Want to taper off Pristiq, makes my heart race

Posted by Native Floridian @nativefloridian, Jan 7, 2012

Has anyone successfully tapered off Pristiq? If so, what was your plan? I am considering going off this medicine. I take 50 mg per day and have done so for about 2 years. I understand there are very significant withdrawal symptoms and I would like to stop taking Pristiq because it causes my heart to race when the time release happens. I am afraid this medicine may not be good for the heart because the clinical trials state that anyone with a heart condition was not allowed to take it.

@ejean

So glad to have found this forum. I have been on Pristique since Oct 2012. I started it b/c of perimenopause and several life stressors piling up, culminating when my father passed away. My family has a history of depression and I hated thinking I had it as well. Pristique certainly got me through – felt just numb enough to carry on and I could just drop off to sleep again and not be waking up at 4 o’clock in the morning. And I enjoyed eating, which isn’t always a good thing. I still have little motivation outside of work and difficulty maintaing exercise, but I do it about 3 times a week.
I was taking 50 mg and so are several friends around the same age….with great effects they claim.
I have decided to come off of this for several reasons. I have gained weight and don’t feel good about myself physically and at 50 I need to be more physically conscious, I also have no libido left – but I’m cheeryish? My Mother has been on antidepressants for almost 40 years and has never been able to function without them (which is fine for her, she’s never questioned coming off them). My concern is that at 71, she has had elevated cholesterol, IBS, and arteriosclerosis. The sad part is that she is very active, biking, walking, works out 4x a week and teaches yoga and she eats like a saint. She has not been in a long term relationship for 25 years (I don’t think she misses that part 🙂 BUT I have to wonder if all her physical issues are not directly related to the 40 years of antidepressant use.
I do take depression seriously as my profession is in psychiatric nursing, but I have to wonder about the effectiveness of long term use of antidepressants? There is new work now with neurotherapy showing that altering brain wave function can have very positive effects on the three types of depression. I am trying this myself and even with only four treatments I am noticing differences in my mood, clarity and depressive tendencies.
Some research is now showing that these medications are not effective long term and may even cause rebound depressive symptoms. And that using pharmacological interventions is most effective for people that suffer from the most extreme major depressive disorder. The scary facts are that most research is funded and driven by the pharmaceutical industries so how are we getting the best information when that is the case?
My withdrawal from Pristique has been similar to others here, the dizziness, brain zaps, and a rushes of sensitivity with my feelings. It’s been about 7 days now and I quit cold turkey as I wasn’t on for that long and I was only taking 50mg. I have felt angry and really sad but honestly I hadn’t cried more than twice since October being on Pristique – and I was in some really sad places? I’m not sure that was a positive effect. I’ve cried 3 times this week – I think because of coming off Pristique and my brain readjusting. Life is sad and hard a lot of the time and I hope to have the fortitude and personal relational support to make it through – and maybe with some other methods of treatment like neurotherapy, yoga, breathing and other self-regulating techniques my brain can heal from whatever it’s set up was to begin with. I believe we can change our brains, but not just with cognitive techniques because the symptoms we deal with are in the limbic system and that needs help in gentler, physical ways. For me the jury is still out on pharmaceuticals, I am very skeptical about them for sure where women’s health is concerned.
Heres a couple of resoruces FYI:
CBC Ideas – Rethinking Depression parts 1, 2, 3
Swingle and Associates (Vancouver BC) – have a good website on neurotherapy

Thanks for posting all you brave people and I’ll let you know how long all this annoying zapping goes on for…hugs Sorry this is so long…
EJean

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You sound like you are handling the withdrawal way better than I am. My Dr has me tapering off. Tried cold turkey and I thought I was losing my mind. So now I am taking 50 (down from 100) for 2 weeks, then 50 every other day for 1 month, then 50 every 3 days for one month. Praying this cuts down on the w/d side effects.

As a psychiatric nurse, can you tell me what you think the zapping is all about? It freaked me out.

I have decided to try a more natural approach to treating my depression which is has never been totally debilitating. I am fairly confident that I can treat it by eating well, exercising regularly and losing weight.

Also, can you tell me some more about neurotherapy and how to get access to it?

Thanks so much, EJean!!!!

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@beconscious

Taking 50mg Pristiq for 9 months and began an alternating day taper in February.
Every 14 days I add one more day without a pill. I’m now alternating 3 days off, 1 day on. Taking it each morning. No cutting.

Symptoms are only noticeable on the first decrease/add-on of one day in the taper cycle. Some ‘brain zaps/electric feeling in the brain’. Mostly when changing focus or sudden eye movement. Not fun, but interesting. The goal is to expand to 4 days off, 1 day on until the end of May, then discontinue altogether and observe.

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Another update. Last week I was beginning to experience anxiety, and then those signs of insomnia picked up. Waking up every 2-3 hours, or not feeling as though I had a good nights rest. Waking up with anxiety, carrying it throughout the day. As the week went on I was having less anxiety in the morning, but it migrated to a feeling of doom, and then wonderful feelings of well-being in the evening. These new feelings of well-being are new, and something I havent felt in several years. The sensation started in my gut, a warm tingly wonderful feeling. I assume serotonin receptors rebuilding there. The general anxiety and doom have left, for now, but today with the intense heat I noticed some fatigue setting in. Have adjusted my workout routine away from heavy lifting to walking only for now. What a ride. The brain zaps and fog have left, and they never seem to occur at the same time as anxiety and doom are present, and so I hope this means I’m just working my way through the various stages of withdrawal.

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@gunner06

This website has been very informative. I told myself that I would not read anyone’s horror story b/c in turn I will think about the aftermath too much and decide not to wean off of it. I was on 50 mg Zoloft and Xanax for a couple of months due to having two panic attacks (anxiety) about 4 months apart and I felt like a zombie on them. I went from about two months of 50 mgs of Pristiq to 100 mg Pristiq and Klonopin (as needed). Basically been on a med to treat anxiety since February of ’13. I almost wonder if the Klonopin is more addictive than the Pristiq, but I’m in such a fog that it’s hard to tell. I have always resorted to homeopathic remedies, but read that you cannot take St. John’s Wort w/Pristiq as it is almost considered brain poisoning b/c it gives your system too much of a brain boost. I am considering weaning from Pristiq and relying on the Klonopin during the difficult moments. The Pristiq causes such fatigue and I have shallow breathing with it, making it hard to catch my breath or deep breathe. I am involved in yoga and truly enjoy it. Considering accupuncture but not sure if being on the medication while on it will be beneficial. Does anyone know or have any simple advice? Does anyone out there prefer to go the homeopathic route instead that has had any success weaning from this? God bless you all, and know you are not alone. Lean on the Lord as times like this may be His way of saying to depend on Him and His goodness and healing ability. He made us and knows us better than we know ourselves! I appreciate any recommendations….

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This is true. The prescription of AD’s by family doctors should be revisited, and special certification should be required in order to prescribe these. Had I known what I was getting into I never would have filled the prescription to begin with. What a terrible interruption this was to my life.

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@alexandraanonymous

I was on pristiq for a year, and 5 days ago my psychiatrist finally took me off of it! i only took 25 mg for a year (with klonopin as an emergency backup in case of sudden anxiety) and throughout the year i learned how to handle situations that i never thought i could handle on my own. i also noticed that i relied on klonopin less and less until i basically never took it anymore.
now that i am allowed to be off, i am so thankful that i was put on it, but realized that i am okay without it now! my mood began depending on myself, and didnt depend on the pill. this was also when i was making a scary transition into college (i am only 18 years old) and i am so glad i could do it.
the only problem i am having now is the withdrawal. my body is strongly affected by changes and i was wondering how long do you estimate it will last?
the first day i felt HORRIBLE. nauseous like i was going to vomit at least 5 times in one day. horrible stomach aches, constipation. it’s day 5 now and i’m feeling slightly better, the only thing is i feel so so dizzy and really don’t have motivation to do anything. i feel somewhat agitated, (not as bad as i did on day 1) my mood currently feels fine (no extreme happiness or sadness) the withdrawal is just very hard for me because i am an active runner and exerciser and i dont want to gain weight or feel sick during a workout.
the symptoms are becoming less harsh, but i still feel very hot, or very cold, somewhat nauseous, and very dizzy, kind of hazy like my head is in the clouds (unfocused)
please reply! its helpful to know someone went through or is going through the same thing i am! thank you!!
p.s. right now i am only taking the 25 mg every other day for a week. doctors orders.

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I am 8 weeks off, and the withdrawal symptoms ended up being protracted. One set of symptoms would appear and subside, then nothing, then a new set began. Patience, care and persistence is key (diet, support and exercise, too, of course).

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@ggmarie

Woo Hoo!! I am finally off Pristiq!!!! I am feeling normal again, the brain zaps have finally subsided to the rare side now (they are caused by your neurotransmitters firing) and I am just downright happy again! I am smiling, laughing and feeling like myself that I was beginning to question if she would ever be back again. All I can say to all of you is it will take time. There will be side effects while your brain is adjusting, and that is why is important to taper. I went from 100mg to 50mg and tapered off for 3 weeks. I had hoped to do it in 2 weeks but too many symptoms. I am hopeful in renewing my life. I never ever thought that this medication would actually start destroying my life. I lost all de sire to be part of life, felt empty and so emotionless. After 3 years I feel myself again. I am smiling again, joined a gym to help get rid of my weight gain. And just working out has made a difference. I really wish the best to all of you and know that it is a struggle. I did it and it was hard but I will NEVER go on a antidepressant again.

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Hi Karen,

I just wanted to let you know that I found this forum two weeks ago. I asked my psychiatrist to take me off the meds, but he wanted to do it over a longer timeframe than I was willing. After reading your post and the others, I chose to quit cold turkey. As of today, I’ve been pristiq free for two weeks. The withdrawal symptoms were not horrible for me. I found that drinking coffee helped take away the dizziness/brain zaps or at least made them less noticeable. I still have hot flashes but I don’t care. I turned 31 yesterday and have now made it through I year since my mother passed. I will do my best to never take these kind of meds again. Good luck!

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@beconscious

Taking 50mg Pristiq for 9 months and began an alternating day taper in February.
Every 14 days I add one more day without a pill. I’m now alternating 3 days off, 1 day on. Taking it each morning. No cutting.

Symptoms are only noticeable on the first decrease/add-on of one day in the taper cycle. Some ‘brain zaps/electric feeling in the brain’. Mostly when changing focus or sudden eye movement. Not fun, but interesting. The goal is to expand to 4 days off, 1 day on until the end of May, then discontinue altogether and observe.

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Since my last update have been sleeping well. Only emotional flatlines remain. Last evening a moment of panic symptoms beginning with a sensation of clogged sinuses. Today feeling like my stomach is bloated and in my chest, feeling slight wooshing sensations but my mood is flat. Still waiting for those emotional good feelings.

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I don’t know if this is current (July 2013) but thought I’d add my experience. Had been on 100 mg for two years and now ready to wean off. I backed off to 50 mg a day for a week. My psychiatrist had me cut 50s in half for another week. That being done, three days after being off completely, I became so dizzy I couldn’t see or walk straight plus nausea. So am now on 1/4 dose (50s cut in half) every other day and will do that for 20 days and try again. Since 1/4 dose is the smallest the pill can be made using a pill cutter, I may have to go from every other day to every 3 days and keep stretching it out. I couldn’t believe how strong the dizziness is. Have no idea how anyone does it cold turkey. I did need this when I went on but have never gone through withdrawal for any prescription med before. Had wanted to know if anyone experienced a skin rash? Also, while not near the strength, I’ve had light headedness every day while I’m weaning off. Hope this helps someone. Glad to find this discussion.

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@beconscious

Taking 50mg Pristiq for 9 months and began an alternating day taper in February.
Every 14 days I add one more day without a pill. I’m now alternating 3 days off, 1 day on. Taking it each morning. No cutting.

Symptoms are only noticeable on the first decrease/add-on of one day in the taper cycle. Some ‘brain zaps/electric feeling in the brain’. Mostly when changing focus or sudden eye movement. Not fun, but interesting. The goal is to expand to 4 days off, 1 day on until the end of May, then discontinue altogether and observe.

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I am so relieved to read your post. My daughter has had a horrific journey weaning off Pristiq, and just as her moods seem to stabilize another symptom begins. She has been off Pristiq for 4 weeks now, and the last few days have included insomnia and social anxiety. For those of you tapering off, the first week drug-free was HELL, but then each week has gotten better. She has four or five good days, and then two or three not-so-great-but-better-than-it-was-on-Pristiq days. We keep a journal to remind us of the good things.

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@grace2244

I don’t know if this is current (July 2013) but thought I’d add my experience. Had been on 100 mg for two years and now ready to wean off. I backed off to 50 mg a day for a week. My psychiatrist had me cut 50s in half for another week. That being done, three days after being off completely, I became so dizzy I couldn’t see or walk straight plus nausea. So am now on 1/4 dose (50s cut in half) every other day and will do that for 20 days and try again. Since 1/4 dose is the smallest the pill can be made using a pill cutter, I may have to go from every other day to every 3 days and keep stretching it out. I couldn’t believe how strong the dizziness is. Have no idea how anyone does it cold turkey. I did need this when I went on but have never gone through withdrawal for any prescription med before. Had wanted to know if anyone experienced a skin rash? Also, while not near the strength, I’ve had light headedness every day while I’m weaning off. Hope this helps someone. Glad to find this discussion.

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Thanks for sharing your post. Most/all of my comments are from 2013 but there are pre2013 contributions here.

Hang in there as the withdrawal eventually gets easier (read my comments below). If you Google ‘surviving antidepressants’ you will find a good forum that helps with managing AD WDs.

Wishing you the best.

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SUCCESS STORY HERE!!!

I am on day 11 of being Pristiq free!
After reading the forums, I was overwhelmed with information. I had no idea that this medication was so horrible to stop taking. I had been taking it for well over 5 years. I was having a difficult time with situational depression and then just kept taking it. Life will always have something to throw my way, so I just kept filling the script. I didn’t want to go on another med to get off a med, it just didn’t make sense.

There were so many suggestions on here on what people had tried to do. It’s a travesty of justice that the medical profession doesn’t have accountability when prescribing to have an exit strategy as well. This pill doesn’t come with one.

I tried taking one pill every other day for a few days, then just decided cold turkey was my best option. I informed my husband as well as a coworker of the possible side effects I had read about. I was fully aware that this could be risky, but it motivated me all the more to pull the plug and get it out of my system. Taking one every other day or cutting them seemed to have it’s own realm of problems.

Even after taking for over 5 years, I haven’t had any horrible symptoms as I’ve read other’s experiencing. I haven’t had any brain zaps,dizziness, lack of energy, etc. I believe after reading so many negatives, it helped that I was so determined to make this a positive experience. I also think your brain can trick you into being submissive to letting go of something you think is helping you to not feel depressed. I can’t miss a week of work to lay in bed! I made myself more active also. Spent more time working in my garden, reading during my lunch breaks at the park, etc.

Let me also add for those thinking I have it too easy. My 16 year old daughter just informed me 4 days ago that she’s going to live with her dad. It has been several days of trauma and drama. I made it through it. I’m at work, I’m dealing with it. I’m moving forward. I’m ok. I’m in charge of my life and my body.

Keep in mind that when I read through hundreds of these posts I couldn’t find one person that said they came off this med without horror stories. So, here’s one story…. so far so good. 11 days in and I’m not going back, not ever. My energy level (which I thought Pristiq was helping) is gaining momentum again. Oh yeah…. and these pills will dull sensations in your sex drive…. that comes back too!! BONUS!

I trust in my body and my brain and I listen to what it is telling me. I’m shocked that I’m not having adverse results, but I’m thriving in the success… not looking for the failure.

Good luck everyone. I hope this one small bit of success gives someone else the hope to know there is a way out.

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@miriamtherese

I have been on 50 mg Pristiq for 4 years. I am coming off by increasing the distance between taking the medication by 12 hours every 2 weeks. I am in my second 2 weeks, and so far have not had withdrawal symptoms. (every 36 hours first 2 weeks, now every 48 hours) For people more sensitive one could decrease by 6 hours every 2 weeks. This is a long process and takes some discipline (making a calendar). Has anyone succeeded in this way? I will keep you posted on how it works out for me.

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Have you had any success with this method?

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So glad to have found all these extremely helpful suggestions! I’m on day 6 Pristiq-free and I basically decided to quit cold turkey because we can no longer afford it and we’re planning to conceive in a few months anyway.

So far I’ve had vertigo, dizziness, nausea, extreme irritability and today a major mood swing but I think that has more to do with the fact that my oldest started kindergarten although I’m sure coming down from an SNRI doesn’t help the situation.

I got some Dramamine and a daily Vitamin today after reading this thread and noticing a lot of people said that helped. I really hope those will help me because it’s hard to function as a mom when I can’t stand for any significant period of time due to the vertigo and dizziness.

I’m a little concerned about my depression coming back, it’s landed me in the hospital when I was switched off pristiq and onto effexor due to cost, so I’m hoping I don’t end up with the panic attacks and suicidial ideation that the effexor gave me. Pristiq, when I’m on it makes me feel normal, not his strung or frustrated or anxious, just normal, happy even. So it will be interesting to see if I can maintain mental health while off it.

An upside already is that sex is way more enjoyable, it was okay when I was on Pristiq but I’ve definetly noticed a difference in my ability to be all there during intimacy which is awesome. Acheiving orgasm is a lot easier as well, so there’s some hope for others that are coming off this medication.

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