Tips on minimising 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

@johnbishop

Hello @yanksterdoofus, I take a high amount of omega 3 and did some research after my doctor thought it was too high according to the Mayo pharmacist she checked with. I had to do my own research and found a couple of relevant sites. I think you have to be careful with Vitamin B6 amounts because it’s a little different than the other B vitamins and can cause some toxicity problems for the body.

Mayo Clinic research recommendations for omega 3 oils:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil-alpha-linolenic-acid/dosing/hrb-20059372
Vitamin B6 Toxicity:
http://www.easy-immune-health.com/vitamin-b6-toxicity.html
John

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Hi @yanksterdoofus, I take 1.5 oz of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Oil daily in the morning which is approximately 6000 mg of Omega 3 and 24000 mg Omega 6. Plus, I take 2 tsp of Carlsen’s Fish Oil every morning and every evening which gives 1600 mg Omega 3 fatty acids twice daily. This is part of the vitamins/mineral supplements I take for my small fiber peripheral neuropathy.

John

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@lisalucier

Hi, @newberry–Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. Glad you’ve found the posts on this discussion helpful.

That is not fun at all that each day after halving your Venlafaxine has seemed to get worse.

@wendyw, @hopeful33250, @coloradogirl, @parus, @jenapower, @jimhd, @bekinprogress, @cathy615, @lcamino, @ricktrout, @nanke99 — would any of you have any tips on dealing with or calming the night sweats, or words of encouragement as @newberry tapers back on Venlafaxine (Effexor)?

If you don’t mind me asking, @newberry, what is your full taper plan? Does it seem to be going too fast, or at the right pace?

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That’s very encouraging. Thank you for sharing.

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@sadiesmom I am so very sorry for what you have had to endure. Please try to muster up some will to live and rejoin life. I know how impossible that must sound and I suspect those first moves forward are the hardest. I have a relative who is going through some similar grief but thankfully she does have the support of her four loving children and their children.
If you can get yourself out at all to do some things I know it will help, but I also know how difficult it is to make those moves forward. I am sure it is worth it though. You don’t say your age but I suspect you stil have some good years left if you can make those moves.
Thinking of you, and praying for you.
JK

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@sadiesmom So sorry to hear about how difficult this is for you. Shrinks fail to mention just how addictive some of these meds are and many are worse than controlled substances and/or street drugs. I have been down this road and go at your own pace as we are all different…you can do this. Hugs

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@yanksterdoofus

I have been reading with some encouragement of great success achieved by implementing a Effexor/Prozak tapering bridge in conjunction with mega doses of Omega3 and B vitamin. Have any of you tried such a method? I also am coming to the conclusion that this cannot be rushed and, if you’ve been on this crap for years, to not be surprised if it takes as much as six months or more to wean off. I’d rather have it take some time than rush things and experience the hell I read about.

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Hello @wendyw

After reading your post my first thought was how fortunate your son is to have you on his side!

I appreciate your very valid, well thought out approach to meds that are used to treat depression. You make some very good points. I am glad that your son is doing so much better with meds and that you there to encourage him.

Best wishes to you on this Thanksgiving!

Teresa

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@sadiesmom

I encourage you to go to the FDA website and read the history about Effexor XR. It took 14 years for it to be approved by the FDA. FOURTEEN! It was “invented” to alleviate taking multiple pills daily but I think it would have been better to take take lower doses than to get hooked on this stuff. It is HELL and I mean HELL getting off of this stuff. I have been through horrible life trials (divorce and loss of my son) and I have NEVER had anxiety like I’m having right now. The physical affects are like the worst case of the flu you’ve ever had in your life. Chills, nausea, diarrhea (and I MEAN diarrhea to the point you can’t leave your house). I have absolutely NO appetite which isn’t a bad thing since this shit made me gain 50 lbs. but nothing sounds good and I have to force myself to eat. I can barely even get a glass of ice water down. Soup broth is about all I can tolerate. I am about six weeks into this so I’m not turning back. I’m going to ride it out (I hope I survive) and get off of this poison. It should be criminal to produce a drug this potent without giving explicit WARNINGS about the withdrawal symptoms. I had no intention of staying on it long term but a divorce after 30 years of marriage and the suicide of my son five years later made my depression unbearable. I think I have slept most of the last five years. But the Effexor only exacerbated the brain fog, total lack of any kind of motivation, poor personal hygiene and the inability to really take care of myself. I know that grief played a big part of my fatigue and always will but if I can get a handle on this anxiety, I’m NEVER going on any kind of antidepressant again. EVER. My case may be one out of the norm, and I hope that is the case. My advice is to get off of it as soon as you can….trust your body and how you feel….especially your mind. I have been hospitalized SIX times for overdosing in the past five years after my son passed away. I truly wonder if it was the drugs…..as they all come with a “may cause suicidal ideation” label. I truly wanted to die after I lost my son and still some days the urge is hard to resist but I think with the proper care from a physician, better support (grief support is almost non existent), and a true friend that would have been by my side through the worst, I don’t think I would be where I am now. Being single and alone was almost unbearable…..I had no idea I would get the kind of response I have from my posts…..I only hope that no one has to endure what I have in these past six weeks. It’s a hell on earth, that’s for sure….

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Thank you for your kind words and understanding. The VA does absolutely nothing for our Veterans other than push a cocktail of psychotropic drugs. I can’t tell you how may families I have met since losing my son who have experienced the same. I do have a Sadie dog! She’s a little 15 year old wiener dog who has been the only thing that has stuck by my side….literally. However, she is getting deaf and blind and I think she’s developing doggy dementia which is excruciating to watch. I know my time with her is getting shorter and shorter. I thank God for her companionship over the years and when she does finally pass, I know she will be running and playing with my son up in Heaven. I know that.
My therapist is a good therapist, I think. I’ve only been seeing him for a couple of months. He’s very kind and compassionate…..and he does listen because, like my posts here, my feelings pour out of me. He recorded a couple of relaxation readings for me on my phone which help at night. He is working with me on taking back my own power to live my life again. I have been in such deep, deep depression for the past 15 years since my divorce and like I said before, it was been one tragedy after another before I could dig out of the previous one. I have learned to open my Bible and search for comforting words and readings….because I have to believe Our Lord is the only reason I am still alive….I try to concentrate on a purpose for my life. I truly believe God has a wonderful purpose for me and I have also learned that he gives us what we need in HIS time, not ours. And we have to have patience. I pray that someday, I meet someone or come into some kind of experience that will meld all of my broken pieces back together and I will find the peace and comfort that have been taken from me. If I even get that experience for a short time before I leave this earth, I will be ok with that. I just don’t want to go out of this world in such a broken, desperate way…..hope your pizza was good!

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@parus

@sadiesmom So sorry to hear about how difficult this is for you. Shrinks fail to mention just how addictive some of these meds are and many are worse than controlled substances and/or street drugs. I have been down this road and go at your own pace as we are all different…you can do this. Hugs

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Thank you for your kind comments….one day at a time….one baby step at a time….one victory at a time. Hugs to you, as well.

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@sadiesmom

I encourage you to go to the FDA website and read the history about Effexor XR. It took 14 years for it to be approved by the FDA. FOURTEEN! It was “invented” to alleviate taking multiple pills daily but I think it would have been better to take take lower doses than to get hooked on this stuff. It is HELL and I mean HELL getting off of this stuff. I have been through horrible life trials (divorce and loss of my son) and I have NEVER had anxiety like I’m having right now. The physical affects are like the worst case of the flu you’ve ever had in your life. Chills, nausea, diarrhea (and I MEAN diarrhea to the point you can’t leave your house). I have absolutely NO appetite which isn’t a bad thing since this shit made me gain 50 lbs. but nothing sounds good and I have to force myself to eat. I can barely even get a glass of ice water down. Soup broth is about all I can tolerate. I am about six weeks into this so I’m not turning back. I’m going to ride it out (I hope I survive) and get off of this poison. It should be criminal to produce a drug this potent without giving explicit WARNINGS about the withdrawal symptoms. I had no intention of staying on it long term but a divorce after 30 years of marriage and the suicide of my son five years later made my depression unbearable. I think I have slept most of the last five years. But the Effexor only exacerbated the brain fog, total lack of any kind of motivation, poor personal hygiene and the inability to really take care of myself. I know that grief played a big part of my fatigue and always will but if I can get a handle on this anxiety, I’m NEVER going on any kind of antidepressant again. EVER. My case may be one out of the norm, and I hope that is the case. My advice is to get off of it as soon as you can….trust your body and how you feel….especially your mind. I have been hospitalized SIX times for overdosing in the past five years after my son passed away. I truly wonder if it was the drugs…..as they all come with a “may cause suicidal ideation” label. I truly wanted to die after I lost my son and still some days the urge is hard to resist but I think with the proper care from a physician, better support (grief support is almost non existent), and a true friend that would have been by my side through the worst, I don’t think I would be where I am now. Being single and alone was almost unbearable…..I had no idea I would get the kind of response I have from my posts…..I only hope that no one has to endure what I have in these past six weeks. It’s a hell on earth, that’s for sure….

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@sadiesmom You have been fortunate to have your little faithful dog for so long. Dogs really are very special “people”. I still miss ours and he’s been gone for 11 years. He was totally deaf and could barely move. He loved our place in Maine because he could run free there so we kept him through the summer which was probably a mistake because he was so disabled at that point that he definitely could not enjoy himself there. Just thinking about him brings tears to my eyes.
Your therapist sounds wonderful. It’s so difficult to find a decent one. I have tried a couple of times. At first when my kids were teenagers and my son went through a very difficult period. As I always say, the jury was out for a long time on my son, but I am so happy with the adult he became. The second time I went to someone was after my cirrhosis diagnosis. My husband really pushed me to. I didn’t feel the need to and after two sessions the therapist and I agreed that I did not need it. My PCP felt the depression I had for a short time was simply “justifiable depression” and I believe he was right.
You are right, we have to trust in God to do what is best for us. As I have said before, I truly believe that I was the recipient of a miracle when I got my transplant, just in time. I pray to him now that my niece who is battling the worst breast cancer will get through all of this but I worry that all of his favors for me may be used up.
I too hope you meet someone who will be there for you. I am not sure if you mean a romantic interest of just a person you have a good rapport with, like if another woman, a “soul sister”. At this point in my life if anything happened to my husband I would be perfectly content if I had women friends or men friends with whom I can just enjoy life.
JK

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@yorkiemama

Hi All – I’ve been on Prozac and then Effexor for close to 20 years now and began to wonder exactly why I was taking them anymore. At first, it was because of extreme stress and anxiety and was periodic low dosages. Within a few years, it became seasonal and I needed them through the winter as well. Then it was continual. My doctor at the time, who regularly sent me to a psychiatrist for evaluations, explained that it was like a “brain vitamin” due to chemical imbalances, so that I did not feel the stigma associated with it. Several years ago, stressors in my life between job and relationships brought my dosage up to 375mg per day. But those stressors are now gone, so I began to seriously question why I would still need to take this medication. I began to slowly decrease my dosage about every three months, of course, with my doctor’s awareness. I have finally gotten down to 37.5 mg and it is absolutely terrifying. The brain zaps, dizziness, vertigo, unfocussed thinking, heightened awareness of sounds and movements, sleep disruptions…. I’m afraid to get rid of the last dose. Thankfully my doctor is patiently working with me. Going every other day on the dose was too much, so I’m back on for 3 days at a time. On my off day, I’m to take a Clonazepam twice, 12 hours apart. Do this for two weeks, then reduce it to every 2 days, then 1 off with the Clonazepam. I am only to take the Clonazepam on my “off” days. I’ve reduced my caffeine intake, scheduled my sleeping, and a friend is now my activity coach, as everyone knows that physical activity will help you produce natural serotonin. I’m going to stay on this path and keep moving at all costs. My life is finally GREAT so why should I have to be on this medication? I’m not going to let the withdrawals control my life…..
I wish everyone luck in their journey to remove themselves, but please ask to remember to be PATIENT with yourselves. Try different types of dosage removals…. once you get to the lowest dose, maybe try extended the dosage time from 24 hours to 30 hours for a couple of weeks, then 36 hours and so on. My brain zaps occurred immediately at the 25 hour mark, so that is why I’m going every 3 days and then 1 off. We’ll see. I have high hopes and determination.
Again, thanks everyone for sharing their stories and good luck to you all.

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I’m about 6 weeks out from taking the Effexor and my psychiatrist weaned me off with low doses of Prozac. At first 20mg but I thought I was losing my mind. The anxiety damn near killed me. She has upped my Xanax from .25 to .5 twice a day. It takes longer to go into affect but I think it lasts longer. Either that or the symptoms of the Effexor withdrawal are easing. However, yesterday I started having these “things” across my forehead. They feel like someone has stretched a rubber band across my forehead as tight as it could go and then let go! SNAP! Is this a brain zap? They don’t really cause me any pain but just kind of disorient me for a second or so. It was a beautiful day here today so I tried to get some of my Christmas decorations up outside. I haven’t put any up since my son passed away but am TRULY trying to get back into some kind of life routine. I noticed them more and more as the day went on….particularly when I bent over. It scared me. One good thing is that the brain fog of the Effexor is slowly lifting and I can actually do some daily chores. I cleaned out my fridge today which could have supplied an entire classroom with science projects! YUCK! When I see how far I have let things go in my life, it truly saddens me. I wasn’t even able to keep my fridge cleaned out and my laundry done. Laundry is pretty well caught up and I’m trying to get my summer clothes out of my drawers and into containers for storage. I feel like this is a HUGE step for me. I have been living out of laundry baskets for the past five years never knowing where anything was….and ended up wearing the same things over and over and over again knowing that I had other nice clothes but just couldn’t concentrate long enough to go look for them. How pathetic is that? I kind of feel like I’ve found new fall wardrobe! I found things hanging in my basement that I haven’t seen for two or three seasons. The depression kept me in flannel pants and tshirts for the better part of the last few years. Now that I have some perception of just how bad off I was, it scares me to death. I truly could not take care of myself or my house….I needed a battle buddy to help me but there just wasn’t anyone…these have been the loneliest, most horrifying years of my life. I miss my son so much….the holidays are so hard. For those of you who have family members who have seen military related combat and have returned home with PTSD, TBI or other issues, don’t wait on the VA to help them. There isn’t anyone there who will help. It takes true dedication of their FAMILY and FRIENDS to get them healthy again. At least as healthy as they will probably ever be. Watching a young 22 year old self destruct for 6 long years was so tragic. I begged the VA for help. I begged other Veterans for help. But there just wasn’t anyone there. In hindsight, I wish I would have made him quit his job, move back in with me so that I could be there with him when he would endure the nightmares, flashbacks, rage and despair that visited him every single day and night. I listened to others tell me that he was a man and he would have to figure it out for himself. A mother knows in her gut when her child is suffering no matter how old they are. If I could just hold him one more time and tell him I would do anything and I mean anything to help him. I think that is one of the most horrible things about mental health. Yes, he was a man but he didn’t know how to reach out. Sometimes when we find ourselves in those situations we HAVE to have someone who loves us advocate for us, hold us when we need it, sit at the edge of the bed and comfort us, and truly show us the love and compassion that are the only things that will get us through those dark times….Never be afraid to hold someone’s hand, give a hug, knock on their door until they answer it, and tell them how much you love and care about them….it will save a life….I promise.

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@yorkiemama

Hi All – I’ve been on Prozac and then Effexor for close to 20 years now and began to wonder exactly why I was taking them anymore. At first, it was because of extreme stress and anxiety and was periodic low dosages. Within a few years, it became seasonal and I needed them through the winter as well. Then it was continual. My doctor at the time, who regularly sent me to a psychiatrist for evaluations, explained that it was like a “brain vitamin” due to chemical imbalances, so that I did not feel the stigma associated with it. Several years ago, stressors in my life between job and relationships brought my dosage up to 375mg per day. But those stressors are now gone, so I began to seriously question why I would still need to take this medication. I began to slowly decrease my dosage about every three months, of course, with my doctor’s awareness. I have finally gotten down to 37.5 mg and it is absolutely terrifying. The brain zaps, dizziness, vertigo, unfocussed thinking, heightened awareness of sounds and movements, sleep disruptions…. I’m afraid to get rid of the last dose. Thankfully my doctor is patiently working with me. Going every other day on the dose was too much, so I’m back on for 3 days at a time. On my off day, I’m to take a Clonazepam twice, 12 hours apart. Do this for two weeks, then reduce it to every 2 days, then 1 off with the Clonazepam. I am only to take the Clonazepam on my “off” days. I’ve reduced my caffeine intake, scheduled my sleeping, and a friend is now my activity coach, as everyone knows that physical activity will help you produce natural serotonin. I’m going to stay on this path and keep moving at all costs. My life is finally GREAT so why should I have to be on this medication? I’m not going to let the withdrawals control my life…..
I wish everyone luck in their journey to remove themselves, but please ask to remember to be PATIENT with yourselves. Try different types of dosage removals…. once you get to the lowest dose, maybe try extended the dosage time from 24 hours to 30 hours for a couple of weeks, then 36 hours and so on. My brain zaps occurred immediately at the 25 hour mark, so that is why I’m going every 3 days and then 1 off. We’ll see. I have high hopes and determination.
Again, thanks everyone for sharing their stories and good luck to you all.

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@sadiesmom that’s great that the change in meds is improving life. Don’t be sad about what is past, be happy that you are now able to start to resume normalcy, that’s what important. The past is history.
I can really feel for you in how you feel about your son. I thank God I have never been in a similar situation. My son and daughter mean the world to me, when they have any problems it bothers me so much, sometimes I think more than it does them. My daughter suffers from migraines and when she is having one and miserable she often calls me, knowing I went through the same right up until menopause. When she does I wish she lived close enough so that I could go over to her place and be there for her, putting cool compresses on her forehead.
Try not to look back at “should have”s. As they say, hindsight is always 20/20. You did what you felt was best at the time, you don’t deserve self blame.
You sound so good now and like you are getting stronger every day, that’s what you should be concentrating on. I am really happy for you that you are finally seeing a better future.
JK

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I have been on Effexor for 13 years. After having a child, my dosage was doubled as I felt it wasn’t working anymore. I was also prescribed wellbutrin. I started seeing a psychiatrist who thought I was ok to be taken off the meds. Trying to taper off Effexor was hell. I was a single mom, going to college, and literally could not function with all the crazy withdrawal symptoms. After a week of the side effects, I called and told my psychiatrist to put me back only regular dosage. Maybe it just wasn’t a good time in my life to try to wean off it. I recently didn’t keep track of how many refills I had left, so ran out of medicine and because of the holiday, the doctors office was closed for five days. After two days of having no medicine, I caved in and went into the ER to get a couple day supply until my doctor is open again. I think depression is a life long disease and is a chemical or neural imbalance in the brain, so it is not just going to fix itself. As much as I wish I didn’t need medication, I have came to the terms that this is a lifelong disease, and certain life changes or supplement can make it better, medication does things that supplements or life changes cannot.

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I totally agree with you about it being a life-long disease. I didn’t have it until I went through my divorce and the loss of my son. I think that once the chemicals in your brain are shaken up, there’s a slim chance that they will ever return to “normal”, whatever that is these days. The reason I wanted to wean off of the Effexor after 14 years of taking it is because I am experiencing critical physical symptoms that, according to the Effexor warning label, are caused by long term use of this drug. I was suicidal after my divorce….had been married to my hs sweetheart for almost 30 years and my son was in Iraq on his second of his third tour with the USMC. I had a nervous break down. In the meantime, I lost the best job I ever had in my life; one that would ensure financial stability through the divorce. I had to leave the dream home we had built ten years before, my son came home from Iraq very depressed and I worried to death about him. Then when he had to deploy for a third time, I tanked again and had to be hospitalized. When my son passed away in 2012, I went on disability because I couldn’t deal with the grief of losing my 29 year old son. I really think my mind and body have never healed from one tragedy before the next struck. The Effexor caused me horrendous brain fog to the point I could barely take care of myself and my dog. I literally didn’t know where I was half the time. I couldn’t go to the grocery store, do laundry, cook for myself, dishes….nothing. My house went to complete hell. I slept probably 16 or 18 hours a day. I gained 50 pounds in about 4 months which sent my bp skyrocketing….my doctor increased the Effexor because of my critical state which only made my bp worse. I just turned 60 and am beginning to truly worry about my physical health as it relates to the drugs I am ingesting….Please, please, please, anyone who is taking antidepressants READ THE WARNING LABEL EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU GET A REFILL. Side effects change and the date of the last update is on the BACK page in teeny tiny little numbers in the left hand corner of the warnings instead of in big, black bold letters on the FRONT. I am convinced that the cocktail of antidepressants the VA gave my son caused his suicide. Today, we are losing 20-30 Veterans a DAY by their own hand. 90% of it is because of the medication that the VA prescribes. It is absolutely criminal. Big pharma contracts with the government, gets these men and women addicted and then they die by their own hand. I think it’s cheaper for the government to buy the drugs than treat them medically for their problems. That’s another chapter in the book, though, and I won’t bore you with statistics most of you don’t even care about.

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