product of progesterone called allopregnanolone, or allo, helps keep a lid on brain circuits involved in controlling emotions.

When progesterone levels fall, amounts of allo also fall, and emotions run riot. Prozac is known to raise allo levels, so Dr Lovick decided to see if it would ease the condition in rats.

Very small doses completely prevented the anxiety and increased sensitivity to pain the creatures normally experience.

Dr Lovick told the British Science Festival: ‘It completely blocked the symptoms – we are amazed.

‘The time is right for a controlled clinical trial in women. The solution for PMT could be as simple as taking a pill for a few days towards the end of your menstrual cycle.’ It is likely women would take a pill at the first signs of PMT and one a day for the following week.

Used alongside lifestyle changes such as controlling stress and cutting out sugary foods, it could have a major impact on millions.

Regular strength Prozac lifts depression by raising levels of ‘feel good’ brain chemical serotonin but can cause problems from loss of libido to suicidal thoughts and selfharm.

Dr Lovick said that using around a tenth of those used to treat depression should not trigger any side-effects.

This is because although very small doses raise levels of allo, they do not have any effect on serotonin.

A daily dose of regular-strength Prozac is already sometimes prescribed to ease PMT, but Dr Lovick believes the way forward is a very small dose taken for a week a month.

Professor Tim Kendall, consultant psychiatrist, said that the idea warranted more research. But he warned that self-medicating with Prozac could be disastrous.

He said: ‘It can make you anxious and wound-up and affect appetite. I don’t know if these side-effects would occur at low doses but it would strike me as unwise to start tipping drugs out of capsules.’

THE TROUBLED ‘QUICK FIX’

ONCE hailed as a miracle cure for depression, Prozac and similar drugs are prescribed to millions around the globe.

Known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, the ‘happy pills’, which include Seroxat and Efexor, keep mood-boosting serotonin in the brain for longer. When introduced in the late 80s, they were seen as safer than previous anti-depressants. But their use has since been linked to suicidal thoughts and self-harm.

This led to advice that patients with mild depression should instead be offered counseling.

It is claimed that many GPs give out tablets rather than condemn patients to a long wait for counseling.

Some GPs say they are pressurised by patients anxious for a ‘quick fix’ to their problems.

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