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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@tshere95

Honestly, I don't want to have to depend on these drugs anymore to make me feel right. I think there are other ways to deal with issues. Herbal remedies along with meditation are a couple of these ways. Most doctors don't even know why they prescribe these drugs. It's all about money. It's all just trial and error and we are the ones who are reaping the side effects. It's ridiculous. I want off. If I have to go cold turkey, I will.

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drowsiness, dizziness, feeling nervous;
strange dreams;
increased sweating;
blurred vision;
dry mouth;
changes in appetite or weight;
mild nausea, constipation

These are listed as possible side effects of Effexor. I have ALL of these!! I stay sleepy and feel like a zombie most of the time. It's just not worth it. I've dealt with it because I thought I needed this drug but I've finally realized there are other ways to deal with my depression and anxiety.

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@hopeful33250

Hello @tshere95

I see that you are a new member on Connect, welcome! I appreciate you post on this topic.

While we at Connect are not medical professionals, from the many experiences mentioned in Connect, the idea of going off of meds cold-turkey can be a dangerous one. The side-effects can be very difficult. If you want to go off a medication please contact your doctor for a plan to taper-off the drug. Talking with a pharmacist might also be a good idea.

You don't mention how long you have been taking his med or the dosage, but these are all important factors to consider as you taper off under medical supervision.

I look forward to hearing from you again.

Teresa

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Thanks for the post. I have been cutting my 100mg tablets in half for a few days. Other than feeling really out of it, I'm ok. I've also used Kratom for those days as well. That may be curbing the withdrawal symptoms. I will continue this until I run out of pills which will be a few weeks. I'm not refilling my script.

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@hopeful33250

Hello @tshere95

I see that you are a new member on Connect, welcome! I appreciate you post on this topic.

While we at Connect are not medical professionals, from the many experiences mentioned in Connect, the idea of going off of meds cold-turkey can be a dangerous one. The side-effects can be very difficult. If you want to go off a medication please contact your doctor for a plan to taper-off the drug. Talking with a pharmacist might also be a good idea.

You don't mention how long you have been taking his med or the dosage, but these are all important factors to consider as you taper off under medical supervision.

I look forward to hearing from you again.

Teresa

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@tshere95 I hope all goes well for you and that you will be off of pills with few of the difficult side-effects that some have mentioned.
JK

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@tshere95

Honestly, I don't want to have to depend on these drugs anymore to make me feel right. I think there are other ways to deal with issues. Herbal remedies along with meditation are a couple of these ways. Most doctors don't even know why they prescribe these drugs. It's all about money. It's all just trial and error and we are the ones who are reaping the side effects. It's ridiculous. I want off. If I have to go cold turkey, I will.

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@tshere95 Oh my goodness, with all of those side-effects it's no wonder you want to get off of effexor. It really is not worth it at all. You sound like a very determined person so I am sure you will find other ways to help you with your depression and anxiety. I will be looking forward to hearing how it's going for you.
JK

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@tshere95

Honestly, I don't want to have to depend on these drugs anymore to make me feel right. I think there are other ways to deal with issues. Herbal remedies along with meditation are a couple of these ways. Most doctors don't even know why they prescribe these drugs. It's all about money. It's all just trial and error and we are the ones who are reaping the side effects. It's ridiculous. I want off. If I have to go cold turkey, I will.

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Everyone's experience is different. I'm sure you understand that. For me, I have had enough with being dependent on a drug for my mental well being. I have gone through long periods of my life where I did not take any anti-depressants and got along just fine. After my husband died in 2001, I went into a deep depression for 2 years. It was horrible. Effexor helped me tremendously, but I feel that now that my life has stability, I want to do it on my own. I let the Effexor run my life for way too long. I also know how difficult it is to get off this drug and I want to do it now while I have the presence of mind to make my own decisions. Not to be gross, but my chronic constipation is a huge reason to get off this drug. Having to be dependent on laxatives is no way to live. Also, I was experiencing extreme dry mouth to the degree that I could not fall asleep without a cough drop in my mouth to ease the choking sensation. I gained 15 pounds while on Effexor and now after 4 months of weaning off, I'm down 10 of those pounds. My mind feels clearer and although I do deal with occasional panic attacks, I am able to talk myself down. Hopefully, things will level off in time and I'm willing to wait. I do hope my thoughts are helpful.

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@tshere95

Honestly, I don't want to have to depend on these drugs anymore to make me feel right. I think there are other ways to deal with issues. Herbal remedies along with meditation are a couple of these ways. Most doctors don't even know why they prescribe these drugs. It's all about money. It's all just trial and error and we are the ones who are reaping the side effects. It's ridiculous. I want off. If I have to go cold turkey, I will.

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@tshere95 I am experiencing the same symptoms. Effexor is by far the worse medication I have ever taken. I am currently tapering off of it and the withdraws are not comfortable at all. I made the decision to come off it because I am in a better place in my life than I was when I allowed my doctor to talk me into this medication. I understand the “ zombie “ feeling! I feel that way everyday and just really have NO energy. I am currently taking 37.5mg. I was on 75mg and recently just decreased it and toughed it out. I am on day 3 of the decrease and I’m actually doing better than I expected. I have been taking Effexor for a little over a year and I truly wish I would have never started. I know there is light at the end of the tunnel so I am pushing forward and asking God for healing! I am a woman of God so I know this too shall pass.

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@contentandwell

Hi everyone. I have followed these posts a lot and am horrified at what you have all gone through withdrawing from effexor and other pharmaceuticals. The question has occurred to me though, if you have a condition that some of these were prescribed for, why do you want to get off of them? I know very little about all of this but I am close to someone who is on bupropion,citalopram, and lamogitrine. He was on effexor at some point but not for long, he got off of it quite rapidly. If these drugs are helping why do people want to discontinue them? If there is a real problem with them then I would want to encourage him to taper off. I know he feels he needs them though.
Please excuse my ignorance, I just care about this person a lot and am concerned, and also very confused.
Thanks.
JK

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@contentandwell – You ask a very important question. I can’t answer for everyone, but I can answer for me. I started therapy about a decade ago to help me cope with some situational issues that caused me some very severe depression. Venlafaxine had its place and I might even go so far as to say that it saved my life.

I am in a much different place in my life now, and no longer need the strict emotional stability that venlafaxine has provided. Now, I find that venlafaxine has actually provided *too much* emotional stability – to the point of stagnation, or emotional blunting. Sure, I don’t feel the low-lows that I once did, but more importantly at this time, I also don’t feel the high-highs either. These are part of what make life so precious.

I’m starting to get some of that back, and I’m realizing more and more each day what I’ve been missing.

I hope that makes sense …(?)

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@tshere95

Honestly, I don't want to have to depend on these drugs anymore to make me feel right. I think there are other ways to deal with issues. Herbal remedies along with meditation are a couple of these ways. Most doctors don't even know why they prescribe these drugs. It's all about money. It's all just trial and error and we are the ones who are reaping the side effects. It's ridiculous. I want off. If I have to go cold turkey, I will.

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Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect, @blssed81. Thanks for your encouraging words for @tshere95 and also sharing some of your story.

Wondering how it's going today with having decreased your venlafaxine (Effexor)? Are you still seeing side effects?

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@megannicole

This discussion has really helped me realize that I’m not crazy and it’s not normal to feel this way. I’ve been taking Effexor for a couple years and talked to my dr about lowering the dosage because I have no appetite on it!

I went from 225mg extended release to 150mg. Day one and two we’re ok, but by day three I had horrible vertigo, stomach and back pains and puked for almost 12 hours. I can’t believe how miserable I feel. I messaged my doctor about it and am hoping she can give me something to curb these horrible withdraws.

I’m a tiny adult female, weigh about 100 pounds. I think we cut the dosage too much too quickly and now I’m paying the price. I am so tired and physically unconmfortable idk what to do.

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Hello, @megannicole, and welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. Glad the posts on this thread have helped you feel normal in your tapering off of venlafaxine (Effexor). Yes, many members have commented it's been very tough.

I applaud your decision to contact your doctor to talk about how your taper is going. How are you feeling this morning?

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@contentandwell

Hi everyone. I have followed these posts a lot and am horrified at what you have all gone through withdrawing from effexor and other pharmaceuticals. The question has occurred to me though, if you have a condition that some of these were prescribed for, why do you want to get off of them? I know very little about all of this but I am close to someone who is on bupropion,citalopram, and lamogitrine. He was on effexor at some point but not for long, he got off of it quite rapidly. If these drugs are helping why do people want to discontinue them? If there is a real problem with them then I would want to encourage him to taper off. I know he feels he needs them though.
Please excuse my ignorance, I just care about this person a lot and am concerned, and also very confused.
Thanks.
JK

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@efexnot Thank you so much for your response, I really appreciate it and I understand perfectly. I think the person I am concerned about has convinced himself that he absolutely needs these medications. Sometimes I feel like he wants to need them, as odd as that may sound.
I realize that depression is a real illness but when I consider this person, his depressions seem to me to all be situational, and with very good cause. He is convinced he is bipolar, but that is misdiagnosed something like 60+ percent of the time because the diagnosis is made based on what the patient says.
Thank you again. This really is such a difficult thing to deal with, both for the person who is suffering from it and for the people who care deeply about that person.
JK

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@tshere95

Honestly, I don't want to have to depend on these drugs anymore to make me feel right. I think there are other ways to deal with issues. Herbal remedies along with meditation are a couple of these ways. Most doctors don't even know why they prescribe these drugs. It's all about money. It's all just trial and error and we are the ones who are reaping the side effects. It's ridiculous. I want off. If I have to go cold turkey, I will.

Jump to this post

Good luck on your journey. I've gone from 150 mg down to 50 mg for about the past week. It's not as bad as I though. Yes, there is absolutely no energy whatsoever. There's more to life than this. I fully believe that. Yes, this too shall pass.

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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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Let's encourage each other!!! I have decided – this time for sure! – to wean off Effexor. Been on 4 prescriptions since I was prescribed Prozac about 14 years ago. Several have told me, including a pharmacist, that Effexor is the worst to get off of, so when you and I both succeed we will feel we have accomplished something really great! Right now down from 150 mg to 75 mg and will go to 37.5 in a few weeks. Been there once before and had to go back to 75 mg and then up to 150 mg. I've had some withdrawal stuff – sadness, flu-like symptons, feeling lethargic – but what I've read which I didn't know before, is that these feelings will pass. And when I have stabilized with the 37.5 I am going to ask for smaller dosages until I get to 0.

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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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Determined to wean myself off of Effexor and looking for ideas and to offer support to anyone else going through this.

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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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@gwenaloveseveryone2 I wish you great success in your withdrawal. From what I have read here, this is not an easy task. You sound very positive though so I am sure you will manage to push past the tough times and come out victorious.
JK

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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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Hi, @gwenaloveseveryone2 — thanks for being so encouraging to the members in this discussion. What you describe about going down in dosage and then needing to go back up again sounds typical of what others have reported in this tapering journey.

What part of the withdrawal side effects has been most challenging for you?

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