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

@kbmayo

I don't know if this will be helpful, but here are some numbers from my taper, which I did by counting beads (I found a site online that gave me the number of beads in the capsules; it gave 486 beads for 150 mg, so I used that). I used beads instead of mg as the basis for my taper because it was simpler — that's the form my medication came in.
I don't have the number of beads for all of my taper, but here's what I do have: 60 mg – 195 beads; 44.75 mg – 145 beads; 29.32 mg – 95 beads; 13.89 mg – 45 beads; 9.26 mg – 30 beads; 7.7 mg – 25 beads; 6.17 mg – 20 beads; 4.62 mg – 15 beads; 3.1 mg – 10 beads; 1.54 mg – 5 beads. I know the mg numbers are odd, but once I got to 195 beads, I was cutting down by 50 beads per week, and then I cut down by fewer beads as I got to the end of the line, in order to make that final bit of tapering off very gradual.
I started my taper by taking out 10 beads from the 486 and doing that for two weeks, then 10 more for two weeks, etc., but I figured out very quickly that it would take me close to two years at that rate, so I said “the hell with it'' and dropped down by 50 beads per week. Counting out those damn beads was incredibly tedious!!! For a while I was removing the necessary number from my scrip capsules, but it got to be easier, as the number went down, to use gelatin capsules and put the right number of beads into them.
I never had brain zaps, but I had sleep difficulties (for which I took 3 mg time-release melatonin when I couldn't sleep and allowed myself to sleep for long stretches when I could; I'm retired, so I have that luxury), temperament difficulties (flashes of strong anger especially) and other discomfort, but nothing that overwhelmed me. I tried to walk regularly, I watched my sugar and caffeine intake, I ate enough protein and good carbs to keep my blood sugar stable and I took lots of high-potency supplements of various vitamins plus fish oil, turmeric, CoQ10, zinc, potassium and calcium.
The process was not easy, but I wanted so much to be free of venlafaxine that I was determined to do it.
As I've written recently, I wanted off the drug because it wasn't working for me and I didn't want to go to a higher dose, plus I hated the brain zaps if I missed even one day. If it had still been working, I'd have stayed with it; it wouldn't even have occurred to me to quit. After being off for 4 months, the depression and especially the anxiety returned. I tried meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, water soluble CBD and exercise, but I wasn't able to get rid of them and was exhausted from trying, so I'm now on Wellbutrin (I'm still taking the CBD) and it's making a huge difference. I hope that continues. If it doesn't, I'll try another drug — but no SSRIs because my body doesn't like them at all. I've learned by trial and error — and accepted — that my brain needs the help, and that's OK. Best of luck to all of you!!

Jump to this post

My functional medicine doctor recommended this supplement. @kbmayo did you try a supplement with any of these ingredients?
I'm just so nervous about making things worse. The last 2 days have been bad.

572569042

Liked by Leonard

REPLY
@grandmar

Congratulations of all the wonderful news!!!!!

Jump to this post

Thank yo very much GrandM

Liked by Leonard

REPLY
@grandmar

So sorry for all you are going through!
As far as being alone and afraid, especially at night, what about one of those help pendants. You know. The one people make fun of "help I've fallen and I can't get up."
I wear one when I am alone because I have an issue of falling.
Just a thought.
Ronnie (GRANDMAr)

Jump to this post

Than you Ronnie and Mary for good advise. Assisted living. No. Not at this time but certainly will be something to think about if I win the lottery. I also have thought about the "Please help I'm falling" pendant because I do take walks by myself and drive many places alone. My son used to tell me that especially when I took the dogs for a walk. I do need to be more proactive. I will start taking my cell phone and my glasses to see the cell phone to bed. I also read that you should keep your cars keys besides you so if you hear something or see someone outside you can push the panic button and wake up your neighbors. This can get you help from your neighbors or scare someone off.

REPLY
@summertime4

Than you Ronnie and Mary for good advise. Assisted living. No. Not at this time but certainly will be something to think about if I win the lottery. I also have thought about the "Please help I'm falling" pendant because I do take walks by myself and drive many places alone. My son used to tell me that especially when I took the dogs for a walk. I do need to be more proactive. I will start taking my cell phone and my glasses to see the cell phone to bed. I also read that you should keep your cars keys besides you so if you hear something or see someone outside you can push the panic button and wake up your neighbors. This can get you help from your neighbors or scare someone off.

Jump to this post

@summertime4– Yes, there you go! All great suggestions! I do think that wearing an alarm is a great idea. I'm very glad that you are getting out! We all need to be proactive because no one else will do it for you!

Liked by Leonard

REPLY
@teachols

My functional medicine doctor recommended this supplement. @kbmayo did you try a supplement with any of these ingredients?
I'm just so nervous about making things worse. The last 2 days have been bad.

Jump to this post

@teachols
I would NOT take this supplement while on venlafaxine (generic name for Effexor).

RxList says, "St. John's wort oral, 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-htp) oral and venlafaxine oral increase affecting serotonin levels in the blood. Too much serotonin is a potentially life-threatening situation. Severe signs and symptoms include high blood pressure and increased heart rate that lead to shock."

I experienced serotonin syndrome when both my regular doctor and breast reconstruction surgeon ignored that I was on 25mg of Effexor and had me take other drugs that interacted with Effexor (dextromethorphan and fentanyl). It took a couple of days of being on all these drugs at the same time for the whammy to hit me, but the worst aspect of this was the extreme fear of any and everything (I knew there was nothing to be afraid of, but knowing made no difference) and agitation/restlessness/unable to keep from pacing (akathisia). I had no idea that these drugs interacted with Effexor and I suspect that my doctors thought since I was only on 25mg that interaction was unlikely!

Your taper is too much too fast. Try going back to the higher dose and see if your withdrawal symptoms ease. Stay there for a while (couple of weeks?) before tapering again to not so much less and stay there for some weeks before tapering again. You can also ask your doctor about a "Prozac bridge."

You can click on my name to read my previous posts about the Prozac bridge and to see the supplements I am taking (but I did NOT start any of these until I was OFF Effexor completely; the Lidtke tryptophan I take is definitely NOT something to take while on Effexor).

REPLY

I was on 75 mg daily for well over 20 years. I had tried the Drs. Suggestions about going to 37.5 for 2 weeks and then stopping which was, as most of you know, inefficient to say the least! I finally opened the capsules and took out about 5 pellets at a time. All went pretty well until the very end ( after a year). It seems that now I am completely off them I am having headaches daily, am anxious and cry easily. Why now when it did not happen during the year I was reducing dosage. The final month I was down to 5 pellet dosage so it was really gradual. Any suggestions. I purchased a CBT workbook this weekend

REPLY
@saku

I was on 75 mg daily for well over 20 years. I had tried the Drs. Suggestions about going to 37.5 for 2 weeks and then stopping which was, as most of you know, inefficient to say the least! I finally opened the capsules and took out about 5 pellets at a time. All went pretty well until the very end ( after a year). It seems that now I am completely off them I am having headaches daily, am anxious and cry easily. Why now when it did not happen during the year I was reducing dosage. The final month I was down to 5 pellet dosage so it was really gradual. Any suggestions. I purchased a CBT workbook this weekend

Jump to this post

@saku
I did not have any difficulty with withdrawal until 6.5 weeks AFTER my last tapered dose. Effexor/venlafaxine gets stored in fatty tissue all over your body and I think it took 6.5 weeks for my body to use up all the bits in all the nooks and crannies. Like you I was not on that much (25mg) for a long time (18 years). The anxiety, akathisia and irritability were very not like me, so I knew it was discontinuation syndrome/withdrawal effect. You can click on my name and read back through my posts to see what supplements I am taking; they help tremendously–especially Lidtke tryptophan (cannot be taken while on Effexor) and GABA. It's been 10 months since my last dose of Effexor and even with the supplements, I have some days when anxiety and akathisia break through–weekends are really tough; I need distraction, not contemplation. Also, be mindful of what you watch on TV, read, or listen to–some things are just too agitating. It is getting better–I feel "normal" most of the time; it helps to know that for some of us, recovery (PAWS–post-acute withdrawal syndrome–https://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/post-acute-withdrawal.htm) can be as long as a couple of years.

Liked by kevkl

REPLY
@frediz

Hi all, during last 5 months I reduced effexor from 150mg to 18.75mg. I was on 18.75 per day in last month. Not an easy process, but I was so committed to end it. I need advice from those of you who have been there. Should I take 18.75 every other day or make it 9.3mg per day in this phase? And how long do you suggest to continue this phase until full stop? Any help is appreciated

Jump to this post

I would not recommend alternating days. I tried that and it was very unpleasant.

Currently I'm just over a week since my last dose. I used Prozac as a bridge. So it's possible. Taking your time helps.

I'm not doing too bad for withdrawal so far :). Maybe I'll get lucky and not have any long term symptoms. But I'm keeping a careful eye on things. Too early to tell.

Liked by saku

REPLY
@texasduchess

@saku
I did not have any difficulty with withdrawal until 6.5 weeks AFTER my last tapered dose. Effexor/venlafaxine gets stored in fatty tissue all over your body and I think it took 6.5 weeks for my body to use up all the bits in all the nooks and crannies. Like you I was not on that much (25mg) for a long time (18 years). The anxiety, akathisia and irritability were very not like me, so I knew it was discontinuation syndrome/withdrawal effect. You can click on my name and read back through my posts to see what supplements I am taking; they help tremendously–especially Lidtke tryptophan (cannot be taken while on Effexor) and GABA. It's been 10 months since my last dose of Effexor and even with the supplements, I have some days when anxiety and akathisia break through–weekends are really tough; I need distraction, not contemplation. Also, be mindful of what you watch on TV, read, or listen to–some things are just too agitating. It is getting better–I feel "normal" most of the time; it helps to know that for some of us, recovery (PAWS–post-acute withdrawal syndrome–https://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/post-acute-withdrawal.htm) can be as long as a couple of years.

Jump to this post

I did not know they got stored up in fatty tissue. This helps to know. I will also look for these supplements. Thank you.

REPLY
@kbmayo

I don't know if this will be helpful, but here are some numbers from my taper, which I did by counting beads (I found a site online that gave me the number of beads in the capsules; it gave 486 beads for 150 mg, so I used that). I used beads instead of mg as the basis for my taper because it was simpler — that's the form my medication came in.
I don't have the number of beads for all of my taper, but here's what I do have: 60 mg – 195 beads; 44.75 mg – 145 beads; 29.32 mg – 95 beads; 13.89 mg – 45 beads; 9.26 mg – 30 beads; 7.7 mg – 25 beads; 6.17 mg – 20 beads; 4.62 mg – 15 beads; 3.1 mg – 10 beads; 1.54 mg – 5 beads. I know the mg numbers are odd, but once I got to 195 beads, I was cutting down by 50 beads per week, and then I cut down by fewer beads as I got to the end of the line, in order to make that final bit of tapering off very gradual.
I started my taper by taking out 10 beads from the 486 and doing that for two weeks, then 10 more for two weeks, etc., but I figured out very quickly that it would take me close to two years at that rate, so I said “the hell with it'' and dropped down by 50 beads per week. Counting out those damn beads was incredibly tedious!!! For a while I was removing the necessary number from my scrip capsules, but it got to be easier, as the number went down, to use gelatin capsules and put the right number of beads into them.
I never had brain zaps, but I had sleep difficulties (for which I took 3 mg time-release melatonin when I couldn't sleep and allowed myself to sleep for long stretches when I could; I'm retired, so I have that luxury), temperament difficulties (flashes of strong anger especially) and other discomfort, but nothing that overwhelmed me. I tried to walk regularly, I watched my sugar and caffeine intake, I ate enough protein and good carbs to keep my blood sugar stable and I took lots of high-potency supplements of various vitamins plus fish oil, turmeric, CoQ10, zinc, potassium and calcium.
The process was not easy, but I wanted so much to be free of venlafaxine that I was determined to do it.
As I've written recently, I wanted off the drug because it wasn't working for me and I didn't want to go to a higher dose, plus I hated the brain zaps if I missed even one day. If it had still been working, I'd have stayed with it; it wouldn't even have occurred to me to quit. After being off for 4 months, the depression and especially the anxiety returned. I tried meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, water soluble CBD and exercise, but I wasn't able to get rid of them and was exhausted from trying, so I'm now on Wellbutrin (I'm still taking the CBD) and it's making a huge difference. I hope that continues. If it doesn't, I'll try another drug — but no SSRIs because my body doesn't like them at all. I've learned by trial and error — and accepted — that my brain needs the help, and that's OK. Best of luck to all of you!!

Jump to this post

I have not been off Effexor for long so do not know if it is withdrawal or if I am going to need something different, but I am going to keep that as a option. Right now it is mainly headaches and overall not feeling well. Thanks for sharing your story.

REPLY

I'm trying to get off of 75mg of effexor. I was on 225 mgs and got down to 75. Now my problem is odd thoughts they just don't make sense. My thinking is all screwed up and confusion. I tried going every other day and that didn't seem to help. I get cranky,moody,flu like syptoms,ear aches and very tired. I've been on effexor for 7 years. Nasty drug if you ask me. Thank you for any suggestions or help.

Liked by Leonard

REPLY

Dont skip days. You'll have symptoms every other day because of the short half life of the drug. Better to take out beads so you have a consistent dosage.
The storage in fatty tissues theory seems correct to me. Also I've heard many people say that the withdrawal symptoms are greater the closer you get to the end, with the smaller doses. I don't have any answers but the only thing to do is to become very aware of your body and also develop a lot of patience and self empathy.

Liked by kevkl

REPLY
@kevkl

First of all, thanks to everyone for sharing their stories. Only a couple of years back, very little was known or shared on how to get off of these types of meds. Just recently, as someone stated on a previous post, that this issue is started to get attention in the press. I strongly believe the pharmaceutical companies did not put much thought on how to get off of the meds, which make sense in an evil business perspective. This was very evident a few years ago when I asked my primary doctor about tapering off of venlafaxine, and at that time he honestly did not have any concrete solution to do so or have any case studies to refer to.

I've reached the "cold turkey" stage of getting off of venflaxine (day 3 and counting). I've been on 75mg for around 10 years (started on something else equivalent, then went to the generic venflaxine), and began tapering off a year ago at 37.5mg. My 2019 New Years resolution was to be finally off of it completely, so I started to do the final stage of the plan 2 weeks ago. The last stage consisted of two days on, one day off for six days, one day on, one day off for a week, and then drop it completely. Right now I'm functioning "normally", meaning I do get minor brain zaps, and have felt the dizziness / balance issues if I'm in motion (e.g. walking, getting up from sitting or laying down). I figure this will take a few weeks or so to fade away.

So, I just want to share what I've learned so far:

Truisms that everyone on this post mentioned

1. Talk to your doctor to come up with a plan for tapering off, and stay in contact during the process. Most important.
2. Let your family and close friends know when you're tapering off. For support, and in-case you're going to need help, like going into a bad withdrawal.
3. Tapering off this med is a long process (meaning weeks and/or months). Can't go "cold turkey" right away.
4. Stay off of caffeinated and alcohol during the process. I learned this by accident before starting the process. I forgot to take my med one day, had a cocktail with dinner, then woke up the next morning with my mind racing out off control and a terrible bout of dizziness. Another incident was I drank a strong cup of coffee (on another day I forgot to take my med), and I was so wired out that I couldn't sleep at night, though I had a awesome productive day at work. lol.
5. The withdrawal symptoms will happen, but keeping in mind it's temporal. Yeah, the brain zaps and dizziness are there, and I realize I need to be patient and stay the course for those things will fade away.
6. Getting a good night's sleep.

Things to do or plan for.

1. Handling anxiety / panic attacks w/o the meds. Acknowledging that this is inevitable, I've started to make meditation a daily routine like brushing my teeth. Fortunately there's quite a few phone apps out there that you can use to help out than reading a boring book (I tried that) or getting a referral to a therapist (more $$$). The one I use is called Breathe.
2. Consistent exercise. For me, it's a run or intense group workout. For others, maybe just a nice, long walk, stretching / yoga.
3. Plan to take time off when going off the med completely. I've scheduled the start of the no-more-med days this holiday weekend and are taking a few extra days time off from work. I did this since I figured I'll have some withdrawal issues, and I did not know what the intensity would be like.
4. Do not plan any large social functions during the final tapering down phase. I wanted to keep life as calm as possible.
5. Take into account of what part of the year you're going to zero meds. From past anxiety attacks, I noticed that the worst attacks came during the winter, in which the days were shorter, and I didn't go out as much. That's why I started the final tapering now (early Spring).
6. Watch out for any reactions to other neurological related meds. I've had more business travel lately, and I normally take melatonin to help with the jet lag. Since I started tapering off last year, I noticed I got fever like symptoms (hot, dripping in sweat) after taking it.

Hope my two cents help in your journey kicking venlafaxine out of your life. Thanks for reading.

.

Jump to this post

I just want to update on my journey of getting off of Venlafaxine. Quick recap: been on 75mg for 10 years, went to 37.5mg for a year, then 2 days on, 1 day off for a week, then finally every other day for a week.

Zero meds starting from last week:
Day 1, Sunday: 1-2 brain zaps. Feeling fine.
Day 2, Monday: A few more brain zaps during the day. Quick bouts of dizziness when moving around,
Day 3, Tuesday: Brain zaps occurring quite frequently in conjunction to the dizziness. Head feels really "stuffy". More agitated mood.
Day 4, Wednesday: Same as the previous day. I went for out for a light run thinking it would clear my mind out, but it was a struggle. Everyone at work said I looked terrible, and should go home and rest.
Day 5, Thursday: Brain zaps and dizziness tapered off just slightly. Head feels about 80-90% stuffy.
Day 6, Friday: Compared to the last few days, I finally felt that I'm making progress. Head feels about 60% stuffy. Brain zaps are more "muffled".
Day 7, Saturday: Feeling better. Head feels about 40% stuffy. Still getting brain zaps, but are again more muffled. No bouts of dizziness.
Day 8, Sunday: Feeling better. Head stuffiness is around 20%. Brain zaps are less frequent. No dizziness.

Final thoughts:
For those of you who are really thinking of getting off of Venlafaxine, just reducing the dosage, or in the process of tapering off, I want to encourage you to stay strong, stay present, and remember the withdrawal symptoms are part of the journey. For me this was a huge decision to do this, and I truly have concerns about getting another panic attack and not able to cope with it. Right now, I feel empowered and feeling in-control of my health and well-being.

REPLY
@farmboy

I'm trying to get off of 75mg of effexor. I was on 225 mgs and got down to 75. Now my problem is odd thoughts they just don't make sense. My thinking is all screwed up and confusion. I tried going every other day and that didn't seem to help. I get cranky,moody,flu like syptoms,ear aches and very tired. I've been on effexor for 7 years. Nasty drug if you ask me. Thank you for any suggestions or help.

Jump to this post

Congrats on getting the dosage down to 75mg. What was your taper down plan, like after 225mg, you went down to 150mg, etc? I would ask your doctor about taking a 37.5mg dosage. Doing big dosage reductions (if you're past dosage was in the 150-250mg range) doesn't work with this medicine. My doctor strongly recommended told me to taper off as gradually as possible since it has a long "shelf-life" in your body. Once your body gets use to the lower dosage, then that's when I would take the next step of doing every other day or 2 days on, 1 day off. Again, talk to your doctor about it.

REPLY
@saku

I was on 75 mg daily for well over 20 years. I had tried the Drs. Suggestions about going to 37.5 for 2 weeks and then stopping which was, as most of you know, inefficient to say the least! I finally opened the capsules and took out about 5 pellets at a time. All went pretty well until the very end ( after a year). It seems that now I am completely off them I am having headaches daily, am anxious and cry easily. Why now when it did not happen during the year I was reducing dosage. The final month I was down to 5 pellet dosage so it was really gradual. Any suggestions. I purchased a CBT workbook this weekend

Jump to this post

Big question for me is how long have you've been completely off the meds? From what I've been told, it takes 1-2w to not feel any more withdrawal symptoms. Also, the med has a long release/life cycle, meaning it still in your system after you stop.

REPLY
Please login or register to post a reply.