Tips on minimizing withdrawal symptoms from Effexor (aka Venlafaxine)

Posted by richyrich @richyrich, Nov 2, 2016

I have been taking Effexor/Venlafaxine for years and tried to get off it a few times but each time I try to give up the chemical withdrawal symptoms are a horror story and I give up giving up. Anyone got any tips or tried and tested strategies? Thank you

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Depression & Anxiety group.

@alispalmer

I started tapering off of Effexor a couple of weeks ago and recently found myself besieged by the most terrifying symptoms. I was sobbing last night in my boyfriend's arms saying, "I'm afraid, I'm afraid, I'm afraid…." I can't believe the anxiety that I feel; it is unlike anything I've ever experienced in my whole life. I can't go out because the idea of being social terrifies me. I'm in a constant state of barely contained hysteria and fear. Of what? I don't know. I've even thought of going into the emergency room today and just collapsing there…begging for someone/something to mitigate my symptoms. I feel like I'm dying. I get so hungry that I feel nauseated, and if I can't eat right away, I start crying (this from an eating disordered person who used to fast all day long for years). I'm so tired and everything overwhelms me. All behaviors that I formerly used to do to "power through" feelings of depression are useless to me…good and bad. Exercise, drinking, overeating, self-help, being alone and reading to "recharge" my batteries…nothing works; I've exhausted all methods of coping and have never been so scared in my life. Luckily, I talked to a friend who said she's had a similar event in her life, which made me feel better. I've felt so alone, putting on a brave face, going out and trying to be social, going to work and trying to be productive, dragging myself to the gym….all the while feeling like I'm going to break in a million different pieces. I didn't know who to tell because I didn't think anyone would understand, but she made me realize that there is something very wrong in my body/brain (perhaps hormonal in addition to the withdrawal symptoms as I am 48 years old) that is not uncommon and can be fixed. Just knowing that this may have happened to others makes me feel better…again, the barely contained hysteria at trying to seem "normal" has only exacerbated my feelings of desperate helplessness. I think of suicide all of the time…not because I'm sad necessarily, but because I just want to stop feeling this way. I just want to be me again…regular, old, fucked up me…not this helpless, scared, child that I've become. Sorry to write so much, but this has been hell. I hope it helps someone else get through to the other side. As for me, I've put in my second call to my prescriber begging for help. My next stop is the emergency room if I have to, but feeling better just getting it out in the open anyway…all the best

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@alispalmer I’m so glad you have a friend who has been through similar experiences. I think that must be be a huge help.

From everything I have read here this a miserable experience but worth it in the end. I hope you can make it through, if that is the best thing for you.

Please keep us informed on how you are doing.
JK

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@coloradogirl

So, I just finished this process with Zoloft (sertraline) and here are some things that worked for me. Your mileage may vary, but hopefully these are low risk for you to try.

1) You may need to ask your doctor for a slower tapering program than other patients. Some people are just more sensitive to dosage changes. Be aware that symptoms will get better, then may reappear each time you taper. AAFMA (practice group of family physicians) says that the symptoms typically last 1-2 weeks and as long as 4 weeks, so I just kept reminding myself that it was temporary.
2) Be watchful for things that make your symptoms worse. For example, caffeine seems to trigger the brain zaps for me (still, even after being off for several weeks), so I cut back my caffeine intake. I didn’t give it up completely (because I still need to function), but cut back on how much real coffee I was drinking, mixed decaf with regular, and switched to tea sometimes. In the end, I probably cut my daily caffeine intake in half, and it did help quite a lot.
3) Ibuprofen or other pain reliever can help with the flu-like body aches.
4) Benadryl helped with the brain zaps.
5) Exercise helped with both. Even if I wasn’t up to a run, a few blocks of walking would settle down the symptoms for a while at least. (Then, when they come back, just take another walk. We took a lot of walks for a while there).
6) Get enough sleep. As I came down off the meds, my normal sleeping patterns returned, which was great, but it did mean that I needed to plan time to let my body rest.
7) Pay attention to your diet. Your brain uses carbs to make seratonin, so now is not the time to go on the Atkins diet. Eat well and make sure you’re getting enough healthy carbs. You may crave sweets; I certainly did. I tried to counteract this by having bananas, graham crackers, and other healthy things I could snack on instead of sticking my head in a birthday cake like I seemed to want.

No lie – it’s a painful process, but this did really help make it easier. Also, at a certain point, when I was down the below the normal starter dose, I just ripped off the bandaid and went to zero. At that point, it felt like each taper was just prolonging the suffering. Don’t just go cold turkey from your current dose, though, as that can be dangerous. Also, don’t add any supplements or substitutes for the SSRI without talking to your doctor first (also dangerous).

And of course, watch for the return of depression / anxiety type symptoms. For a while it was hard to tell whether I was tired because of the change in meds or because my depression was returning. I figured as long as I felt okay enough to function and wasn’t thinking about being harmful to myself or anyone else, I could play it out and see. It turned out to be the meds and on the other side, I can see that I was more worried about it than I needed to be.

I wish you the best of luck and a healthy life.

Mardee

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Hey there Alispalmer. This drug is definetely a horrible one to get off. I was on it for 7 yrs at 75 mg’s and one day it quit working. My Dr at the time just doubled the dosage. What a friggin nitemare. Fast forward two plus years and a stint on Wellbutrin then Celexa and my life was a mess. So my new Doc put me back on Effexor cause as she said it worked b4. Well needless to say it never worked this time. And after one year of trying i’m now off it going on 8 weeks. It hasnt been easy at all. And I must say I’m really tired of feeling the pits. Quite a few side effects coming off this drug. If I would have know this I would have never restarted them. But I am optimistic about feeling better soon. I exercise daily, watch my diet and I do the acupuncture thing as well as meditate daily.I also take a lot of diff vitamins. Getting plenty of sleep also helps but right now I’m having issues with insomnia. Hopefully that will resolve itself soon because when I have a bad sleep then my whole next day is screwed up. Hang in there. The brain needs to rewire itself. Things will get better. I’m surely hoping thats the case. Try and enjoy your day…..,

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@alispalmer

I started tapering off of Effexor a couple of weeks ago and recently found myself besieged by the most terrifying symptoms. I was sobbing last night in my boyfriend's arms saying, "I'm afraid, I'm afraid, I'm afraid…." I can't believe the anxiety that I feel; it is unlike anything I've ever experienced in my whole life. I can't go out because the idea of being social terrifies me. I'm in a constant state of barely contained hysteria and fear. Of what? I don't know. I've even thought of going into the emergency room today and just collapsing there…begging for someone/something to mitigate my symptoms. I feel like I'm dying. I get so hungry that I feel nauseated, and if I can't eat right away, I start crying (this from an eating disordered person who used to fast all day long for years). I'm so tired and everything overwhelms me. All behaviors that I formerly used to do to "power through" feelings of depression are useless to me…good and bad. Exercise, drinking, overeating, self-help, being alone and reading to "recharge" my batteries…nothing works; I've exhausted all methods of coping and have never been so scared in my life. Luckily, I talked to a friend who said she's had a similar event in her life, which made me feel better. I've felt so alone, putting on a brave face, going out and trying to be social, going to work and trying to be productive, dragging myself to the gym….all the while feeling like I'm going to break in a million different pieces. I didn't know who to tell because I didn't think anyone would understand, but she made me realize that there is something very wrong in my body/brain (perhaps hormonal in addition to the withdrawal symptoms as I am 48 years old) that is not uncommon and can be fixed. Just knowing that this may have happened to others makes me feel better…again, the barely contained hysteria at trying to seem "normal" has only exacerbated my feelings of desperate helplessness. I think of suicide all of the time…not because I'm sad necessarily, but because I just want to stop feeling this way. I just want to be me again…regular, old, fucked up me…not this helpless, scared, child that I've become. Sorry to write so much, but this has been hell. I hope it helps someone else get through to the other side. As for me, I've put in my second call to my prescriber begging for help. My next stop is the emergency room if I have to, but feeling better just getting it out in the open anyway…all the best

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I definitely relate. One minute I'm angry at everything, next I'm so sad I'm wiping tears, and lately I've been sleeping with my table lamp on all night because I'm afraid!!! Of what, I don't know. I think I am getting all of my long lost feelings back. This is brutal and I'm beginning to fear that I will need an antidepressant in the long run, but it won't be Effexor!

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@beachymoose

How do you guys deal with coming off Effexor while working? I just strayed a new job (in the medical field) and I’m scared. This is my first day of not taking the 37.5 mg. I’ve been taking 150 for years, weaned down to 75 for a few months, and the past few months I’ve been on 37.5. My Dr took me off of it yesterday. Years ago, it was given to me for depression which I really don’t know if I had. I’ve stayed on it bc the withdrawal was so bad. I’ve definitely got anxiety kinda mild to moderate, and this my mind races at night about pointless stuff. So I take Buspar and just now celexa as of yesterday. My dr also gave me five days of 1mg Xanax to break in half to help me sleep with the 30 mg of temazapam. I’m just terrified about how this is going to go with me working in a critical care environment.

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Hi, @michelmo — unfortunately, there are a number of antidepressants that lower your sex drive. I'm sorry to hear that venlafaxine (Effexor) lowered your sex drive till it was no longer there and that this effect nearly led to a divorce.

Here is some Mayo Clinic information on low sex drive that you may find interesting.:https://mayocl.in/2LaizB7. In the Treatment/Medications section, there's some relevant information for your experiences.

How is your tapering process going, @michelmo?

@kacys812 — How are you doing? Are you also on venlafaxine (Effexor)?

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@alispalmer

I started tapering off of Effexor a couple of weeks ago and recently found myself besieged by the most terrifying symptoms. I was sobbing last night in my boyfriend's arms saying, "I'm afraid, I'm afraid, I'm afraid…." I can't believe the anxiety that I feel; it is unlike anything I've ever experienced in my whole life. I can't go out because the idea of being social terrifies me. I'm in a constant state of barely contained hysteria and fear. Of what? I don't know. I've even thought of going into the emergency room today and just collapsing there…begging for someone/something to mitigate my symptoms. I feel like I'm dying. I get so hungry that I feel nauseated, and if I can't eat right away, I start crying (this from an eating disordered person who used to fast all day long for years). I'm so tired and everything overwhelms me. All behaviors that I formerly used to do to "power through" feelings of depression are useless to me…good and bad. Exercise, drinking, overeating, self-help, being alone and reading to "recharge" my batteries…nothing works; I've exhausted all methods of coping and have never been so scared in my life. Luckily, I talked to a friend who said she's had a similar event in her life, which made me feel better. I've felt so alone, putting on a brave face, going out and trying to be social, going to work and trying to be productive, dragging myself to the gym….all the while feeling like I'm going to break in a million different pieces. I didn't know who to tell because I didn't think anyone would understand, but she made me realize that there is something very wrong in my body/brain (perhaps hormonal in addition to the withdrawal symptoms as I am 48 years old) that is not uncommon and can be fixed. Just knowing that this may have happened to others makes me feel better…again, the barely contained hysteria at trying to seem "normal" has only exacerbated my feelings of desperate helplessness. I think of suicide all of the time…not because I'm sad necessarily, but because I just want to stop feeling this way. I just want to be me again…regular, old, fucked up me…not this helpless, scared, child that I've become. Sorry to write so much, but this has been hell. I hope it helps someone else get through to the other side. As for me, I've put in my second call to my prescriber begging for help. My next stop is the emergency room if I have to, but feeling better just getting it out in the open anyway…all the best

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You may be tapering off the Effexor too quickly.

I had these same overwhelming feelings of fear (although of what I couldn't have said) as well as of not wanting to be alone and needing to pace and rock–but mine started about six weeks, or so after my final dose of Effexor after a slow taper (see my post of six days ago and the one three days ago re rebalancing brain chemistry and what I'm taking). L-tryptophan (I found some at Vitam*n Sh*ppe before ordering a highly recommended brand online) helped me immediately with this agitation.

During the tapering phase, if you take supplements to help with your withdrawal symptoms, take care that the supplements you take do not interact with your medication(s); talk to your doctor about potential contraindications. I found this article helpful–https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/03/19/10-best-supplements-for-antidepressant-withdrawal/.

I mostly found relief in supplements, but even so, I had to use small doses of the Valium my doctor prescribed to help me through "Effexor discontinuation." Another topic to discuss with your doctor.

Hope this helps.

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@alispalmer

I started tapering off of Effexor a couple of weeks ago and recently found myself besieged by the most terrifying symptoms. I was sobbing last night in my boyfriend's arms saying, "I'm afraid, I'm afraid, I'm afraid…." I can't believe the anxiety that I feel; it is unlike anything I've ever experienced in my whole life. I can't go out because the idea of being social terrifies me. I'm in a constant state of barely contained hysteria and fear. Of what? I don't know. I've even thought of going into the emergency room today and just collapsing there…begging for someone/something to mitigate my symptoms. I feel like I'm dying. I get so hungry that I feel nauseated, and if I can't eat right away, I start crying (this from an eating disordered person who used to fast all day long for years). I'm so tired and everything overwhelms me. All behaviors that I formerly used to do to "power through" feelings of depression are useless to me…good and bad. Exercise, drinking, overeating, self-help, being alone and reading to "recharge" my batteries…nothing works; I've exhausted all methods of coping and have never been so scared in my life. Luckily, I talked to a friend who said she's had a similar event in her life, which made me feel better. I've felt so alone, putting on a brave face, going out and trying to be social, going to work and trying to be productive, dragging myself to the gym….all the while feeling like I'm going to break in a million different pieces. I didn't know who to tell because I didn't think anyone would understand, but she made me realize that there is something very wrong in my body/brain (perhaps hormonal in addition to the withdrawal symptoms as I am 48 years old) that is not uncommon and can be fixed. Just knowing that this may have happened to others makes me feel better…again, the barely contained hysteria at trying to seem "normal" has only exacerbated my feelings of desperate helplessness. I think of suicide all of the time…not because I'm sad necessarily, but because I just want to stop feeling this way. I just want to be me again…regular, old, fucked up me…not this helpless, scared, child that I've become. Sorry to write so much, but this has been hell. I hope it helps someone else get through to the other side. As for me, I've put in my second call to my prescriber begging for help. My next stop is the emergency room if I have to, but feeling better just getting it out in the open anyway…all the best

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It is very concerning that you are having suicidal thoughts.

"A subset of individuals will experience suicidal thoughts after discontinuation of Effexor. In the event that you experience suicidal thoughts, it is imperative that you seek emergency psychiatric attention. Suicidal thoughts are usually caused by severe chemical imbalances that occur and/or are exacerbated by Effexor cessation. A psychiatrist will help provide treatments to get these thoughts under control.–https://www.4mind4life.com/effexor-withdrawal-symptoms

Please tell your doctor.

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I first went to my doctor for depression and suicide attempts that she gave me Effexor… Well it was not doing well. I kept telling my doctor that it is not working and that I think there is something wrong. I guess she just didn't want to change the medication she had given me. Anyways considering my financial situation I don't have many choices of doctors in my town so I decided to stop taking the Effexor. I was given on 37.5 mg dosage for about two months. My doctor is on vacation and I stopped the medication myself on Monday(was not aware of the withdrawal effects). I have been having headaches since yesterday and I feel really bad in my stomach but morally I feel so much better as Effexor was making me feel worse. I don't ever want to take this medication no matter what dosage. My doctor should've informed me of all the side effects and withdrawal effects I'm actually mad that I had trusted this person as a professional and now I am struggling really hard to stop this medication. Well for now I only have diziness headaches fatigue and I have lost appetite. I hope it gets better after one or two weeks. I can't go on sick leave because I can't afford it but it really has been hard coming to work.

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@emis6

I first went to my doctor for depression and suicide attempts that she gave me Effexor… Well it was not doing well. I kept telling my doctor that it is not working and that I think there is something wrong. I guess she just didn't want to change the medication she had given me. Anyways considering my financial situation I don't have many choices of doctors in my town so I decided to stop taking the Effexor. I was given on 37.5 mg dosage for about two months. My doctor is on vacation and I stopped the medication myself on Monday(was not aware of the withdrawal effects). I have been having headaches since yesterday and I feel really bad in my stomach but morally I feel so much better as Effexor was making me feel worse. I don't ever want to take this medication no matter what dosage. My doctor should've informed me of all the side effects and withdrawal effects I'm actually mad that I had trusted this person as a professional and now I am struggling really hard to stop this medication. Well for now I only have diziness headaches fatigue and I have lost appetite. I hope it gets better after one or two weeks. I can't go on sick leave because I can't afford it but it really has been hard coming to work.

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Hi, @emis6 — welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. I'm sorry to hear about your suicide attempts and your depression that was really hard, and then that the medication given you, venlafaxine (Effexor), left you not feeling right. You know your own body better than anyone else.

You mentioned you had some challenges (choices of doctors, doctor on vacation) at the time of wanting to go off of venlafaxine (Effexor). These are very understandable.

I do want to let you know about something that was posted a while ago in this discussion on going off venlafaxine (Effexor) cold turkey: a slow taper is usually recommended to avoid significant withdrawal-like symptoms and the possibility it may cause a sudden worsening of depression. @gailb, @darlal, @jakedduck1 and others in this discussion have mentioned this.

We also previously asked a Mayo Clinic pharmacist to weigh in on the topic of tapering and stopping venlafaxine (Effexor). See her post here: http://mayocl.in/2E74p0j

I'd really encourage you to talk to your doctor's office today about your going off this medication and the side effects you are experiencing. I know he is gone, but I'd suggest talking to a nurse in his office or any medical personnel covering for him now.

What are your thoughts, @emis6?

@alispalmer — how are you doing today? How is the anxiety? Did you hear back from your prescriber on the taper off of venlafaxine (Effexor)?

I'd really encourage you to get medical help for this taper with the beseiging side effects, even if it does mean going to the ER. I went to urgent care myself years ago when I had an antidepressant taper that was not going well.

If you experience any further suicidal thoughts, please call the suicide hotline for some help:
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
– 800-273-8255
– Facebook, http://on.fb.me/r6Jp9elwooodsdad

Are any of the side effects any better today?

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I have suffered from major depression most of my life. I'm currently going through withdrawals from Effexor, while starting Trintellix.
I'm at my wits end with feeling awful, even woke up with numbness in my right hip and leg, and a little in my right arm.
I believe I am at my lowest point ever, in terms of depression. I don't know what to do anymore. But cry…and I can't even do that, but feel like it.

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@jakedduck1

Never stop taking it cold turkey EVER. You could be hospitalized even death can occur. I’ve seen to many people not take the seriousness and real dangers of quitting this medication. There have been some very lucky people here, Susie for one.
Effexor has a shot half life, probably the shortest of the antidepressants. Because of this the withdrawal symptoms can occur quickly. All this is affected by your metabolism, so if metabolism is slow your withdrawal symptoms will take longer to appear since your body will take longer to get rid of the medication. With a fast metabolism the opposite will occur. Many will have some symptoms if they miss just one dose, especially with a fast metabolism.
Effexor withdrawal symptoms varies from person to person but can take anywhere from 10 days if on a low dose and taken for a short time to a month and even longer depending on strength and time you’ve been taking it. It also depends on the person. If I were stopping it I’d only decrease my dose by 10% to an absolute high of 25% and if any of the multitude of symptoms showed up I’d immediately increase it and reduce the maximum to maybe 15%. Always take a dose every day. Never skip a day/days. And take your new dose at least 7 days before taking a lower dose. Some may have or want to take it longer. The point I’m trying to make is that you shouldn’t have ANY SYMPTOMS while stopping Effexor. And when you take your last dose you’ll be Effexor free and never have another symptom. If however you have been abusing it your outcome may not be as good and problems could possibly occur in the future.
Wishing everyone the very best of luck, and please remember small doses over a longer time is the key

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Your information is very helpful. I am two days off effexor and am wondering what to expect. I feel a little dizzy, but that seems to be my only problem. I have been on 225mg of velafaxine for nearly twenty years. I started weaning myself off about four months ago. I got down to 37.5 mg after 4 months, and finally just stopped everything two days ago. I think it is going to be interesting to feel again.

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@jakedduck1

Never stop taking it cold turkey EVER. You could be hospitalized even death can occur. I’ve seen to many people not take the seriousness and real dangers of quitting this medication. There have been some very lucky people here, Susie for one.
Effexor has a shot half life, probably the shortest of the antidepressants. Because of this the withdrawal symptoms can occur quickly. All this is affected by your metabolism, so if metabolism is slow your withdrawal symptoms will take longer to appear since your body will take longer to get rid of the medication. With a fast metabolism the opposite will occur. Many will have some symptoms if they miss just one dose, especially with a fast metabolism.
Effexor withdrawal symptoms varies from person to person but can take anywhere from 10 days if on a low dose and taken for a short time to a month and even longer depending on strength and time you’ve been taking it. It also depends on the person. If I were stopping it I’d only decrease my dose by 10% to an absolute high of 25% and if any of the multitude of symptoms showed up I’d immediately increase it and reduce the maximum to maybe 15%. Always take a dose every day. Never skip a day/days. And take your new dose at least 7 days before taking a lower dose. Some may have or want to take it longer. The point I’m trying to make is that you shouldn’t have ANY SYMPTOMS while stopping Effexor. And when you take your last dose you’ll be Effexor free and never have another symptom. If however you have been abusing it your outcome may not be as good and problems could possibly occur in the future.
Wishing everyone the very best of luck, and please remember small doses over a longer time is the key

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The best advice on this site is to taper off slowly and to take as long as necessary to do it. Going from 37.5 mg to zero seems too big a drop too fast. It's good to feel again, but not if what you feel is like cr*p. Please read all the posts on this site for more information.

Dram*mine will help with dizziness.

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@jakedduck1

Never stop taking it cold turkey EVER. You could be hospitalized even death can occur. I’ve seen to many people not take the seriousness and real dangers of quitting this medication. There have been some very lucky people here, Susie for one.
Effexor has a shot half life, probably the shortest of the antidepressants. Because of this the withdrawal symptoms can occur quickly. All this is affected by your metabolism, so if metabolism is slow your withdrawal symptoms will take longer to appear since your body will take longer to get rid of the medication. With a fast metabolism the opposite will occur. Many will have some symptoms if they miss just one dose, especially with a fast metabolism.
Effexor withdrawal symptoms varies from person to person but can take anywhere from 10 days if on a low dose and taken for a short time to a month and even longer depending on strength and time you’ve been taking it. It also depends on the person. If I were stopping it I’d only decrease my dose by 10% to an absolute high of 25% and if any of the multitude of symptoms showed up I’d immediately increase it and reduce the maximum to maybe 15%. Always take a dose every day. Never skip a day/days. And take your new dose at least 7 days before taking a lower dose. Some may have or want to take it longer. The point I’m trying to make is that you shouldn’t have ANY SYMPTOMS while stopping Effexor. And when you take your last dose you’ll be Effexor free and never have another symptom. If however you have been abusing it your outcome may not be as good and problems could possibly occur in the future.
Wishing everyone the very best of luck, and please remember small doses over a longer time is the key

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Hey TexasD. My Doc told me thats the lowest dosage to come off this god forsaken horrible drug. It will be 8 weeks tomorrow and I really do feel like absolute crap!!!! I’m trying CBD, L-Tryptophan as well as Omega 3 and vitd3. I have insomnia, tingling in the hands and more. Sure am wondering when I’m supposed to feel better. I didnt feel good on Effexor but I didnt feel this crappy. This is the worst!! When I have a crappy sleep i have a crappy next day!!!!!

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