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

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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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I've read that once you've gotten off the drug (and at 8 weeks without, I'd say so), it's too late to go back; your current uncomfortable "discontinuation" symptoms could get a LOT worse if you restarted venlafaxine. Many Effexor withdrawers have found Ben*dryl helpful for getting to sleep (I did); I also used lemon balm, kava and rhodiola rosea. Please see my other posts about the supplements that have helped me and the dosage/frequency.

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@sharaden

I'm a seventeen year old girl who has been on Effexor for 3 years now. I'm down from 300mg to 37.5mg (300 to 225, 225 to 187.5, 187.5 to 150, 150 to 112.5, 112.5 to 75, and 75 to 37.5 and now 37.5 to 0). And the symptoms have never been this bad with any other decrease. I don't know what to do. I feel like a failure if I take it again, but it's so bad. I feel like I can barely stand. Like everytime I get up, I'm going to pass out. Everything hurts. Im so so tired. I just want to be done with this stupid medicine, but I don't know if I can do this last decrease from 37.5mg to 0mg. Why did they ever put a child on this medication? Knowing it would be terrible to miss a dose? And then terrible to get off of it?

Jump to this post

You may be tapering too quickly; the taper to 0 from 37.5 is large. I'm no doctor, but I've read that when a taper down causes too many side effects/withdrawal symptoms that going back to the dose where you had no symptoms (the 37.5) until you stabilize and then, reducing very slowly from there is a better way. I understand that you can do this if the amount of time off the drug is not too long; if it is weeks, or months, going back on the drug can make the symptoms a LOT worse. If the 37.5 dose is a capsule, you may be able to find a compounding pharmacist (may be pricey) to make interim doses down, or perhaps, your doctor can switch you to the tablet form so that you can cut the pill.

REPLY
@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

Jump to this post

You may be tapering too quickly; the taper to 0 from 37.5 is large. I'm no doctor, but I've read that when a taper down causes too many side effects/withdrawal symptoms that going back to the dose where you had no symptoms (the 37.5) until you stabilize and then, reducing very slowly from there is a better way. I understand that you can do this if the amount of time off the drug is not too long; if it is weeks, or months, going back on the drug can make the symptoms a LOT worse. If the 37.5 dose is a capsule, you may be able to find a compounding pharmacist (may be pricey) to make interim doses down, or perhaps, your doctor can switch you to the tablet form so that you can cut the pill and taper more slowly.

I read that some folks found fish oil supplements helped with the eye movement weirdness and that the eye problems were related to the "brain zaps" some experience while getting off Effexor. "During withdrawal from an antidepressant, one of the quickest ways to help the brain heal is to supplement high-quality omega-3s. One of the most effective treatments for the dreaded electrical shock sensations (a.k.a. “brain zaps”) is omega-3 fatty acids. While it is unclear as to how omega-3s help these, many people have documented significant reductions in the frequency and number of zaps they experience during withdrawal as a result of supplementation." Read more here–https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/03/19/10-best-supplements-for-antidepressant-withdrawal/.

REPLY
@sharaden

I'm a seventeen year old girl who has been on Effexor for 3 years now. I'm down from 300mg to 37.5mg (300 to 225, 225 to 187.5, 187.5 to 150, 150 to 112.5, 112.5 to 75, and 75 to 37.5 and now 37.5 to 0). And the symptoms have never been this bad with any other decrease. I don't know what to do. I feel like a failure if I take it again, but it's so bad. I feel like I can barely stand. Like everytime I get up, I'm going to pass out. Everything hurts. Im so so tired. I just want to be done with this stupid medicine, but I don't know if I can do this last decrease from 37.5mg to 0mg. Why did they ever put a child on this medication? Knowing it would be terrible to miss a dose? And then terrible to get off of it?

Jump to this post

Yes, I am feeling so poorly I think I will take your advice. I have read that I can count out the capsules inside to cut my dose. I will try that.
Thank you for your reply.

REPLY
@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

Jump to this post

Texas, I am taking your advice. Thank you.

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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

Jump to this post

Thanks for the info Texas D. I was ready to try and get a Dr’s app’t and try something so I can get on with life. Today is 8 weeks complete since I took my last hit of Venla. I just started L-Triptophan which is supposed to help with Zaps. Had a horrible sleep last night which causes me to have a horrible day after when that happens. Oh well I’m hoping I start feeling better soon. I dont know how much longer I can put up with this B4 I go back to the Dr with my hands up. But I really dont want to give up!!!!!!!!

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@sharaden

If overeating a symptom of getting off of this literal hell of a drug? I've gained almost 20 pounds since I started tapering off. I feel constantly hungry. If I don't eat, I then feel sick. And I've always hated my body and now I'm hating it even worse. I feel so trapped in my own skin.

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I been eating!! I find ice cream been helping me with the stomach issues!!

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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

Jump to this post

Fish oil supplements can help the "brain zaps" some experience while getting off Effexor. "During withdrawal from an antidepressant, one of the quickest ways to help the brain heal is to supplement high-quality omega-3s." Read more here–https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/03/19/10-best-supplements-for-antidepressant-withdrawal/.

REPLY
@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

Jump to this post

Thats an interesting site there TexasD. Thanks for that. I already take a few of those supplements-fish oil, high quality. Just started taking L-Tryptophan, 220mg’s. I take 1 pill B4 bed. Also take 2 x vit D3 and one multi vit for ppl 50 and older. Also taking CBD oil which is suppose to help with anxiety and depression. I’m trying to find a site to make sure that I can take all these and they dont fight each other. I need to take the Tryp for a few more days to see if its working or not. Oh well time will tell. Like I said before—— hope it does soon. If I can only get a good nights sleep then then next day is not too bad………

REPLY
@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

Jump to this post

I'm tapering off after being on 150mg for quite a while. I started on Effexor (now on venlafaxine) 25 years ago at a much lower dose — I'm guessing it was 75, but it may have been 37.5. I knew the withdrawals would be hellacious from running out of it a couple of times, hence the taper. I've read about the withdrawal on a lot of blogs, which have been very helpful. I learned online how many beads are in each capsule, so I created a schedule for myself and I'm coming off at 50 beads per wk. It's so damn tedious counting out all those tiny beads, but I'm determined to get off it. It wasn't working anymore and I wanted my life back. 150 mg capsules have 486 beads and I'm now down to 245 beads per day. (I had to buy some empty gelatin capsules.) I get so frustrated that I'm tempted to say the hell with it and just go cold turkey at this point, but I remember how awful it was to go without any for a day or two, so I just sigh and keep counting beads. No overt physical withdrawals at this point, but I'm exhausted, completely non-motivated, I sleep a lot, don't have much patience, am forgetful, etc. I regularly take calcium, CoQ10, turmeric and D-3, and I've added B-6, B-12, folic acid, zinc, magnesium and wild Alaskan fish oil (1400 mg). I love ginger so I eat it frequently. I also drink 1 tbsp of organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar mixed with 1 tbsp of wild honey and 1 cup of club soda. (That's for detox.) And I walk whenever I can make myself get up out of the chair! A biggie for me is trying to be gentle and patient with myself, which isn't easy. BTW I'm a 74-yr-old woman. Hope some of this will help someone. I really appreciate all the help I've gotten!

REPLY
@sharaden

I'm a seventeen year old girl who has been on Effexor for 3 years now. I'm down from 300mg to 37.5mg (300 to 225, 225 to 187.5, 187.5 to 150, 150 to 112.5, 112.5 to 75, and 75 to 37.5 and now 37.5 to 0). And the symptoms have never been this bad with any other decrease. I don't know what to do. I feel like a failure if I take it again, but it's so bad. I feel like I can barely stand. Like everytime I get up, I'm going to pass out. Everything hurts. Im so so tired. I just want to be done with this stupid medicine, but I don't know if I can do this last decrease from 37.5mg to 0mg. Why did they ever put a child on this medication? Knowing it would be terrible to miss a dose? And then terrible to get off of it?

Jump to this post

@sharaden I feel totally sympathetic for you. It really does not seem right to put such a young person on such a powereful and addictive medication. I know little, so I am just offering sympathy and concern. I am sure your mother or whomever your guardian is must feel badly about this too. It sounds to me as if the doctors do not give enough information for the patient, or in your case your parent or guardian, to really understand what they are getting into. I am beginning to think that many doctors also don’t completely realize since they themselves have probably not taken it. They are just listening to the drug companies, and let’s face it, the drug companies are in it to sell drugs. I hope you can successfully get off of it and afterward feel more at peace and not have whatever problems caused this to be prescribed for you.
JK

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@sharaden

I'm a seventeen year old girl who has been on Effexor for 3 years now. I'm down from 300mg to 37.5mg (300 to 225, 225 to 187.5, 187.5 to 150, 150 to 112.5, 112.5 to 75, and 75 to 37.5 and now 37.5 to 0). And the symptoms have never been this bad with any other decrease. I don't know what to do. I feel like a failure if I take it again, but it's so bad. I feel like I can barely stand. Like everytime I get up, I'm going to pass out. Everything hurts. Im so so tired. I just want to be done with this stupid medicine, but I don't know if I can do this last decrease from 37.5mg to 0mg. Why did they ever put a child on this medication? Knowing it would be terrible to miss a dose? And then terrible to get off of it?

Jump to this post

They put me on it in my hospitalization in Nov. 2015, right after I turned 15. They only chose it because it worked for my mother. My mother just got off of it right before we started to taper me down. Thankfully she has been very understanding. And she had apologized so many times for not thinking more about putting me on it before they did. My dose is the highest they will go for someone under 21 (I think), so it's very high. So far, I'm so close to getting off of it, but I had to give in and take a 37.5mg because the symptoms were just way too much for me.

Thank you for the well wishes.

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