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

@sandij

@elaine0 you are in the right place! Welcome to the group that nobody wants to be part of, like @brightwings said in an earlier post.

I was on effexor 225 for many years and decided to taper off in September 2018. I tapered relatively fast, going from 225 to 150, and then from 150 to 75. After starting to count beads when tapering from the 75 capsules that I have, I got sick and tired of being on this drug and feeling like it was controlling me. So at the dose of 67 mg I jumped off. My last dose was on April 17. I had the dizziness, nausea, and anxiety for several days and I took benadryl to help. I've also been on CBD oil for a long time, and continued my regimen of vitamin D, omega 3, and other unrelated supplements. Things have been well since then.

May I suggest you take a look at this website which is the best explanation of protracted withdrawals:
https://npanth.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/waves-and-windows-in-ssri-withdrawal/
With that being said, I am stepping back from this forum for a bit. I am doing really well and although I know exactly what MAY be expected from conducting my taper the way that I did, I am not going to live my life in fear of the next wave, IF it comes, I am confident that I am equipped to deal with it. I can look back at the experience that I had when I cold turkeyed neurontin (not really by choice) and that, by far, was worse.
There will be those that say I haven't experienced the worst, that the worst is coming, that withdrawal may not hit me until the drug leaves my fat stores, it may be six months later, etc etc. While that may be true….guess what? It might NOT happen.
I appreciate all of the reminders and advice on this forum to take it slow, to decrease by very small amounts, etc. But at this moment I have to move on from that…not that it is negative, as I said, they are all good reminders, but I'm choosing to place all my focus on the positive aspects in my life and have gratitude for the place I am in. I'll continue to check in from time to time, but I need to be surrounded by success stories right now in order to level up.
See you all on the other side!

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Hi, @sandij – though we'd love to have you around in this particular discussion of tapering off of venlafaxine (Effexor), it's also just fine if you choose to step away. I'd encourage you, though, to check out other Connect discussions that might be of interest. A specific discussion you may be interested in related to your work on placing all your focus on the positive aspects in your life and having gratitude for the place you are in is the Connect Just Want to Talk group's gratitude discussion https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/gratitude-discussion-group. I've seen many members mention just how uplifting reading others' posts in this conversation can be and in sharing things they are personally grateful for.

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@mammy

That where I ended up on Tuesday and the staff assured me that I was not having a heart attack nor had I had one. There advise is that the withdrawals are raising havoc with me. I don't think my Dr. knew how to taper the drug. As of tomorrow I will have been off Effexor for one week. I hope in the next week the withdrawal symptoms will subside a little. It is awful trying to work and deal with this stuff.

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@mammy
Thank you for the update!
I am happy that your heart was not involved!
I can't understand how docs do not know how to taper this drug.
I am sure patients, like you, have complained about the withdrawal.
Sadly, I think that SOME docs either aren't listening or they don't care.
There are so many of us on this drug, trying to come off or to reduce that they MUST hear the horror stories.
They are not stupid!
They have to realize that the advice they are giving patients is incorrect!

Sorry, just venting!
I really don't know how you are working under those circumstances.
I don't want to be a downer, but you should not be surprised when you have more withdrawal symptoms.
Sadly, they will come, but now you know what they are and what to expect.

Good luck to you!
Ronnie (GRANDMAr)

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Thank you all for sharing your experiences. I was put on Effexor a few years ago to help with my dizziness and migraines. It hasn't helped at all. I told my doc and she said " that's just your anxiety, you need to increase your dose " BS! I dont have anxiety at all. No clue where she came up with that. I was already on 225mg a day. I've gotten myself down to 150mg every other day, but I don't know how to decrease from there. Ideas???

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Just an update. My last pill was on Monday (37.5 mg) and I have had a few brain zaps but took a Benadryl based on info I found and it has seemed to work. I’ve been a little grouchy and moody but it is getting better. My zaps have not been bad at all especially when compared to when I went without for a few days on 75mg. If this is the worst of it then I am glad I finally quit taking them.

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@angiee

Thank you all for sharing your experiences. I was put on Effexor a few years ago to help with my dizziness and migraines. It hasn't helped at all. I told my doc and she said " that's just your anxiety, you need to increase your dose " BS! I dont have anxiety at all. No clue where she came up with that. I was already on 225mg a day. I've gotten myself down to 150mg every other day, but I don't know how to decrease from there. Ideas???

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@angiee
Read these posts–at the very least, look back 1–2 weeks–you'll find links to quite a few helpful articles and sites as well as good advice on how to taper off Effexor as well as what withdrawal symptoms can occur and how to minimize/deal with them.

Reducing/quitting Effexor (and other antidepressants) can CAUSE the very issues they were designed to treat–a backlash effect; you may well experience anxiety, agitation, irritability, depression, etc., while tapering off EVEN if you were put on Effexor for non-emotional/non-psychiatric reasons. Many of us experienced major dizziness and vertigo while reducing–if you still have dizziness; this may get worse. Effexor makes profound changes to how our brains balance the neurotransmitters needed to function. Your brain has to reset itself and learn how to work on its own; the time this takes varies enormously.

Reducing SLOOWWWLY significantly minimizes the unpleasant (and sometimes debilitating) withdrawal effects. Your doctor will need to get on board. Prescriptions for other dosage amounts (i.e., 75mg, or 37.5mg), or for a different formulation (changing from extended-release to regular release, or from capsules to tablets) will allow you to mix and match to lower doses. With the right prescription, a compounding pharmacy can even make tapered doses for you.

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@jmwspud

Just an update. My last pill was on Monday (37.5 mg) and I have had a few brain zaps but took a Benadryl based on info I found and it has seemed to work. I’ve been a little grouchy and moody but it is getting better. My zaps have not been bad at all especially when compared to when I went without for a few days on 75mg. If this is the worst of it then I am glad I finally quit taking them.

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@jmwspud
Glad the Ben*dryl is working for your brain zaps/shivers. Let us know how you continue to get on.

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@angiee

Thank you all for sharing your experiences. I was put on Effexor a few years ago to help with my dizziness and migraines. It hasn't helped at all. I told my doc and she said " that's just your anxiety, you need to increase your dose " BS! I dont have anxiety at all. No clue where she came up with that. I was already on 225mg a day. I've gotten myself down to 150mg every other day, but I don't know how to decrease from there. Ideas???

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Take it SLOW…. that just can't be stressed enough.
Taper dosage by no more than 20% at a time and step down every 4-6 weeks. There are loads of posts within this board about tapering methods. (counting beads if capsules, cutting pills)
Will it take a while (12 months or more?) YES! Will it be worth it? YES!
Withdrawal from Venlafaxine is debilitating for some.
Best wishes!

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@coloradogirl

Happy to help. Good luck with your process. I also forgot to mention that both stress and sugar seem to make the brain zaps worse for me. Even though I’ve been off for about a month now, I had a cupcake yesterday afternoon and within about an hour, I had quite a few. Worth watching in case it does the same thing to you.

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I whole heartedly agree! Stress, sugar and lack of sleep all out me in a tailspin! Meditate too.

Liked by texasduchess

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@farm_mom
I remember that you're motivated to get off Effexor because of eye side effects (glaucoma). Others have mentioned blurriness. I took my last dose of Effexor 4/14/18 and had my annual eye exam on 5/22/18. Prescription was unchanged. Picked up my new contacts a week later and couldn't see with them. Was reexamined–left eye had changed in that week from -4.75 to -4.25 (improved!). It's a year later and just had my eyes examined–both eyes are now -4.00 (more improvement!).

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@texasduchess

@farm_mom
I remember that you're motivated to get off Effexor because of eye side effects (glaucoma). Others have mentioned blurriness. I took my last dose of Effexor 4/14/18 and had my annual eye exam on 5/22/18. Prescription was unchanged. Picked up my new contacts a week later and couldn't see with them. Was reexamined–left eye had changed in that week from -4.75 to -4.25 (improved!). It's a year later and just had my eyes examined–both eyes are now -4.00 (more improvement!).

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No kidding? That would be amazing if it works for me too!

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@texasduchess

@angiee
Read these posts–at the very least, look back 1–2 weeks–you'll find links to quite a few helpful articles and sites as well as good advice on how to taper off Effexor as well as what withdrawal symptoms can occur and how to minimize/deal with them.

Reducing/quitting Effexor (and other antidepressants) can CAUSE the very issues they were designed to treat–a backlash effect; you may well experience anxiety, agitation, irritability, depression, etc., while tapering off EVEN if you were put on Effexor for non-emotional/non-psychiatric reasons. Many of us experienced major dizziness and vertigo while reducing–if you still have dizziness; this may get worse. Effexor makes profound changes to how our brains balance the neurotransmitters needed to function. Your brain has to reset itself and learn how to work on its own; the time this takes varies enormously.

Reducing SLOOWWWLY significantly minimizes the unpleasant (and sometimes debilitating) withdrawal effects. Your doctor will need to get on board. Prescriptions for other dosage amounts (i.e., 75mg, or 37.5mg), or for a different formulation (changing from extended-release to regular release, or from capsules to tablets) will allow you to mix and match to lower doses. With the right prescription, a compounding pharmacy can even make tapered doses for you.

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Thank you! Yes, my doctor was on board, then she changed to a position at the hospital, so now I need to connect with my new doctor and get things going again.

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@farm_mom

Take it SLOW…. that just can't be stressed enough.
Taper dosage by no more than 20% at a time and step down every 4-6 weeks. There are loads of posts within this board about tapering methods. (counting beads if capsules, cutting pills)
Will it take a while (12 months or more?) YES! Will it be worth it? YES!
Withdrawal from Venlafaxine is debilitating for some.
Best wishes!

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Thank you! Slow and steady… I'm ok with that if it helps with having less brain zaps and dizziness

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Hello, I just found this group today, 2 weeks too late to save me some misery. I've been on and off anti-depressants for many years and I'm a pro at weaning off. I thought I was anyway. This has been a scary and humbling process. Since I was only on 37.5 to supplement my Wellbutrin I didn't think going to every other day for a while then stopping would be a big deal. This is day 4 without and I still want to crawl out of my skin. I just gave in and took one with the plan of calling my Dr in the morning and confessing to doing this without his knowing and give him this list of symptoms.

Abdominal upset & diarrhea
Night and periodic daytime sweating like hot flashes
Inability to concentrate
Loss of memory
Deep sadness
Intensified and different reaction to alcohol
Severe brain shivers
Muscle and joint pain
Intense craving for sugar and carbs like pasta
Deep sense of overall shame and repeating tapes of things I said and feeling deeply ashamed. I don’t think these things warrant this reaction, time will tell. Example: telling dinner companions about the string of tragedies I had in a very matter of fact way during a light-hearted dinner, making them uncomfortable I’m sure.
Hopelessness with no sense of why
Dizziness
“out of body” feeling
Facial features drastically changed, not recognizable by my iphone

I'm very grateful that you all took the time to share here, it made me feel not so alone and ashamed. God bless you all!

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@wrkingitout

Hello, I just found this group today, 2 weeks too late to save me some misery. I've been on and off anti-depressants for many years and I'm a pro at weaning off. I thought I was anyway. This has been a scary and humbling process. Since I was only on 37.5 to supplement my Wellbutrin I didn't think going to every other day for a while then stopping would be a big deal. This is day 4 without and I still want to crawl out of my skin. I just gave in and took one with the plan of calling my Dr in the morning and confessing to doing this without his knowing and give him this list of symptoms.

Abdominal upset & diarrhea
Night and periodic daytime sweating like hot flashes
Inability to concentrate
Loss of memory
Deep sadness
Intensified and different reaction to alcohol
Severe brain shivers
Muscle and joint pain
Intense craving for sugar and carbs like pasta
Deep sense of overall shame and repeating tapes of things I said and feeling deeply ashamed. I don’t think these things warrant this reaction, time will tell. Example: telling dinner companions about the string of tragedies I had in a very matter of fact way during a light-hearted dinner, making them uncomfortable I’m sure.
Hopelessness with no sense of why
Dizziness
“out of body” feeling
Facial features drastically changed, not recognizable by my iphone

I'm very grateful that you all took the time to share here, it made me feel not so alone and ashamed. God bless you all!

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@wrkingitout
Okay, you apologize for sharing too much and say that you had an unexpected reaction to a medication change.

Dinner was a faux pas–you didn't kill anyone and the hopelessness and feelings of not being worthy ARE withdrawal symptoms as are the other things you listed.

Talking with your doctor is a very good idea.

So was reinstating Effexor until you connect with your doctor.

You didn't say why you thought you'd quit Effexor … if you felt it just wasn't helping you, or if you had side effects you weren't willing/able to deal with anymore. You found out that dropping from 37.5mg to zero AND taking this drug every other day is TOO much of a taper … your doctor can help you taper off Effexor and onto a different medication if one is necessary, or to help ease you off Effexor (a Prozac bridge). He can prescribe a different formulation–changing from extended-release to regular release, or from capsules to tablets (I was on 25mg tablets that could be cut), or specifying a certain brand (@farm_mom found Teva had the most consistent size and number of beads within a capsule–helpful to those counting and throwing out beads to taper). He can write a prescription for a compounding pharmacy to make tapered doses for you.

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@texasduchess

@wrkingitout
Okay, you apologize for sharing too much and say that you had an unexpected reaction to a medication change.

Dinner was a faux pas–you didn't kill anyone and the hopelessness and feelings of not being worthy ARE withdrawal symptoms as are the other things you listed.

Talking with your doctor is a very good idea.

So was reinstating Effexor until you connect with your doctor.

You didn't say why you thought you'd quit Effexor … if you felt it just wasn't helping you, or if you had side effects you weren't willing/able to deal with anymore. You found out that dropping from 37.5mg to zero AND taking this drug every other day is TOO much of a taper … your doctor can help you taper off Effexor and onto a different medication if one is necessary, or to help ease you off Effexor (a Prozac bridge). He can prescribe a different formulation–changing from extended-release to regular release, or from capsules to tablets (I was on 25mg tablets that could be cut), or specifying a certain brand (@farm_mom found Teva had the most consistent size and number of beads within a capsule–helpful to those counting and throwing out beads to taper). He can write a prescription for a compounding pharmacy to make tapered doses for you.

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@texasduchess , thank you for putting it into perspective. I guess it took me by surprise that catastrophic thinking could happen so fast. I do have a tendency to be really mean to myself. The Effexor dose was working, I've never felt better, except for the one thing that makes it difficult to work on a reconciliation with my estranged husband. Intimacy. I just don't feel like it, never think about it either.

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