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

Anyone with any insight would be my saving grace right now…..you see I have been inquiring with my family doctor over the last little bit on how to get off of effexor 150mg and he would rather I see a psychiatrist to make any changes like that. Well I was in between appts and didn't realize until it was too late that I didn't have enough to get through the weekend and my doctors office was closed so no chance of any refills until Monday. So I unwillingly put myself into discontinuation symptoms including brain zaps, light headedness, overall foggy feeling (kept saying to husband that I feel stupid for not being able to say what I'm thinking), I had VERY VERY intense dreams some being scary some where I felt like I couldn't stay out of it where I'd wake up and when I go back to bed I'm right back in the dream….and then after 3 days of nothing the dreams subsided a bit I actually dreamt all night on day 4 of floating on a raft in an indoor pool so I mean they were vivid but not all scary. I made it to 4 whole days with nothing and the more bothersome symptoms were back ….quick to get mad, lightheadedness that's unbearable, crying spells and nauseous all day. I had my husband call in my prescription today and I was too scared to take a whole 150mg capsule extended release because I haven't taken anything for 120 hours 5 days that I opened it up and counted 31 beads which works out to a third of 37.5mg. Now im no doctor but I wasn't sure what else to do I didn't want to shock myself by taking the whole 150mg because my end goal is to be free of this drug. I guess I was hoping that even the slightest bit of it in my system would help with the side effects I was dealing with or did I just screw up my whole progress by taking that little bit. I'll be sure to update how it's going but for now I'm just waiting it out wish me luck!!

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Welcome to Connect, @effexormom.

I moved your message to this existing discussion, "Tips on minimising withdrawal symptoms from Effexor (aka Venlafaxine)," as I thought it would be beneficial for you to be introduced to the many members who are discussing much of what you are experiencing.

If you click on VIEW & REPLY in your email notification, you will see the whole discussion and can join in, meet, and participate with other members talking about their or their loved ones' experiences.

I believe that the members on this thread will have some input for you on the symptoms you've had since you were unable to take some of your Effexor (aka Venlafaxine) due to running out over a weekend and now being off for additional days.

Have you had the chance to ask your doctor how to proceed from here, @effexormom?

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I was given effexor xr one time and it made me vomit which wasn't good because I am trying to gain weight! I reported it and the next night they put me back on something else but I haven't recovered and can hardly eat anything now. Can't imagine if I was to taper it off what I'd be like now.

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@effexormom

Anyone with any insight would be my saving grace right now…..you see I have been inquiring with my family doctor over the last little bit on how to get off of effexor 150mg and he would rather I see a psychiatrist to make any changes like that. Well I was in between appts and didn't realize until it was too late that I didn't have enough to get through the weekend and my doctors office was closed so no chance of any refills until Monday. So I unwillingly put myself into discontinuation symptoms including brain zaps, light headedness, overall foggy feeling (kept saying to husband that I feel stupid for not being able to say what I'm thinking), I had VERY VERY intense dreams some being scary some where I felt like I couldn't stay out of it where I'd wake up and when I go back to bed I'm right back in the dream….and then after 3 days of nothing the dreams subsided a bit I actually dreamt all night on day 4 of floating on a raft in an indoor pool so I mean they were vivid but not all scary. I made it to 4 whole days with nothing and the more bothersome symptoms were back ….quick to get mad, lightheadedness that's unbearable, crying spells and nauseous all day. I had my husband call in my prescription today and I was too scared to take a whole 150mg capsule extended release because I haven't taken anything for 120 hours 5 days that I opened it up and counted 31 beads which works out to a third of 37.5mg. Now im no doctor but I wasn't sure what else to do I didn't want to shock myself by taking the whole 150mg because my end goal is to be free of this drug. I guess I was hoping that even the slightest bit of it in my system would help with the side effects I was dealing with or did I just screw up my whole progress by taking that little bit. I'll be sure to update how it's going but for now I'm just waiting it out wish me luck!!

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@effexormom
I'll start off by saying I am not a doctor. On this site, other posters and I have related our experiences in getting off Effexor and what we've learned. There's no tried and true formula for getting off Effexor; doctors and the rest of us here are just guessing. You can click on anyone's name and read their posts.

You don't mention how long you've been on Effexor, nor at 150mg. If you've only been off for four days, it is unlikely that you are all that far down the road to getting off the drug–for most, it takes a lot more time than this.

Suggestion 1–Since it has only been four days since you stopped, you will probably get relief from your troubling withdrawal effects pretty quickly by taking Effexor again at your last dose. Taking 31 beads is unlikely to be helpful. You mentioned that you want to quit, or at least reduce your dosage. The overall recommendation on this site is to go slow … very slow. You should stay at 150mg for a while (weeks) AND be sure your withdrawal symptoms have gone away before tapering down to not so big a drop (10%, or less reduction). All your tapers should be spaced out and each reduction small.

Suggestion 2–Can you contact your doctor and get a response quickly? If so, ask your doctor for Prozac. Some folks get relief by taking a single 20-milligram (mg) dose of Prozac. Your symptoms will likely go away within a few hours. And because of Prozac's long half-life, you won't have withdrawal symptoms after taking that one capsule. Some may need to take a second 20mg dose of Prozac. Google "Prozac bridge."

Other things to help with W/D effects
Ben*dryl (diphenhydramine), an over-the-counter allergy medication, for brain zaps and Dram*mine/Bon*ne, seasickness OTCs, for nausea, dizziness and light-headedness. Long-term, many find fish oil helpful (helps the brain heal).

If you want to taper Effexor
"To make drops in your dosage easier, get a liquid formulation of your antidepressant. If need be, demand your doctor specify a liquid prescription. Your local pharmacist can source a liquid form of almost any drug. Reduce by a comfortable amount in weekly steps. This may mean reducing as little as 1 mg per week and being prepared to stop and stabilize if things get too difficult."–Rxisk

A compounding pharmacy may be available in your area to help with making lower dosages. You need a prescription and this service may be costly.

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@effexormom you should be fine to reinstate since it's been less than 10 days since your last full dosage. When you are stable and ready to decrease, it's not necessary to have a liquid, you can remove beads to get the dosage you want. I can only imagine how scary it was for you to realize that you were having withdrawal after running out of your meds. This happened to my sister and she decided that she would never taper, that she would just accept being on the medication for the rest of her life. It's an individual decision, but for me, I just can't be so dependent on a drug that I feel never did me any good anyway. You will find a lot of support here! Glad that you are here.

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@farmboy

Have any of you experienced side effects such as confusion, lost, thinking makes no sense,dream like state of mind,depersonlization,high anxiety and loosing control. Thank you in advance

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when i was tapering, i sometimes felt like i was disconnected from myself, especially from my body, and i felt like my mind was off in the ozone somewhere. the only loss of control i experienced was being really quick to anger — rage, almost. much of the time i felt sort of loose, if that makes any sense — kind of like i was fuzzy around the edges. one of my anxiety books describes depersonalization and derealization as symptoms of anxiety, which makes sense to me, since anxiety has lots of symptoms besides feeling anxious, so i guess i experienced anxiety, too. i just figured that any weirdness i felt — physical or mental — was due to the tapering because my body had tremendous adjustments to make, so i more or less just noted them and continued on.
several months after my taper, depression and anxiety came back. i hoped they were discontinuation symptoms, but they didn't go away — in fact, they got stronger — so my doctor put me back on medication, but not effexor this time. i'm on wellbutrin 150mg xr and so far — 2 weeks — it's helping, but it sure isn't perfect. i can increase the dose to 300mg if i want, but i'm going to give it a while longer before i do that — if i do it. things are better, though, and when depression hits or i get into a spiral of anxiety-inducing thoughts, i can challenge them and work to move on past them.
hope this helps. you definitely are not alone! hang in there and good luck!

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@kbmayo

when i was tapering, i sometimes felt like i was disconnected from myself, especially from my body, and i felt like my mind was off in the ozone somewhere. the only loss of control i experienced was being really quick to anger — rage, almost. much of the time i felt sort of loose, if that makes any sense — kind of like i was fuzzy around the edges. one of my anxiety books describes depersonalization and derealization as symptoms of anxiety, which makes sense to me, since anxiety has lots of symptoms besides feeling anxious, so i guess i experienced anxiety, too. i just figured that any weirdness i felt — physical or mental — was due to the tapering because my body had tremendous adjustments to make, so i more or less just noted them and continued on.
several months after my taper, depression and anxiety came back. i hoped they were discontinuation symptoms, but they didn't go away — in fact, they got stronger — so my doctor put me back on medication, but not effexor this time. i'm on wellbutrin 150mg xr and so far — 2 weeks — it's helping, but it sure isn't perfect. i can increase the dose to 300mg if i want, but i'm going to give it a while longer before i do that — if i do it. things are better, though, and when depression hits or i get into a spiral of anxiety-inducing thoughts, i can challenge them and work to move on past them.
hope this helps. you definitely are not alone! hang in there and good luck!

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Thank you very much kbmayo. Things are getting better now. I'm down to 37.5mgs now. But having alot of nauseous feelings, stomach hurts and high anxiety. Thank you for sharing your information with me. Makes me feel not so alone. 😃

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@farmboy

Have any of you experienced side effects such as confusion, lost, thinking makes no sense,dream like state of mind,depersonlization,high anxiety and loosing control. Thank you in advance

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@farmboy I did for one day during the worst experience I had – a year ago I was without it for 3 days. Confusion is a mild way of putting it! Really thought I wasn't going to make it.

It's okay to be confused and anxious – dealing with withdrawal is scary and unpleasant. We gotta give ourselves a break.

From this and your more recent post, it almost sounds like you're getting hit with withdrawal and the flu. It is flu season so take care of yourself. While it would be neat, I don't think withdrawal is making any of us immune to the flu. It's hard to tell with flu-like symptoms vs the flu so stock up on soup and herbal tea and get some extra rest either way.

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@notaround– Excellent point. Thank you for posting this. Not everything is withdrawal symptoms. When you take mind altering drugs it changes your brain's chemistry. But other parts of you can get ill too. I know that it might seem impossible to tell the difference but it's best to check with a doctor that all of your physical symptoms are being taken seriously.

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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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@coloradogirl Thanks for the info. I was on 225 mg for many years and decided to try to taper off and was able to drop quickly to 75 mg with no issues. When I tried to cut that in half I started to experience symptoms like body pain, fogginess and impatience. I'm not sure if this is a brain zap but I hear what I describe as electronic claps in my head. I want to get off this drug if I am able to so I will take it very slowly. Reading your post has given me much hope for success. I'm almost at retirement age and would love to be free of the side effects of anti-depressants for the first time in 40+ years. I am taking "Mental Calmness" by Natural Factors to help with the slight elevation in anger I have been experiencing. Maybe this would be helpful to others. Cheers!

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@notaround

@farmboy I did for one day during the worst experience I had – a year ago I was without it for 3 days. Confusion is a mild way of putting it! Really thought I wasn't going to make it.

It's okay to be confused and anxious – dealing with withdrawal is scary and unpleasant. We gotta give ourselves a break.

From this and your more recent post, it almost sounds like you're getting hit with withdrawal and the flu. It is flu season so take care of yourself. While it would be neat, I don't think withdrawal is making any of us immune to the flu. It's hard to tell with flu-like symptoms vs the flu so stock up on soup and herbal tea and get some extra rest either way.

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Thank you for your reply. Today has been a lot better. Less stomach aches and headaches. Pretty tired though.

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I have been on Venlafaxine for 3 months now, initially moved onto it from Citalopram as I was feeling so low. Started on 37.5mg which was then increased to x2 37.5mg (one in the morning and one at night), I didn’t feel too bad but did have brain fog and now what I understand to be brain zaps! Then 2 weeks ago my doctor gave me a new prescription for one 75mg tablet a day and since then I have been like a zombie! Constant dizziness and feeling totally out of it! I finally plucked up the courage to speak to her again today to say I can’t carry on like this and she told me to just stop taking them! I asked if I should wean myself off them and she said there was no need and to try a holistic approach for my depression.
I’m in such a state and so worried about the withdrawal effects of this drug even though I’ve not been on it that long. Should I just stop taking it like she says? Is that safe!?

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