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

@lisalucier

Hi, @flind, and welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. I'm guessing you were on venlafaxine (Effexor) at some point and tapered off? How did that go?

How did you happen to have the genetic testing that provided some direction for your treatment plan (I'm presuming for depression)? What did you learn from the results?

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Hi @lisalucier & ty for the welcome. I took my last 10-12mg dose of venlafaxine the evening before I posted here 5 days ago. Just this evening I have finally regained enough coherency to attempt a response. For the record – these past 5 days – I've been a walking zombie. The closest thing I can liken this experience to is being on LSD 24/7. Finding this thread reassured me that I was not alone and that my insanity would likely be temporary. It gave me confidence that I would make it through. I'm grateful to all for sharing their experiences. I believe today that I have made it through the worst of it…
Genetic testing:
My experience with genetic testing was indirect. Two years ago, after 60 years of living with ADD (and 20ys of depression), I decided I wanted a complete psych-eval. A lifelong friend (psychologist) recommended a psychiatrist who specializes in genetic testing for the diagnosis & treatment of ADD. I saw this Doctor for several sessions. His evaluation was based upon these sessions plus a complete blood work-up & the completion of 2 different genetic marker identification 'readouts' (sorry I forgot the proper term). The Doc showed me the genetic markers for ADD in my report which indicated a propensity for symptoms I have indeed had my entire life. In addition to these he explained that other markers related to (absorption/retention of) certain vitamins/minerals/enzymes/etc (in conjunction with my blood work results) indicated serious deficiencies. I can't remember what they all are atm, but I have the paperwork somewhere. Many of the deficiencies related directly to brain chemistry – in particular mood/memory/mental acuity. He recommended dietary supplements. I began taking them but it took me a very long time to establish a consistent regimen. It wouldn't be helpful or relevant to list my daily supplement regimen because each of us has their own unique make-up and needs. I recommend genetic testing. It helped me enormously. For the past 10 months I have been 100% consistent with my regimen. It comes first. I make it a priority, even when I travel abroad. I believe it is the consistency with this supplement regimen that's gotten me to where I am today – antidepressant free. This past December I found myself feeling *happy* for no particular reason – out of the blue – it felt like a miracle. It was like a veil suddenly lifted… I saw the world in color! Simple as that! It just hit me… like a burst of lasting 'sunlight' even tho it was/is a gray and rainy winter!

For ~ 20 years I've taken venlafaxine (425mg through divorce & deaths to 'recent maintenance dose' of 75-200mg). But this past December it occurred to me that I didn't need it anymore. I wanted to get 'off' anti-depressants – for good. During my December reverie I recalled the psychiatrist/geneticist Doc telling me (2 years ago) he wasn't sure I actually needed to be on anti-depressants. At the time I thought he probably just 'meant well' then I forgot he ever said it…

What I now believe is that finding out what my system was lacking (both enzymatically and nutritionally), building up and maintaining what I had lacked, has corrected those deficiencies. In turn this has ELIMINATED my depressive symptoms. It is mind-blowing to me – literally 'mind-altering'! I don't want to give the impression that it happened overnight – FAR FROM IT. It was a concerted 2+ year effort to get my system back on track.

And then there is the little piece about getting off venlafaxine 😱😱😱😱… I started tapering in mid-December 2019. I went from 200 to 150mg for a couple of weeks to 100-75mg for a few more weeks. Like others I managed okay until I got down below 35mg… Then it started getting weird – and I mean weird. Up until 6 days ago, I was taking from 12.5 – 35mg. When I went from that to 10 -12.5mg (I was splitting 100mg tablets which crumbled some) I started having delusions and felt like my brain was made of cotton wool. That went on for about 2 weeks until I decided to hell with it, I'm going to stop, now. The brain weirdness increased – a lot. If it weren't for my husband's calm presence and loving support, I would have spent the entire time in bed, or worse. If I was not retired but had to work the only way through this would have been with a support SSRI + daily or at least weekly therapy. This drug is THE WORST. Full disclosure – I learned about the nasty withdrawal effects of venlafaxine 10 years ago when I received a 'bad batch' of this medication. Thinking I was having a heart attack, I sought emergency medical treatment. I had an EKG but was not hospitalized. I quickly determined that the only 'change' to my routine had been the 'new batch' of venlafaxine. Once I got those replaced within hours I was fine again.

I now keep a back-stock of my daily supplements in my pantry. Just like I wouldn't want to run out of venlafaxine, I don't want to run out of supplements. I buy the very best, made in the USA, quality products. These are not cheap, but neither are hospitals and therapists! For those who are curious here's a brief sample of my daily intake – but like I said – one size does NOT fit all. Calcium/magnesium/zinc, EPA/DHA (flax, evening primrose, krill/fish oil), Jarrow's "Gaba Soothe" (Gaba, L-Theanine & Ashwagandha), N-Acetyl-Cysteine, Uridine, Alpha GPC, Vitamins: a highly bio-available-Multi, D-3, A, K-1, K-2 (as M-K 7/menaquinone 7), & B-12 (methylcobalamin). Altho not specifically recommended I have recently added Stamet's 7 mycelium, collagen, hyaluric acid & astaxanthin to address aging skin & creaking joints ;-).

REPLY
In reply to @shermananski "I’d be interested." + (show)
@shermananski

I’d be interested.

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Hi @shermananski I posted a pretty detailed response to @lisalucier – hopefully it's helpful?

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@laujenkins

Last night was my last day taking my 12.5 mg. Tonight when I got to bed I won’t be taking any.
I’m a little nervous, I feel like I have some brain zaps tonight and definitely am emotional this evening. It comes and goes for sure.
I bought Advil and Gravol Ginger chews to help with any nausea I may experience.
Fingers crossed this works ok! REALLY hoping that my withdrawal is easier from 12.5mg to 0mg compares to 75 or 37.5mg!
I will keep you posted.

Jump to this post

Hang in there! It's a bit like sailing in the open ocean during a severe storm… but you WILL get through it!
I'm on day 6 of zero mgs. Days 1-5 were hellish – my symptoms were all cerebral. I had no nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, headaches. I did not try to do too much – did not drive or try to make decisions. I puttered around the house doing small things to keep busy and as productive as possible. I exercised everyday at least a little – this was VERY helpful – just taking a walk helped. Finally today I remember what 'normal' feels like – I have high hopes for tomorrow! Try and roll with the punches… and remember, this too shall pass.

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@ksad

Talking, talking, talking to others while fighting through the worst of withdrawals has shown other nasty issues are showing up in different people with a frequency beyond coincidence – a very sore throat, with glands in the neck like solid painful rocks, hair loss, ridges in fingernails that have become soft and peeling, and sensitivity to smells as well as sounds. Everything in the world is turned up too high.

Jump to this post

I can completely relate to your comment about the world being 'turned up too high'. It is really challenging just to muddle through a mundane day while withdrawing from this drug – add a slight stressor and it can be overwhelming. I'm on day 6 and now feeling a LOT BETTER. What I discovered is that I can go 5 days 'thinking' I am going completely insane – sensory hallucinations up the wazzoo – without 'actually' going insane. And it DOES get better. It is like a bad LSD trip – that's the thing – your poor brain is going haywire. The good news? None of it is 'real' nor is it permanent. If you can… try not to focus too hard on any one facet… hair loss, smells, sounds, swollen glands (my worst was itchy skin and some hair loss too) all of that is temporary. If you can… focus on the reality that it will pass, and you will feel better. And in the meantime – it's okay to cut yourself some slack, it's okay to cry, it's okay to not know what is happening or why, it's okay to be anxious & it's okay to do things that calm you down and help you feel better – a walk, a hot bath, watch a movie… It's not going to last forever. You will feel better. Just hang in there and be good to yourself…

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@cp6401

I’d be interested

Jump to this post

Hi @cp6401 I hope you can read my response to @lisalucier . Genetic testing in and of itself isn't helpful, I think what is important is having a skilled geneticist who can explain the implications of the findings. I had a medical and an 'ancestral' genetic workup/readout – 2 different sets of genetic markers/variables were assessed. Then the psychiatrist I saw did the interpretation from those findings. I wasn't sure it was going to help at all, but now that I have followed the recommendations for supplements to alter my own brain chemistry (by supplying what had been lacking) I KNOW that it has helped me.

REPLY
@flind

I can completely relate to your comment about the world being 'turned up too high'. It is really challenging just to muddle through a mundane day while withdrawing from this drug – add a slight stressor and it can be overwhelming. I'm on day 6 and now feeling a LOT BETTER. What I discovered is that I can go 5 days 'thinking' I am going completely insane – sensory hallucinations up the wazzoo – without 'actually' going insane. And it DOES get better. It is like a bad LSD trip – that's the thing – your poor brain is going haywire. The good news? None of it is 'real' nor is it permanent. If you can… try not to focus too hard on any one facet… hair loss, smells, sounds, swollen glands (my worst was itchy skin and some hair loss too) all of that is temporary. If you can… focus on the reality that it will pass, and you will feel better. And in the meantime – it's okay to cut yourself some slack, it's okay to cry, it's okay to not know what is happening or why, it's okay to be anxious & it's okay to do things that calm you down and help you feel better – a walk, a hot bath, watch a movie… It's not going to last forever. You will feel better. Just hang in there and be good to yourself…

Jump to this post

I love this, thank you for this post! 💜

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@flind

Hang in there! It's a bit like sailing in the open ocean during a severe storm… but you WILL get through it!
I'm on day 6 of zero mgs. Days 1-5 were hellish – my symptoms were all cerebral. I had no nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, headaches. I did not try to do too much – did not drive or try to make decisions. I puttered around the house doing small things to keep busy and as productive as possible. I exercised everyday at least a little – this was VERY helpful – just taking a walk helped. Finally today I remember what 'normal' feels like – I have high hopes for tomorrow! Try and roll with the punches… and remember, this too shall pass.

Jump to this post

Thank you! I am lucky enough to be a stay at home mom, so my daughter and I will be puttering for sure the next few days. Thank you for telling me about exercise! I said that to myself at the beginning of this process, that I NEED to make sure I work out every day to help me. I fell off the workout wagon because of my withdrawal and found myself napping more in the middle of the day instead of doing my workout, which actually made me feel worse!
I’m so glad to hear that after about a week you are feeling “normal” again. I literally said that to my husband the other night, “I can’t wait be out of this withdrawal and feel normal again, I don’t even know what normal feels like anymore”.
Thank you for these posts! It’s helped more then you know!! 💜

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Oh, and woke up this morning feeling pretty much the same as I felt last night! I don’t think I feel worse, which I was nervous about!
Brain zaps are still apparent, eyes are heavy, more vivid dreams last night and the sweats, other then that, for now I feel surprisingly ok. Although. I know things change quickly and throughout the day, I’ll keep everyone posted!

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@flind

Hi @cp6401 I hope you can read my response to @lisalucier . Genetic testing in and of itself isn't helpful, I think what is important is having a skilled geneticist who can explain the implications of the findings. I had a medical and an 'ancestral' genetic workup/readout – 2 different sets of genetic markers/variables were assessed. Then the psychiatrist I saw did the interpretation from those findings. I wasn't sure it was going to help at all, but now that I have followed the recommendations for supplements to alter my own brain chemistry (by supplying what had been lacking) I KNOW that it has helped me.

Jump to this post

I feel like @flind and I are on the same path! I also want to look into supplements.
What supplements have you started taking to help?

**UPDATE: i found it on your previous post!! Thank you!**

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@flind

Hi @lisalucier & ty for the welcome. I took my last 10-12mg dose of venlafaxine the evening before I posted here 5 days ago. Just this evening I have finally regained enough coherency to attempt a response. For the record – these past 5 days – I've been a walking zombie. The closest thing I can liken this experience to is being on LSD 24/7. Finding this thread reassured me that I was not alone and that my insanity would likely be temporary. It gave me confidence that I would make it through. I'm grateful to all for sharing their experiences. I believe today that I have made it through the worst of it…
Genetic testing:
My experience with genetic testing was indirect. Two years ago, after 60 years of living with ADD (and 20ys of depression), I decided I wanted a complete psych-eval. A lifelong friend (psychologist) recommended a psychiatrist who specializes in genetic testing for the diagnosis & treatment of ADD. I saw this Doctor for several sessions. His evaluation was based upon these sessions plus a complete blood work-up & the completion of 2 different genetic marker identification 'readouts' (sorry I forgot the proper term). The Doc showed me the genetic markers for ADD in my report which indicated a propensity for symptoms I have indeed had my entire life. In addition to these he explained that other markers related to (absorption/retention of) certain vitamins/minerals/enzymes/etc (in conjunction with my blood work results) indicated serious deficiencies. I can't remember what they all are atm, but I have the paperwork somewhere. Many of the deficiencies related directly to brain chemistry – in particular mood/memory/mental acuity. He recommended dietary supplements. I began taking them but it took me a very long time to establish a consistent regimen. It wouldn't be helpful or relevant to list my daily supplement regimen because each of us has their own unique make-up and needs. I recommend genetic testing. It helped me enormously. For the past 10 months I have been 100% consistent with my regimen. It comes first. I make it a priority, even when I travel abroad. I believe it is the consistency with this supplement regimen that's gotten me to where I am today – antidepressant free. This past December I found myself feeling *happy* for no particular reason – out of the blue – it felt like a miracle. It was like a veil suddenly lifted… I saw the world in color! Simple as that! It just hit me… like a burst of lasting 'sunlight' even tho it was/is a gray and rainy winter!

For ~ 20 years I've taken venlafaxine (425mg through divorce & deaths to 'recent maintenance dose' of 75-200mg). But this past December it occurred to me that I didn't need it anymore. I wanted to get 'off' anti-depressants – for good. During my December reverie I recalled the psychiatrist/geneticist Doc telling me (2 years ago) he wasn't sure I actually needed to be on anti-depressants. At the time I thought he probably just 'meant well' then I forgot he ever said it…

What I now believe is that finding out what my system was lacking (both enzymatically and nutritionally), building up and maintaining what I had lacked, has corrected those deficiencies. In turn this has ELIMINATED my depressive symptoms. It is mind-blowing to me – literally 'mind-altering'! I don't want to give the impression that it happened overnight – FAR FROM IT. It was a concerted 2+ year effort to get my system back on track.

And then there is the little piece about getting off venlafaxine 😱😱😱😱… I started tapering in mid-December 2019. I went from 200 to 150mg for a couple of weeks to 100-75mg for a few more weeks. Like others I managed okay until I got down below 35mg… Then it started getting weird – and I mean weird. Up until 6 days ago, I was taking from 12.5 – 35mg. When I went from that to 10 -12.5mg (I was splitting 100mg tablets which crumbled some) I started having delusions and felt like my brain was made of cotton wool. That went on for about 2 weeks until I decided to hell with it, I'm going to stop, now. The brain weirdness increased – a lot. If it weren't for my husband's calm presence and loving support, I would have spent the entire time in bed, or worse. If I was not retired but had to work the only way through this would have been with a support SSRI + daily or at least weekly therapy. This drug is THE WORST. Full disclosure – I learned about the nasty withdrawal effects of venlafaxine 10 years ago when I received a 'bad batch' of this medication. Thinking I was having a heart attack, I sought emergency medical treatment. I had an EKG but was not hospitalized. I quickly determined that the only 'change' to my routine had been the 'new batch' of venlafaxine. Once I got those replaced within hours I was fine again.

I now keep a back-stock of my daily supplements in my pantry. Just like I wouldn't want to run out of venlafaxine, I don't want to run out of supplements. I buy the very best, made in the USA, quality products. These are not cheap, but neither are hospitals and therapists! For those who are curious here's a brief sample of my daily intake – but like I said – one size does NOT fit all. Calcium/magnesium/zinc, EPA/DHA (flax, evening primrose, krill/fish oil), Jarrow's "Gaba Soothe" (Gaba, L-Theanine & Ashwagandha), N-Acetyl-Cysteine, Uridine, Alpha GPC, Vitamins: a highly bio-available-Multi, D-3, A, K-1, K-2 (as M-K 7/menaquinone 7), & B-12 (methylcobalamin). Altho not specifically recommended I have recently added Stamet's 7 mycelium, collagen, hyaluric acid & astaxanthin to address aging skin & creaking joints ;-).

Jump to this post

Thank you. How much did the testing cost? Was it covered? 🤭

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@ksad

Talking, talking, talking to others while fighting through the worst of withdrawals has shown other nasty issues are showing up in different people with a frequency beyond coincidence – a very sore throat, with glands in the neck like solid painful rocks, hair loss, ridges in fingernails that have become soft and peeling, and sensitivity to smells as well as sounds. Everything in the world is turned up too high.

Jump to this post

Yep. I never got so sick in my life. Last August. Now I have vertigo. I am back on zoloft and seroquel but still have vertigo. The smell and light sensitivity is waning, finally, but pops up every so often. Really crazy stuff.

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@secretwhitepop

Yep. I never got so sick in my life. Last August. Now I have vertigo. I am back on zoloft and seroquel but still have vertigo. The smell and light sensitivity is waning, finally, but pops up every so often. Really crazy stuff.

Jump to this post

Helps to know it isn't just me. Another struggle is explaining to people what is going on. It makes sense to no one. Smell sensitivity comes across as being a princess and oh gosh, far from that!

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