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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@proserpine

Thanks, @kbmayo! I appreciate the encouragement. I'm aware that I've come off the drug much faster than I should have. But I can't imagine having to go through these symptoms over months. Going from 75mg to 37.5mg was extremely painful! I'd rather rip off the band-aid and get it done.

I'm finding that I'm doing better today though! It has been 6 days since I last took 37.5mg of Effexor. I'm still feeling perpetually anxious, which is certainly unpleasant. But I haven't had any brain zaps this morning (or few, I just got one while re-reading this post). I did some weight-lifting this morning and a bit of cardio, which I think may have helped.

I'm also cleaning up my diet and I've been eating way too much sugar which just aggravates the anxiety – and the anger. And drinking tea and going to bed an hour earlier than usual.

Here is the fascinating part – I'm finding that because I'm in a constant state of exhibiting the physical symptoms of anxiety and rage (elevated heart rate, sweating, shaking, difficulty concentrating), my brain cannot properly interpret how I am actually feeling. Am I ACTUALLY anxious or angry or is it just withdrawal? My husband and I were talking about how working on self-regulating in such a heightened physical state is extremely difficult (almost impossible) but also great practice for when the physical symptoms abate and I'm back to normal. I'm not sure that I'm expressing this well…

On the one hand, I can't trust my own understanding of how I'm feeling right now because I'm so out of whack. On the other hand, I really have to flex my self-regulatory muscles to get through it with any dignity, which I think might make me "stronger" or rather better equipped to manage my emotions when I'm through. At the very least, I'm trying to frame the experience in that more positive and productive light while I'm in the thick of it. 🙂

One weird thing that I wanted to mention to see if anyone else experienced this: I developed a boil on my inner thigh and there is another one forming on the inside of my upper arm. At first, I thought I had skin cancer! Has anyone else experienced this as a possible symptom of weaning from Effexor? I ask because I have never had a boil before in my life until weaning – and now I have two! I also have psoriasis which seems to be a risk factor. I'm really hoping this is just another symptom that will disappear as I get through this.

Oh! And last question, does anyone have any strategies for minimizing the organ squishing feeling? I feel like my stomach/spleen/gallbladder(?) are periodically spasming and it hurts. Not for long, quite literally like someone is giving it a quick squeeze. It's on the right side primarily. Any advice would be appreciated.

For context, I'm taking Vitamin D3 x 1000mg a day, a tsp of fish oils, a whole food diet of mainly vegetables, fruit, kefir and whole grains, meat twice a week. I walk to and from work (30 minutes each way) and I'm now incorporating in some strength training. I'm a runner as well, but I hurt my knee running a half marathon at the end September and haven't fully recovered, so I haven't been running. As a consequence, I have put on 10 lbs. I'm 5"6 and 140 lbs.

Thanks!

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@proserpine OMG–I, too, have had a sore on the top of my left thigh for some months now. At first, I thought it was an ingrown hair and it felt as though something was below the skin, but nothing could be expressed out. It keeps trying to heal over, but the area is now about the size of a pencil eraser across and the new skin is very thin and breaks when I change the dressing. I haven't had it checked by a doctor 'cause dealing with the Effexor withdrawal symptoms has been my priority. I've been taking ashwagandha for my anxiety symptoms and thought it might have something to do with this sore as ashwagandha reactions include skin rashes, itchiness and inflammation.

Many posters on here (including me) have anxiety and rage–often flash rage. I do have a temper, but didn't use to go from mildly annoyed to I-want-to-throttle-you in seconds. Effexor messes with your serotonin and norepinephrine; while reducing and after getting off Effexor, it takes your brain a while to figure out how to rebalance serotonin and norepinephrine. Serotonin is an important chemical and neurotransmitter in the human body that is believed to help regulate mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function. Serotonin deficiency is associated with several psychological symptoms, such as: anxiety, depressed mood, aggression, insomnia, irritability, low energy, low self-esteem and low sex drive. Norepinephrine is a naturally occurring chemical in the body that acts as both a stress hormone and neurotransmitter that's released into the blood when the brain perceives that a stressful event has occurred.

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@texasduchess

@proserpine OMG–I, too, have had a sore on the top of my left thigh for some months now. At first, I thought it was an ingrown hair and it felt as though something was below the skin, but nothing could be expressed out. It keeps trying to heal over, but the area is now about the size of a pencil eraser across and the new skin is very thin and breaks when I change the dressing. I haven't had it checked by a doctor 'cause dealing with the Effexor withdrawal symptoms has been my priority. I've been taking ashwagandha for my anxiety symptoms and thought it might have something to do with this sore as ashwagandha reactions include skin rashes, itchiness and inflammation.

Many posters on here (including me) have anxiety and rage–often flash rage. I do have a temper, but didn't use to go from mildly annoyed to I-want-to-throttle-you in seconds. Effexor messes with your serotonin and norepinephrine; while reducing and after getting off Effexor, it takes your brain a while to figure out how to rebalance serotonin and norepinephrine. Serotonin is an important chemical and neurotransmitter in the human body that is believed to help regulate mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function. Serotonin deficiency is associated with several psychological symptoms, such as: anxiety, depressed mood, aggression, insomnia, irritability, low energy, low self-esteem and low sex drive. Norepinephrine is a naturally occurring chemical in the body that acts as both a stress hormone and neurotransmitter that's released into the blood when the brain perceives that a stressful event has occurred.

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@texasduchess
Good morning!
Please, please get to a dermatologist to get that thing on your leg checked!
Ronnie (GRANDMAr)

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@lisalucier

@notaround — your situation is certainly not an easy one. However, you know from personal experience that tapering slowly is necessary to get off this drug successfully with the fewest side effects. Venlafaxine withdrawal symptoms — even with a slow taper — can prove challenging. As you underlined, finances are your primary barrier to finding a doctor to prescribe medication and guide you respectfully through the taper process. So tough!

Are there any community services in your area that you may be able to appeal to? Might you be able to extend your prescription by going to the closest ER? That might give you time to find a provider who can help.

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I did reach out to my medical center's complaint department. They understand the problem with sudden withdrawal from meds and are going to help thankfully.

(My medical center IS the community resource. The fundamental problem is that they serve a major metro and not enough providers for all the patients.)

Just need to get through each minute of each hour of the day. Funny how this makes time feel excessive. I've been trying to keep working through this but having to leave early when I just can't keep going anymore. Thankfully my job has been understanding about the weird schedule. Don't need to be fired on top of being short on rent.

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@notaround

I did reach out to my medical center's complaint department. They understand the problem with sudden withdrawal from meds and are going to help thankfully.

(My medical center IS the community resource. The fundamental problem is that they serve a major metro and not enough providers for all the patients.)

Just need to get through each minute of each hour of the day. Funny how this makes time feel excessive. I've been trying to keep working through this but having to leave early when I just can't keep going anymore. Thankfully my job has been understanding about the weird schedule. Don't need to be fired on top of being short on rent.

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I'm really sorry to hear about your ordeal @notaround. I'm lucky to live in Canada with universal healthcare and a drug plan at work. I have friend in the US who is very sick right now and they are barely scraping by as a consequence. He has benefits that are helping but there are a family of four. It's ridiculous.

I came off Effexor quick, as you are likely aware from my posts above. I'm a stubborn person and when I get a thought in my head…anyway, I wouldn't suggest doing what I did. I'm certainly not through it yet, though I am feeling better overall. Framing helps somewhat – trying to put things into perspective. My husband's dad got hit by a car on Saturday, so I've been alone with a five year old the last few days. And my boss is very stressed, which means a stressful work environment. I'm trying to remember that being a good mom is more important to me than getting to work on time. That I'm adult, and I get my work done and that all this anxiety and rage will pass. It is a constant battle, I find, re-framing things positively when I feel so crappy – but it really is helping.

It's great that your medical centre has recognized the need to support you through this. Know that we're here for you too if you need to talk over your experience. Effexor is brutal. No one should have to do that alone.

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@proserpine

I'm really sorry to hear about your ordeal @notaround. I'm lucky to live in Canada with universal healthcare and a drug plan at work. I have friend in the US who is very sick right now and they are barely scraping by as a consequence. He has benefits that are helping but there are a family of four. It's ridiculous.

I came off Effexor quick, as you are likely aware from my posts above. I'm a stubborn person and when I get a thought in my head…anyway, I wouldn't suggest doing what I did. I'm certainly not through it yet, though I am feeling better overall. Framing helps somewhat – trying to put things into perspective. My husband's dad got hit by a car on Saturday, so I've been alone with a five year old the last few days. And my boss is very stressed, which means a stressful work environment. I'm trying to remember that being a good mom is more important to me than getting to work on time. That I'm adult, and I get my work done and that all this anxiety and rage will pass. It is a constant battle, I find, re-framing things positively when I feel so crappy – but it really is helping.

It's great that your medical centre has recognized the need to support you through this. Know that we're here for you too if you need to talk over your experience. Effexor is brutal. No one should have to do that alone.

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@proserpine
You've had an awful time of it too for sure. Have you tried icing your side? I get stabbing rib pains (not cardiac – I got all wired up and tested and my heart is surprisingly perfect) and the ice helps until an NSAID kicks in, usually ibuprofen (I think it's called paracametol elsewhere). The trick is to use a thin ice pack so that it lasts just long enough to make it nice and numb, but melts before it can cause any damage.

From what I remember about neurology, I think antidepressants can screw up the nerves in the gut so normal feedback to the brain becomes conscious pain. That or all the physical anxiety/anger isn't helping. Maybe also try mint and fresh ginger tisane. I find the combination to help a lot with stomach problems.

Or a bath with Epsom salts. I do a warm towel on the back of my neck to help with the weird neck twisting that is probably withdrawal. Occasionally I'll get a feeling of tension in my neck and then my head twists sharply to one side. Not painful but annoying and I really hope that no one sees.

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@proserpine

Thanks, @kbmayo! I appreciate the encouragement. I'm aware that I've come off the drug much faster than I should have. But I can't imagine having to go through these symptoms over months. Going from 75mg to 37.5mg was extremely painful! I'd rather rip off the band-aid and get it done.

I'm finding that I'm doing better today though! It has been 6 days since I last took 37.5mg of Effexor. I'm still feeling perpetually anxious, which is certainly unpleasant. But I haven't had any brain zaps this morning (or few, I just got one while re-reading this post). I did some weight-lifting this morning and a bit of cardio, which I think may have helped.

I'm also cleaning up my diet and I've been eating way too much sugar which just aggravates the anxiety – and the anger. And drinking tea and going to bed an hour earlier than usual.

Here is the fascinating part – I'm finding that because I'm in a constant state of exhibiting the physical symptoms of anxiety and rage (elevated heart rate, sweating, shaking, difficulty concentrating), my brain cannot properly interpret how I am actually feeling. Am I ACTUALLY anxious or angry or is it just withdrawal? My husband and I were talking about how working on self-regulating in such a heightened physical state is extremely difficult (almost impossible) but also great practice for when the physical symptoms abate and I'm back to normal. I'm not sure that I'm expressing this well…

On the one hand, I can't trust my own understanding of how I'm feeling right now because I'm so out of whack. On the other hand, I really have to flex my self-regulatory muscles to get through it with any dignity, which I think might make me "stronger" or rather better equipped to manage my emotions when I'm through. At the very least, I'm trying to frame the experience in that more positive and productive light while I'm in the thick of it. 🙂

One weird thing that I wanted to mention to see if anyone else experienced this: I developed a boil on my inner thigh and there is another one forming on the inside of my upper arm. At first, I thought I had skin cancer! Has anyone else experienced this as a possible symptom of weaning from Effexor? I ask because I have never had a boil before in my life until weaning – and now I have two! I also have psoriasis which seems to be a risk factor. I'm really hoping this is just another symptom that will disappear as I get through this.

Oh! And last question, does anyone have any strategies for minimizing the organ squishing feeling? I feel like my stomach/spleen/gallbladder(?) are periodically spasming and it hurts. Not for long, quite literally like someone is giving it a quick squeeze. It's on the right side primarily. Any advice would be appreciated.

For context, I'm taking Vitamin D3 x 1000mg a day, a tsp of fish oils, a whole food diet of mainly vegetables, fruit, kefir and whole grains, meat twice a week. I walk to and from work (30 minutes each way) and I'm now incorporating in some strength training. I'm a runner as well, but I hurt my knee running a half marathon at the end September and haven't fully recovered, so I haven't been running. As a consequence, I have put on 10 lbs. I'm 5"6 and 140 lbs.

Thanks!

Jump to this post

Get after the boils. That is a staph infection you are spreading about your body. You will need antibiotics, and must wash cloths, sheets, towels in hot water all after one use. That infection is hard to get rid of.

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The way I see it is this…when u take an antidepressant its like implanting an extremely advanced AI chip in ur brain…ur brain could not maneuver effectively which made u dysfunctional n d antidepressant sort of takes control from ur real brain n drives…being AI its extremely good n can handle any situation with ease…no stress no person no environmental influence no ups n downs will be too much for it to handle…it operates with precision n keeps u feeling great cos its managing all d workload ur real brain could not…

Now imagine taking back that control…u just pull out d chip I.e stop taking d antidepressant cold turkey or u snap one connection at a time I.e weaning off slowly…d immediate effects r going to be chaotic cos for a while ur body will be in a state of confusion cos during d change of guard there is a short period of transition where nobody is in charge…ur physical body acts out cos its not used to d no management phase…it needs stability but what it goes throws is nothing short of chaos…

So d key to overcoming this chaos is taking help from ur physical body to bring ur real brain back to power…u eat well n exercise…d only 2 things ur physical body needs to do to support ur real brain n ensure it not only comes to power but stays there so u never have to go back to d antidepressant d artificial intelligence that made things so easy but made u a slave in d process…

D withdrawal symptoms I faced were brain zaps, extremely vivid dreams, a bit of nausea, feeling like im in a new place cos everything seems unfamiliar, a sense of total confusion n an uneasiness…but this is not what I fear…

D real fear is going to be a few months down d line when d depression rears its ugly head…so u need to plan well for that n u need to start NOW…continue to eat healthy n exercise regularly…do things uve not done before…breathe deeply n consciously, meditate, try yoga, motivate urself, try herbal teas, take supplements like choline n inositol (check with ur doctor before doing so) that r good for mental health n get into a routine…

The only way u will successfully tide over d external is to have an extremely strong internal…!!

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@johnhuebert

Get after the boils. That is a staph infection you are spreading about your body. You will need antibiotics, and must wash cloths, sheets, towels in hot water all after one use. That infection is hard to get rid of.

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Hi @john and @texasduchess

I’ve done a lot of research on boils. Whatever you do, don’t squeeze or burst them. This can spread infection deep into your cells. I have been using a warm compress (or simply taking relaxing baths with Epsom salts and lavender essential oils which also helps the wean) and that has made a world of difference!

The one on my arm is gone. The one on my thigh is nearly gone. Yes, they can be potentially life threatening, but only in extreme cases and if they spread into deeper tissue or are not heailing. Otherwise, you can treat at home.

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@notaround

@proserpine
You've had an awful time of it too for sure. Have you tried icing your side? I get stabbing rib pains (not cardiac – I got all wired up and tested and my heart is surprisingly perfect) and the ice helps until an NSAID kicks in, usually ibuprofen (I think it's called paracametol elsewhere). The trick is to use a thin ice pack so that it lasts just long enough to make it nice and numb, but melts before it can cause any damage.

From what I remember about neurology, I think antidepressants can screw up the nerves in the gut so normal feedback to the brain becomes conscious pain. That or all the physical anxiety/anger isn't helping. Maybe also try mint and fresh ginger tisane. I find the combination to help a lot with stomach problems.

Or a bath with Epsom salts. I do a warm towel on the back of my neck to help with the weird neck twisting that is probably withdrawal. Occasionally I'll get a feeling of tension in my neck and then my head twists sharply to one side. Not painful but annoying and I really hope that no one sees.

Jump to this post

Happy to say that yesterday I didn't get super sleepy (it was more like I got a dose of sleeping pills than just being tired) within a few hours of waking up like I have been for the past few weeks.

I can't seem to get to sleep tonight, but I'm still going to count this as progress. Only had a nap after work instead of also taking one during my break. I'm happy to not be sleeping away my entire life, which is a good sign I'm not in the throes of an episode.
Wish I could say I did something in particular but I think it was a matter of patience. I slept whenever I was very sleepy – maybe that helped? At first I tried to fight it and stay awake but that resulted in falling asleep sitting up which was a pain. I'm down to 75mg a day and seem to be holding stable as far as major problems.

I'm glad there are people who understand this incredibly specific kind of hell. Supporting each other makes it more bearable.

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@notaround
Glad to hear hear your holding steady. Hope your titrating down very slowly, 5-10% every 2-4 weeks. The only way to win here is by going slow!!!
Please keep us updated and wishing you a Successful ending to your Effexor imprisonment.
Jake

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I have been withdrawing from effexor with next to no side effects. This is how I am doing it. We will use 75mg as an example. The first week I would take- day 1- regular 75 mg does. day 2- 37.5 day 3- 75 mg. day day 4- 37.5 mg. day 5- 75 mg…I kept this routine up for 7-10 days and let my body tell me when I was ready for the next step.
week two- I took 37.5 mg. every day. week three- day 1- 37.5 mg day 2- no pill day 3- 37.5 mg. day 4- no pill day – day 5 37.5mg. and I continued this letting my body and mind guide me. the last week I took no pill. No side effects at all. just take your time and listen to your mind and body.

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@richyrich
Hey richy,
If I were you I’d reduce your dose by 5-10% every 2-4 weeks depending on how long you’ve been on it and your dose.
I didn’t think I’d ever get off Klonapin, a benzodiazepine. I was literally only taking small shavings at the end. It was the worst drug I ever came off of, haven’t taken another benzo since. I hate that **** stuff.
You can do it buddy I know you can. Just be patient and reduce at a snails pace and you’ll win this race. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. Go for it….
Looking forward to reading your success story.
Best of luck,
Jake

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