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

@notaround

@sandij it's a good idea because while we the patients know how venlafaxine effects us, there are lots of things that can interact with it badly. And lying to one's doctor isn't a good course of action – it might be a critical piece of information.

Besides the more of us that insist on a smaller change, the more the evidence base will get closer to better understanding and treatment for people in the future.

Also with enough push back, I would think that at some point, the manufacturers will get the hint and make a wider range of dosages available.

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@notaround – a superb answer and I agree wholeheartedly that is the way!

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Meh. I would tell the doctor if I had any problems that I thought were related to decreasing the medication, but at this point its not necessary. I'm pretty self aware. As I previously stated, most people do tell their doctor, and its recommended.

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Were you able to come off of it?

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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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You said your sleep patterns came back to normal? Did it give you insomnia? I'm going through that right now with effexor and it's really hard

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@brenda09

You said your sleep patterns came back to normal? Did it give you insomnia? I'm going through that right now with effexor and it's really hard

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@brenda09
I am reducing and have had problems sleeping. I fall asleep but I only sleep for 3-4 hours (if I am lucky).
I am OK with that as long as it is all that happens and I don't get horrible withdrawal symptoms.
Ronnie (GRANDMAr)

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After taking venlafaxine along with bupropion xl for 10 years, and wanting nothing to do with a medication that is so difficult to get off of, I decided to at the very least transition off venlafaxine to a different medication. My doc chose Trintellix for me. She gave me a tapering schedule (I was taking 150mg) of 75mg for two weeks, then 37.5 mg for 2 weeks, adding in 5mg of Trintellix, then moving to 10 mg Trintellix. The reduction to 75 mg went so well – I felt better than ever – that I decided to try the reduction to 37.5 mg without adding the Trintellix. That week went great as well, so I consulted the doc to let her know because I was feeling so great I wanted to try going off completely and not migrate to a new medication. The second week of 37.5 mg went as well, so this past Sunday was my first day without anything ( still taking the bupropion xl). Brain zaps, for sure, but what I'm having a time with are the crying spells. Anything I can do until it passes other than go back to meds? I am willing to push through, but can't sit with this for months – at some point I'm sure my husband expects me to go back to work. 😉

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First time post. Have been on Effexor DR for 4 years. I have been thinking of findings a new doc (changed insurances) because of how ill I feel if I forget a dose: brain zaps, nausea. Now I have been diagnosed with glaucoma and it is very likely the Effexor. Laser surgery Thursday due to dangerous pressure in rt eye. I had noticed the warning about blood pressure but just hoped it would be ok since my no is always great. My eye pressures had been in the 20's for decades but now in the 30's. Read all the fine print. I'll be following ideas about tapering as well as talking to doc. I expect it to be difficult to get off of. Thanks.

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@sharonlou

First time post. Have been on Effexor DR for 4 years. I have been thinking of findings a new doc (changed insurances) because of how ill I feel if I forget a dose: brain zaps, nausea. Now I have been diagnosed with glaucoma and it is very likely the Effexor. Laser surgery Thursday due to dangerous pressure in rt eye. I had noticed the warning about blood pressure but just hoped it would be ok since my no is always great. My eye pressures had been in the 20's for decades but now in the 30's. Read all the fine print. I'll be following ideas about tapering as well as talking to doc. I expect it to be difficult to get off of. Thanks.

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@sharonlou
Shouldn’t be hard to get off of it. Trick is to go SLOWLY. The post from @yudy should be reason enough for going slow. Unfortunately most doctors seem to believe slow are 50% cuts.
Researchers are coming to the conclusion a 5-10% decrease, PER DOSE is highly successful. A lot of this information comes from the people who have tried various titrations and most are finding this the most effective. It is very important however that the 5-10% is based on each titration dose and not a particular percentage per 2 weeks or month. The problem with 5-10% per month is that although in the beginning your dose decrease is indeed 5-10%, but the farther into your titration you get those percentages start to jump all over the place, some decreases are 33% some lower some as high as 50% even though you I The problem being the titrations are not consistent. Admittedly it’s going to take more time but the chance of withdrawal is almost non existent. There is a member here who is decreasing their dose by less than one half of 1 percent each month. Even at that rate, they are having symptoms.
I wish you the best, you can do it,
Jake

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@sharonlou

First time post. Have been on Effexor DR for 4 years. I have been thinking of findings a new doc (changed insurances) because of how ill I feel if I forget a dose: brain zaps, nausea. Now I have been diagnosed with glaucoma and it is very likely the Effexor. Laser surgery Thursday due to dangerous pressure in rt eye. I had noticed the warning about blood pressure but just hoped it would be ok since my no is always great. My eye pressures had been in the 20's for decades but now in the 30's. Read all the fine print. I'll be following ideas about tapering as well as talking to doc. I expect it to be difficult to get off of. Thanks.

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@sharonlou
Sorry to hear about your eye issues. I hope when you are off Effexor that your vision improves as mine did. I had my last dose on 4/14/18 and in early June, had my eyes examined so I could order more contacts. I couldn't figure out why I couldn't see with my new contacts (same prescription for years). Had another eye exam–in the two weeks between the first eye exam and getting my new contacts, my left eye improved by half a diopter!

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@amberpep

I really don't mean this to sound demeaning or anything of the sort, but why the sudden need to get off of Effexor? Did I miss reading something about it in the paper or on the news?
Thanks for the info.
abby

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Do the research and google side effects of effexor. It will make you wish you weren't taking it.

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@leross21

I was only on Effexor RX for a year (last January), and titrated from 150 (which I was only on for 2 days) to 75, 37, and 18 (a week each at my doctor's recommendation). I was off completely last Saturday and still have bad side effects. Any idea how long I can expect the side effects to continue? Dramamine for the dizzies and a pain killer for the body aches had no effect. Also, is there a remedy for the paresthesia? I cannot live life whatsoever this way and sleep 12 hours a day (including naps, or else I'd never get to work on time). My so mad my doctor prescribed this without any mention of the side effects if you skip a pill or ween off. With side effects this day, I think it should be very clear before you even start about what to expect when you want to finish.

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I'm having side effects and I've been weaning for 8 months…. It takes a very long time. Read up on withdrawing. For me, every step down has caused my blood pressure to rise…. A LOT! 6 months to a year is not uncommon…

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For anyone who has completed the weaning process slowly, how long did the lightheadedness and brain zaps last. I took 8 months and just finished my last tiny dose 2 days ago. I feel horrible!

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