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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@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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Hey! Going to work while coming off Effexor! No way lol.
I have been on the 150mg for 5 years for anxiety only.
So 8 days ago I decided to ween myself of these meds as my sexual drive is no longer there from these meds and I’m only 42! Married and well my hubby doesn’t get why I have no sex drive any more!
So I decided to do this while I am not at work as I have had the taste of the withdrawals and the brain zaps are the only thing I have ever had. So the brain zaps are finally wearing off thank god!! They are the worst!!
I am feeling well and I feel like having sex not because the husband wants it but I do now which is fantastic as I’m too young to loose my sex drive.
Nearly had a Devorce over these tablets and the sex drive.
The husband was feeling unloved and I wasn’t into it at all.
So anyone trying to get off these meds needs to stay home for the withdrawals and will power to keep going.
I had the shakes abit today but am fine now.
Good luck everyone.
Michelle
Xx

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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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Because when we are put on it, they want to make sure they are not foing to loose a patient to suicide….

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I mentioned that I did some research to see what steps I could take to minimize the Effexor "discontinuation" symptoms I started experiencing six weeks after taking my last dose after tapering slowly; here's a bit of what I learned.–

78% of people stopping Effexor (venlafaxine) have withdrawal reactions. (In this situation, I would have been happy to be in the 22%!)

While anti-depressants aren’t addictive in the sense that cocaine and other street drugs are, they do cause dependence, meaning the brain has to substantially reorganize when you stop taking them.–Therese Borchard, Everyday Health Columnist

Withdrawal symptoms are more likely with antidepressants that stay in the body for a short period of time, especially medications that affect both serotonin and norepinephrine such as Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Effexor (venlafaxine).–Nootriment.com

Certain supplements are well-known to buffer the effects of withdrawal. The right supplements can make a huge difference in expediting your recovery. Think of supplements as a way for your body to repair itself and minimize withdrawal symptoms. They help make the transitory process from being medicated to being medication-free a little bit easier.

NOTE: These supplements are helping me, but might not be helpful to you. I went through quite a bit of trial and error; I have a whole shoebox full of supplements I tried and either didn't find helpful, or found something better, or chickened out of trying (kratom). The friendly folks at Vitam*n Sh*ppe now know me by name instead of just recognizing my face.

ALSO NOTE: I am not a doctor–I'm not in the medical field in any way other than as a patient. It's always recommended to consult with your doctor before taking anything and to consider what you are already taking. You can learn about some supplement interactions here–https://bottomlineinc.com/health/supplements/new-dangers-supplement-users.

Fish Oil–During withdrawal from an anti-depressant, one of the quickest ways to help the brain heal is to supplement high-quality omega-3s (there are significantly more omega-3s per serving in fish oil than in krill oil). For some people, omega-3s may significantly improve symptoms of anxiety. Many people have documented significant reductions in the frequency and number of “brain zaps” they experience during withdrawal as a result of supplementation. Many people become highly irritable during withdrawal from anti-depressants. While omega-3s will likely not cure the irritability, they may help improve it. The improvement is likely a result of changes in brain activity and neurotransmission.

L-tryptophan–Your serotonin levels are likely abnormal upon [anti-depressant] discontinuation. The drug rewires your brain to become dependent on it to create sufficient serotonin. When you discontinue the drug, the brain is still expecting to receive the serotonin boost that it got from your anti-depressant. It takes the brain a little while to figure out that it’s no longer getting any serotonin from the medication. Things can then get chaotic as the brain attempts to reset its normal functioning. L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is an indirect precursor to serotonin. Tryptophan is metabolized in the liver into 5-HTP, which then travels to the brain and is converted into serotonin. By taking L-tryptophan (or 5-HTP), you’ll be increasing the level of serotonin within the brain. This helps reduce anxiety, can improve mood and decrease all withdrawal symptoms related to low serotonin. Some people find that for targeting insomnia, L-tryptophan is the more potent option. If you are taking 5-HTP, or L-tryptophan daily (dosage 6-12 g split into 3-4 doses per day), you may want to keep at it for a few months. Once you’ve taken it for a few months, you should then attempt to reduce the doses and taper yourself off. These supplements help increase serotonin levels, but you don’t need to rely on them long-term.

B Vitamins–Vitamin B3 aids in the conversion of tryptophan and B6 helps the body make the hormones serotonin (which regulates mood) and norepinephrine (which helps your body cope with stress). Long-term high doses with supplements (not from food) can lead to liver toxicity and nerve effects.

GABA–Should calm you down, reduce anxiety, curb insomnia, and decrease agitation. This chemical occurs naturally in your brain and produces feelings of calm, lessens the neurological signs of nervousness and stress, increases focus and aids in falling and staying asleep. GABA is one of the most important brain neurotransmitters for mood regulation and boosting alpha brain waves. Some believe that oral GABA works by stimulating GABA receptors in the stomach which are capable of communicating with neurons in the brain. Much of the GABA found in the body is produced in the gut.–Excerpted from Mental Health Daily Taking GABA with other supplements such as l-arginine may help it cross the blood-brain barrier.

Ashwagandha–Can reduce the stress hormone cortisol by 25%. It is very helpful at calming anxiety of all kinds. Ashwagandha is safe to be consumed for 6-8 weeks; following this, abstain for a month before resuming consumption to avoid dependence. High doses could worsen acidity, ulcers, skin rashes and anxiety. (People using diabetes, blood pressure, thyroid, anti-anxiety, or immuno-suppressant medications; sedatives; or alcohol should consult their doctor first before using ashwagandha.)

Lemon balm–Purported to possess sedative, or tranquilizing effects. Lemon Balm essential oil can interact with GABA receptors in the brain and also increase alpha waves (which indicates relaxed states) similarly to GABA. The Natural Medicines database has rated Lemon Balm as Possibly Effective for improving symptoms of anxiety.–Nootriment.com

Kava–Increases the number of attachment sites for GABA in the brain. By creating more attachment sites, the effects of GABA might be more profound, which results in a mild sedated state. This herb might have detrimental effects on the liver if consumed in excess.–Livestrong.com

Rhodiola rosea extract–Modulates the enzyme monoamine oxidase which metabolizes serotonin. When it is inhibited, serotonin synthesis increases. Dosage: 200-1,000 mg per day, taken 1-3 times per day.–Nootriment.com

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I am so glad I found this site! Here's a brief summary of my journey: Started Effexor XR 16 years ago. Last weekend, admitted to the hospital through ER with a small bowel obstruction. I had an NG tube and was NPO for 2 days…so I was forced into a cold turkey stop of Effexor at the max dosage….225mg….and I am now 8 days in, and I am not going back. I have wanted to stop this drug for awhile and I figure that since the bandage has been yanked for me, I will tough it out. So glad to know that the brain zaps are normal. I feel a zap-zap-zap sensation especially at night. Of course, now I am FEELING again too, so the emotional rollercoaster is not pleasant, but I at least FEEL again. Now some back story: Breast cancer in 2006, chemo, radiation, and mastectomy. Mets to ovaries in 2011, complete hysterectomy, and hormone blockers. Mets to bones in 2013, back to IV chemo. Now on Xeloda successfully for 3 years, but that is also stopped until I see my oncologist at the end of the month. Diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2018 after a mild case of shingles in 2017. Recently discovered I'm anemic and did have a blood transfusion while in the hospital this past week. Since I was barely able to function previous to this weekend's hospital stay, I probably can't differentiate between my normal lousy health feelings and my new withdrawal feelings. Maybe a blessing in disguise for me. I am a widow, but I have 4 adult children who are taking great care of me. The youngest is 21, adult with mild mental retardation, and she watches me and cares for me like a momma bear!! I will have to explain to her that my mood changes are to be expected for a time, so she doesn't get offended. Following with interest to see what works for others! Thanks for letting me vent.

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Hi, @regionrat — we are glad you found this site, too. Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. Very sorry to hear about your small bowel obstruction, and also the brain zaps and emotional roller coaster you've experienced with going off cold turkey when you were in "nothing by mouth" inpatient status with a nasogastric tube (NG tube) feeding you.

You've had quite a journey with breast cancer and treatment, fibromyalgia, shingles and anemia. So glad your adult children are taking great care of you through all of this. I love the idea of your 21-year-old watching over you like a "momma bear." That's great.

I'd also suggest you might want to check out these groups here on Connect:

-Breast Cancer group , https://mayocl.in/2tcueq7
– Blood Cancers and Disorders, https://mayocl.in/2uLXbq3

You might also like to take a look at this discussion on fibromyalgia: https://mayocl.in/2hgUGcv.

@regionrat — has your doctor offered any suggestions about dealing with these side effects from having a cold turkey stop from the venlafaxine (Effexor)?

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@lisalucier

Hi, @regionrat — we are glad you found this site, too. Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. Very sorry to hear about your small bowel obstruction, and also the brain zaps and emotional roller coaster you've experienced with going off cold turkey when you were in "nothing by mouth" inpatient status with a nasogastric tube (NG tube) feeding you.

You've had quite a journey with breast cancer and treatment, fibromyalgia, shingles and anemia. So glad your adult children are taking great care of you through all of this. I love the idea of your 21-year-old watching over you like a "momma bear." That's great.

I'd also suggest you might want to check out these groups here on Connect:

-Breast Cancer group , https://mayocl.in/2tcueq7
– Blood Cancers and Disorders, https://mayocl.in/2uLXbq3

You might also like to take a look at this discussion on fibromyalgia: https://mayocl.in/2hgUGcv.

@regionrat — has your doctor offered any suggestions about dealing with these side effects from having a cold turkey stop from the venlafaxine (Effexor)?

Jump to this post

I am having my first follow up after the hospital with my primary care on Tuesday. Unfortunately for me, my PCP didn't have an opening to see me in until the end of September. So I will be seeing a new doctor. I am pretty much on my own.

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Good day all. Well this is the beginning of week 8 without the dreaded Venlafaxine. Still experiencing some Zaps and other side effects but they dont seem to be as bad. Hand tingles seem to be gone!!!!!! Had a good sleep last night. Ate a banana and took 25 mg’s of benadryl before bed. Experts say that s supposed to help with insomnia. This is also day 7 of taking CBD oil. Seems to be helping a bit. Wont feel the full effects for maybe another 2-3 days. I sure hate feeling a pulse in my brain. My Dr says its the zaps. Still exercising a lot and eating properly. Wonder sometimes if I will ever feel normal again. What is normal anyways????? After 3 yrs of this I wonder what is is!!!!! Enjoy your day everyone…..

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Oh and I forgot. Woke up this morning with flu like symptoms. Wont this crap ever go away!!!!! Lol

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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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@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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I hope you see my post below. I'm going on Trintellix as well, but as of yet, have seen no improvement in my anxiety. I was on 300 mg Effexor daily and had no idea of the horror that I'd be going through as a result of withdrawal. I'm a helpless child with this, feeling like there's nowhere to turn because I feel so mentally ill…like legitimately mentally ill. It scares me.

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