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

Liked by Bek, LynneB, kelly76, echams1 ... see all

@danalee5

@kaykay22
Your doctor and family members are mistaken. You can find more information in the book The Antidepressant Solution by Dr Joseph Glenmullen. This is a very well-written and carefully researched book about the overprescribing and side effects of anti-depressants. It is also an extremely helpful guide to getting through the tapering process. I highly recommend it. So does my husband who has been supportive of me throughout my 5 month tapering process but became much more so as a result of what he learned by reading this book.
Hang in there!

Jump to this post

I really recommend it, too. It's even-handed and the approach is both compassionate and knowledgeable. Much good, helpful information in there.

REPLY

I have a question regarding long term use of Effexor. I started a different Seritonan uptake inhibitor when I entered perimenopause for the mood swings I was experiencing. I could not afford to become the raging person I wanted to be at ,my office. Plus, we had 2 children at home and I did not want to be a mad person with children. Once I was on Effexor the night sweats, anger, emotionalism decreased to the point of ‘normal’. I live in Montana where the winters are long and dark and I was not exercising or gettting outside enough to counteract the seasonal affect of dark days and sedentary days. Now, I’m long past memopause but still taking 75 mg of it; not certain if ER or not. This weekend I forgot my pills at home and by the second day off them, was dizzy, somewhat nauseous and emotional, but the nightmares were bizarre!!! I don’t have any side effects from taking the pills daily other than I can’t seem to lose weight. I don’t think I would be anxious, or have panic attacks if I went off, but I don’t want to be anymore forgetful than a ‘normal’ 66 would be, or short tempered. We’re headed into winter now, so I’m reluctant to start weaning myself off ; I don’t want to be ‘blue’ and directionless. I am working out 3 days a week and trying to get outside more. Any thoughts? Also, what is the down side of taking the bills indefinitely?

REPLY
@youngsally

As someone who has followed the healthcare industry for a zillion years, clinical trials are incredibly rigorous in the US (at least for initial approval)….but trials and the approval process can't cover all patients and all settings….again particularly in the US. We have an incredibly diverse population and physicians can prescribe drugs as long as the drugs have been approved. It is once he drugs are in the general population that unanticipated problems occur (but I will be quick to add unanticipated benefits as well).

Effexor and the SSRIs have helped a tremendous number of people over the past 25-30 years….they are a huge improvement over older class antidepressants…and the combination of efficacy and low risks (and good marketing) – made them very popular. I believe that most are prescribed by primary care docs – and often to patients who can't or don't want to see a psychotherapist or psychiatrist. If you can think back to the mid-to-late 90s – the SSRIs were heavily promoted and many people would ask for them simply because they felt like they might be depressed.

Then consider that the SSRIs have been so widely prescribed – we find that the drugs have different effects on people based on race, gender, age and co-morbidities (other medical issues and prescriptions – and stuff that isn't prescribed). This is something that no clinical trial could ever account for.

The SSRIs were never really designed for long-term use….and how many on this board can say that they've been taking them 5, 10, 20+ years….I'm in the 22 year boat myself (until 8 days ago). So one thing the clinical trials (even phase 4 which is post approval monitoring) can't account for is the impact of being on these medications for very long periods of time. If issues come to the surface, it is usually found in the clinical setting.

Add to it – anyone who has been on these meds for a long time is a lot older than when they started. I'm 54 and started the SSRIs when I was 32ish. I am physically not the same person – not because of Effexor – but because I am 20 years older…..nothing works as well as it used to…so lots of things I used to enjoy simply don't work for me anymore.

Medicine will always be a balancing act…and it is constantly evolving. Think of all the breakthroughs in treatments found by physicians who looked at a drug and then said, "Let's try this and see what happens." – i.e. off-label use. That willingness to try things in a clinical setting has shown that certain drugs can have benefits in other conditions….that's a good thing.

In the end, we can say that, yes Effexor (and some of the other SSRIs/SNRIs) is really difficult for many people to discontinue. At the same time, many of us also benefitted from the drug for years….and maybe didn't stop sooner because if it ain't causing problems – why change? It is a miserable taper – and that is something that clinicians now know – luckily it is generally not dangerous to the patient (as say tapering from a benzo) and depending on your sense of humor – the pain of the taper means you can spread the "love" you've neglected to give all those people who make ones life miserable. : )

Jump to this post

According to the books I've read, the clinical trials that didn't produce the results were withheld for the most part and in some of them the results were rephrased to make them appear more favorable than they were. The ones that also used placebos are especially interesting. I respect your experience following the health care industry for many years, but I also know that their motives are mixed at best, that their testing protocols were changed during the GHW Bush administration, that there's much reliable information which they don't provide and that antidepressants have been and are an endless source of huge profit for the companies that make them. They're not about to bite the hand that's feeding them.

Liked by danalee5

REPLY
@andrewnielsen

That advice is no good. The withdrawal is from the last little bit of the Efexor being metabolised really quickly. So, tapering will not help. Instead, overlap your last three Efexor tablets (37.5 or 75 mg, which ever is the lowest you tolerate) And then stop them both, or stay on the Prozac if you prefer. No more withdrawal symptoms at al. The Prozac inhibits the metabolism of the Effexor, you see.

Jump to this post

Andrew is correct. The only painless way to withdraw from Venlafaxine is to use the "Prozac Bridge." Stop Venlafaxine and start Prozac immediately and then withdrawing from Prozac is quite easy. But do this under the supervision of a doctor.

REPLY

Taking Prozac did NOT help me when I was tapering whatsoever

REPLY
@smurf

Taking Prozac did NOT help me when I was tapering whatsoever

Jump to this post

I'm sorry to hear that. Did you find anything that helped?

REPLY
@mtcashel

I have a question regarding long term use of Effexor. I started a different Seritonan uptake inhibitor when I entered perimenopause for the mood swings I was experiencing. I could not afford to become the raging person I wanted to be at ,my office. Plus, we had 2 children at home and I did not want to be a mad person with children. Once I was on Effexor the night sweats, anger, emotionalism decreased to the point of ‘normal’. I live in Montana where the winters are long and dark and I was not exercising or gettting outside enough to counteract the seasonal affect of dark days and sedentary days. Now, I’m long past memopause but still taking 75 mg of it; not certain if ER or not. This weekend I forgot my pills at home and by the second day off them, was dizzy, somewhat nauseous and emotional, but the nightmares were bizarre!!! I don’t have any side effects from taking the pills daily other than I can’t seem to lose weight. I don’t think I would be anxious, or have panic attacks if I went off, but I don’t want to be anymore forgetful than a ‘normal’ 66 would be, or short tempered. We’re headed into winter now, so I’m reluctant to start weaning myself off ; I don’t want to be ‘blue’ and directionless. I am working out 3 days a week and trying to get outside more. Any thoughts? Also, what is the down side of taking the bills indefinitely?

Jump to this post

ER will be a capsule — the non extended release are tablets you can split. Your experience of missing a couple of days is very consistent with what I've had over the years – especially the weird dreams…the nausea, etc can also happen.

I don't believe there is any particular correlation between dosage and the magnitude or duration of withdrawal symptoms….I didn't really have any symptoms until I got down to 37.5mg (from 150mg – both in the ER form) and then those symptoms were worse once I tapered to zero after about 3 weeks at 37.5. My taper was supposed to happen more quickly – but I chose to slow it down because of the withdrawal symptoms and my difficulty getting work done.

Can't offer you any advice on your concerns over SAD in the winter and a taper….SAD has never been part of my pathology. However, re; being past menopause — one can still have menopause like symptoms years after menopause officially occurs….it's like post-perimenopause…but my guess is any menopause-like symptoms will be less frequent and intense.

There's probably no downside to taking the pills indefinitely – but that is a question for your physician. Although I recently read that there is potentially a correlation between SNRIs (Effexor, Cymbalta) and glaucoma risk. This came up when my ophthalmologist decided to watch me more closely for glaucoma. I've been suspect for decades because of my anatomy – so it will be interesting to see what if any changes he sees after I've been off Effexor for 6 months…but I think the data is pretty spotty at this point – and it wouldn't change whether or not he would start treatment.

REPLY
@kbmayo

According to the books I've read, the clinical trials that didn't produce the results were withheld for the most part and in some of them the results were rephrased to make them appear more favorable than they were. The ones that also used placebos are especially interesting. I respect your experience following the health care industry for many years, but I also know that their motives are mixed at best, that their testing protocols were changed during the GHW Bush administration, that there's much reliable information which they don't provide and that antidepressants have been and are an endless source of huge profit for the companies that make them. They're not about to bite the hand that's feeding them.

Jump to this post

Don't disagree with you at all. There is clearly a way to get approval….and some companies are better than others. I've been aware of a researcher at Columbia who for years has asserted that the SSRIs are basically no better than placebo for many people. And you are definitely right in your interpretation of the rule changes….although economics play into it as well. Before we got to the say, late 80s, pharma companies were generally guaranteed a decent return on investment for drugs that could get approval. But then the model shifted towards seeking approval for drugs that weren't significantly better than currently available drugs – hence why there are a billion different types of SSRIs/SNRIs (and the same in other classes) — It's been a long time since the pharma industry came up with a revolutionary drug class that many people would take for long periods of time….Most of the SSRIs/SNRIs are off patent now — so other than a few companies trying to milk this class with new products – the pharma companies seem to be focused on getting people to take atypical antidepressants along with their SSRIs for "treatment resistant" depression/anxiety. Now there are certainly some people who will benefit from the atypicals — but those do have well documented side effects – particularly in terms of cardiovascular (high cholesterol) and if memory serves, diabetic risk as well.

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

Hello Mardi. Thank you so much for your advice. I have been taking effexor 150mgs for approx. 35 years and I am currently down to 375mgs, after three months. Struggling with headache's, nausea, anxiety, irritability, fever's, chills, short term memory loss; the list goes on ! Have only just told my adult son what I am going through (I had not told him that I suffer from depression ) Have kept this as a secret from everyone, as there is still a negative stigma attached to this issue in Australia. I have found that hard exercise helps me greatly. I find it difficult to be around people, and get agitated easily. I am really determined to succeed and found your advice very beneficial.many thanks Shoshi x

REPLY

Hi All! Do these withdrawal symptoms ever go away?? I am so miserable. 🙁

REPLY

Hello! I am not sure how to post so I’m just replying. First I’d like to say YAY!!!!! I am so excited to find people that know what being on Effexor is like!!! I have been on and off Effexor for 20 years now, each other time I got off I was only on a max dose of 150mg. This time I’m on 225mg for the past 2 1/2 years. I appreciate all of your input/ sharing of experiences!!!
My question is this, in your experience have you found this med to cause sudden onset of sweating? And have you found it to numb you? I know it keeps you from going down but I feel like it keeps me from going up too. Thus the wanting to get off, I am working with a psychiatrist but prefer first hand experience even though I do realize everyone is different. Thank you for your time!
Jo

REPLY
@danalee5

@kaykay22
Your doctor and family members are mistaken. You can find more information in the book The Antidepressant Solution by Dr Joseph Glenmullen. This is a very well-written and carefully researched book about the overprescribing and side effects of anti-depressants. It is also an extremely helpful guide to getting through the tapering process. I highly recommend it. So does my husband who has been supportive of me throughout my 5 month tapering process but became much more so as a result of what he learned by reading this book.
Hang in there!

Jump to this post

Good to know! Thanks

Liked by danalee5

REPLY
@kbmayo

According to the books I've read, the clinical trials that didn't produce the results were withheld for the most part and in some of them the results were rephrased to make them appear more favorable than they were. The ones that also used placebos are especially interesting. I respect your experience following the health care industry for many years, but I also know that their motives are mixed at best, that their testing protocols were changed during the GHW Bush administration, that there's much reliable information which they don't provide and that antidepressants have been and are an endless source of huge profit for the companies that make them. They're not about to bite the hand that's feeding them.

Jump to this post

This doesn’t surprise me.

REPLY
@jdemet

Hello! I am not sure how to post so I’m just replying. First I’d like to say YAY!!!!! I am so excited to find people that know what being on Effexor is like!!! I have been on and off Effexor for 20 years now, each other time I got off I was only on a max dose of 150mg. This time I’m on 225mg for the past 2 1/2 years. I appreciate all of your input/ sharing of experiences!!!
My question is this, in your experience have you found this med to cause sudden onset of sweating? And have you found it to numb you? I know it keeps you from going down but I feel like it keeps me from going up too. Thus the wanting to get off, I am working with a psychiatrist but prefer first hand experience even though I do realize everyone is different. Thank you for your time!
Jo

Jump to this post

15 years at 150mg (extended release)….but completely off for nearly 10 days on a 4-5 week taper. Sweating when I tapered – YUP (I think I bought most of the icepacks on Amazon)….. I usually get some facial numbing going up or down on the drug – but I suspect you may be speaking about emotional blunting. In that case, Effexor can mellow the top end (I've had experiences of feeling really good and productive when I've cut my dose for a few days to try and reboot the drug at my old dose)….but that's not it's primary function….and the emotional blunting is something I believe gets reported for all the SSRIs.

REPLY
@youngsally

15 years at 150mg (extended release)….but completely off for nearly 10 days on a 4-5 week taper. Sweating when I tapered – YUP (I think I bought most of the icepacks on Amazon)….. I usually get some facial numbing going up or down on the drug – but I suspect you may be speaking about emotional blunting. In that case, Effexor can mellow the top end (I've had experiences of feeling really good and productive when I've cut my dose for a few days to try and reboot the drug at my old dose)….but that's not it's primary function….and the emotional blunting is something I believe gets reported for all the SSRIs.

Jump to this post

Yes , all SSRIs cause emotional blunting , in some cases that is a good .

REPLY
Please login or register to post a reply.