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

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@2degrees

hi jtj. I did a taper without consulting my doctor which, apparently, not recommended. However, I opened a capsule and discovered that it was filled with hundreds of little beads. I purchased a microscale off amazon for about $35 and, once it arrived, started emptying out the little capsules. I was aiming at a 3-month or so interval to get down to zero milligrams from 150 and i had planned to measure out a consistent amount for a two week supply, then another two week supply with a little less, etc. By the time I got to my last two week interval, I finished and was at zero. The capsule itself weighs a significant amount, as I recall. Even though the pill was 150 mg, the whole thing, 150 mg of effexor plus the capsule weighed about 500 mg. So, I every two weeks I emptied about 100 mg out of each of 14 pills: emptying out 100 mg for the first two weeks; 200 mg for the next two weeks; 300 mg emptied out for the third two week interval, etc

Now here's my reaction. At first, in the first month that is, I didn't notice much of a difference–it seemed like a gradual taper. Then over the next couple of weight drops I was a little grumpy at times (more like quick tempered) sometimes more emotional. On the positive side, I had much more energy, ambition and started to re-develop a long absent libido. By the time I was in the last phase of my taper (just a little bit in each capsule, then finished altogether) my side effects were more noticeable. In retrospect, I think it would have been best had I drawn out the last phase more,: taking out smaller amounts from the capsule–with another few two week intervals of dropping amounts. Once completely off it, I was very proud and confident that I had accomplished it; however, the side effects were noticeable. Not a lot but, noticeable. This will sound strange but I started smoking again to ease it (I had quit smoking for about 6 months). This made me feel better. I also started meditating. I found quitting smoking easier than quitting effexor (now I'm tapering off cigarettes which I'm quite confident I can do). I've been off for about a month now. The side effects are less and less each day. I still have my emotional moments (just getting teary during movies, etc)–it's sort of amusing. I've had "brain-buzz" which has seemed to all but disappeared. What's amazing is how different I feel. For years I've been constantly tired, sleeping up to 14 hours a day–virtually every moment I'm not at work; sexually impotent; no ambition whatsoever; messy, poor hygeine, usually sleeping on my couch in the same clothes I wore to work, etc. I'm 55 and, for the past ten years or so, I kept thinking I only had a few years left before I would pass away. The thought of doing the dishes, cleaning the house or any pedestrian task was so overwhelming, tantamount to spontaneously running a marathon without any training. I have diabetes and it kept getting worse. I watched my body start to resemble Jabba-the-hut. I kept telling my children that I was never like this.

Now, out of nowhere, I want to exercise, I want to eat better, and I do on both counts. My sugar is under control and I'm working on slowing down my medication. I've been walking 5 km every day and I started working out with my son today. I get up every morning around 8 a.m. without an alarm clock and have no wish to go back to bed to get more sleep. I can't describe how much better I feel.

I hope that my story, and how I tapered off effexor helps you and, if it is your desire to do so–then do it. You can if you're patient and you persevere. I am wishing you the best of luck and a huge amount of happiness. Don't take any shit from effexor!

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@2degrees – Great story, congrats on freeing yourself! I am very happy for you.

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@collene Hi Collen I know you directed me to people who have taken the Vraylar which I was just prescribed. I forget who that was. I a very sick and as I read about Effexor withdrawal I am wondering if I could still be experiencing that. I stopped the 37.5 two weeks ago. I am sick. On Carafate because of throwing up. Now I am afraid of the Vraylar, Thank you.

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I just showed your post to my pharmacist daughter and her comment was, “You can’t go from 37.5 to nothing, what is the matter with her doctor?”
You need to tamper off longer to a much smaller dose before you go to zero.

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@nanke99

Hi! I was on Effexor XR for a few years and got off it several years ago. It was a very difficult process, so I fully sympathize. You MUST wean off
VERY SLOWLY. I don’t remember what my dosage was at the time (225mg?), but it took me about 9 months. Please do not let that long time scare you, it’s worth going slow, that will be your biggest help w/ withdrawal. At the time I had a very difficult time finding any doctor with experience getting people off it.
Luckily I was advised to to find one and luckily I did. It is considered harder to get off than heroine. Not trying to scare you, just want to make sure you go as slow as possible. Mostly, I was moody/angry, had headaches, and some brain “shivers”. The brain shivers I already had while on the meds.
I think we went down in 25mg increments over several weeks for each reduction. Keep us posted and good luck! Just give yourself some time and it will be over before you know it!

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Did you switch to Effexor IR to wean off?

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@jh31251

I just showed your post to my pharmacist daughter and her comment was, “You can’t go from 37.5 to nothing, what is the matter with her doctor?”
You need to tamper off longer to a much smaller dose before you go to zero.

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Hi Jon, I tried several times to taper off Effexor XR ( slow release ). Went from 37.5 daily to 5 times a week for a week, then 4 times a week for a week, then 3 times a week for a week, then every second day for week, then every third day for a week. All went well both times until around 6 weeks not taking any. I started waking up at 4 am, became restless, and agitated at the least little thing. Had to go back on. Not sure where to go from here, thinking of taking one every second day for around 3 months or switching to Effexor IR ( immediate release ). They are in tablet form rather than capsules, I could taper off more slowly because I could cut the pills. Also thinking of using CDB to help with the tapering.
Anyone have any suggestions?
Thanks

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@harrington

Hi Jon, I tried several times to taper off Effexor XR ( slow release ). Went from 37.5 daily to 5 times a week for a week, then 4 times a week for a week, then 3 times a week for a week, then every second day for week, then every third day for a week. All went well both times until around 6 weeks not taking any. I started waking up at 4 am, became restless, and agitated at the least little thing. Had to go back on. Not sure where to go from here, thinking of taking one every second day for around 3 months or switching to Effexor IR ( immediate release ). They are in tablet form rather than capsules, I could taper off more slowly because I could cut the pills. Also thinking of using CDB to help with the tapering.
Anyone have any suggestions?
Thanks

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Hi, guys, I just posted my successful Tapering and weaning off Effexor (Venlafaxine). I hope it is a helpful guide to SLOW tapering, which has been found to be the most symptom free way to taper. Good luck!

Liked by texasduchess

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I have completely tapered off Effexor ER, the last 37.5 in 1/4 increments over the course of a couple weeks. It was not difficult for me (thank God). I'm still recovering, however, including dealing with 40+ pounds I had gained! The big challenge will be the actual depression that precipitated me taking Effexor to begin with. I usually feel pretty good, although I'm a bit off today after biking 20+ miles yesterday. I might have over did it, maybe, perhaps. I do like to bite off more than I can chew, for sure. A bit of an excitement addiction. I guess. I need to be very careful to keep things simple, choose my friends wisely, set up boundaries, meditate so I'm not ruminating or obsessing.

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@shermananski

I have completely tapered off Effexor ER, the last 37.5 in 1/4 increments over the course of a couple weeks. It was not difficult for me (thank God). I'm still recovering, however, including dealing with 40+ pounds I had gained! The big challenge will be the actual depression that precipitated me taking Effexor to begin with. I usually feel pretty good, although I'm a bit off today after biking 20+ miles yesterday. I might have over did it, maybe, perhaps. I do like to bite off more than I can chew, for sure. A bit of an excitement addiction. I guess. I need to be very careful to keep things simple, choose my friends wisely, set up boundaries, meditate so I'm not ruminating or obsessing.

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Good for you! Not many can wean themselves off Effexor that quickly and be able to withstand the withdrawal symptoms. While you may seem to be coping well now without any real side effects, be aware that anxiety and depression can sneak up you for months after weaning off the powerful drug. Your brain and nervous system is adjusting and it takes time, patience, and attention to your body’s nutrition, supplementary needs, exercise regimen, attention to stress triggers and meditation, of course. Keep doing what works for you and come back to refer to specific posts several have shared as to specific supplements that are healing and calming. Wishing you the best in these unsettling times of unrest.

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I had had the depression and anxiety sneak up on me several months after a nine month taper off Paxil. I wound up in the hospital it was so bad. Be careful and keep in contact with your doctor. These antidepressants are horrible. As bad if not worse than benzodiazepines. Unfortunately doctors won’t admit this.

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It’s true, and good that you share this with those who, despite a successful tapering off a l drug, have a false sense of all will be well from now on. It’s a vigilant battle to keep our bodies and minds in tip top coping shape. Thus, the necessary bolstering of supplements, exercise, mindful meditations, and avoiding triggering situations. All the best to you in your personal endeavor!

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@shermananski

I have completely tapered off Effexor ER, the last 37.5 in 1/4 increments over the course of a couple weeks. It was not difficult for me (thank God). I'm still recovering, however, including dealing with 40+ pounds I had gained! The big challenge will be the actual depression that precipitated me taking Effexor to begin with. I usually feel pretty good, although I'm a bit off today after biking 20+ miles yesterday. I might have over did it, maybe, perhaps. I do like to bite off more than I can chew, for sure. A bit of an excitement addiction. I guess. I need to be very careful to keep things simple, choose my friends wisely, set up boundaries, meditate so I'm not ruminating or obsessing.

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I know exactly how you feel! I wish you continued success!

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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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How long We’re you on Zoloft? I just tried to get off Effexor and my anxiety and depression were horrible. Thanks

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@dywells6

How long We’re you on Zoloft? I just tried to get off Effexor and my anxiety and depression were horrible. Thanks

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Hi there. I weened off Effexor (extremely slowly, I mean extremely!) and suffered few physical withdrawal symptoms. Then, after being about six months Med-free , the anxiety and depression came back with a vengeance. Doc tried me on lexapro and that shot my anxiety through the roof. I am currently taking seroquel at night as a mood stabilizer (works like a charm) and then zoloft as a mood lifter (so grateful, this is working, too)

I had been on Effexor for about 20 years and zoloft for about a year before Effexor.

Seroquel is a med used for bipolar disorder. Maybe that’s what I needed all along. Ha!

It was a long road but I’m not a person that does well without meds. That being said, I’m on the lowest dose of both and, in fact, cut the seroquel in half.

Just please go slowly if you’re trying to ween. No sense putting yourself through hell. Life is too short.

Also, I know you weren’t replying to me, I just saw your post and thought maybe I could be helpful.

Take good care.

S

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I completely understand! I've been off of Effexor for 8 weeks. About two weeks ago, I started suffering from insomnia, waking in the middle of the night, brain zaps are back after being gone for weeks and I feel like I want to crawl out of my skin. I'm exercising, getting plenty of liquids, eating a trained athlete's diet, meditating, working through my personal issues but these symptoms keep torturing me. I'm really at my wit's end!

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@tgbobbi

I completely understand! I've been off of Effexor for 8 weeks. About two weeks ago, I started suffering from insomnia, waking in the middle of the night, brain zaps are back after being gone for weeks and I feel like I want to crawl out of my skin. I'm exercising, getting plenty of liquids, eating a trained athlete's diet, meditating, working through my personal issues but these symptoms keep torturing me. I'm really at my wit's end!

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Yes! There seems to be a sort of second reckoning when the positives that come with getting a prescribed drug out of your life are replaced with symptoms that say you cant manage without them. I feel like I survived something awful and broke free but the dark starts taking over again and I blame myself for not doing it right, not doing life right. I am not sleeping enough (10 hrs?), not eating as I should (not totally 100% clean), not avoiding triggers ( family, responsibilities, work issues all still exist), and not exercising enough. I feel awful and I was supposed to be better.

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