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

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Depression & Anxiety group.

@2degrees

I'm off effexor for about a month now. I've had slowly dissipating "brain buzzing", which now is very low. I'm still emotional, also slowly abating–I just watched "the Blind side" with my son last night and was pretty teary. My kids find it funny–we just laugh at it. Most notable is the difference in energy I have between before and after. I walk about 5 km every day trying to lose the muffin top on my belly.

I'm praying for all of you to cope with depression/anxiety/medication that's suitable for you and/or trying to wean off it. I first experienced depression and anxiety at 16 and it terrified me. I never felt so alone in my life. I remember telling my parents that I wanted to see a psychiatrist and it felt like I was telling them that I was a serial killer–it felt like I was asking for something that would become a deep family secret. Now, at 55, I'm a high school teacher and I openly tell my students about what I've been through and how it had such a oppressive effect on my youth. There's a much better supply of medication to address such dark feelings now and I don't want any of my kids to be going through this alone. My parents got me an appointment with a psychiatrist, which was absolutely horrible. I thought I would lie on a couch and talk while he'd unravel some dark thing inside me and I would be cured. Live and learn. He had no time to talk, laughed at one point, and wrote me two prescriptions: one, for an antidepressant (whose name I can't remember) and one of an anti-anxiety medication (ativan). I would wish either of these two medications on no one, not even my worst enemy. The antidepressant made me so sleepy I couldn't stay awake and the ativan helped anxiety somewhat but made me a basket case if I missed a pill. I never thought I would live to this age, go to university, have romantic relationships, have children or a job. I didn't think I would live this long. I had come to terms that a regular life was no longer in the picture and that I would soon be institutionalized and spent the rest of my days in a psych ward. Miraculously, I suffered through it for about two years and it disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared in the first place. Over the next few decades it was always there, in a far diminished state–just enough to remind me to "not get to comfortable". At age 39, my mother was dying of cancer and I was going through a relentless battle to see my newly born son as his mother was trying to keep me from him. My doctor put me on effexor and I realized that medical profession had come a long way since my teens. I tried to quit cold turkey a few times and, each time, thought I was losing my mind. My friend, who had become a psychiatrist, said that I would have to wean off effexor. It didn't make sense to me because, I thought, "won't that just be like a somewhat lesser torture drawn out over several weeks. I started weaning years later (this last February), tapered it down and now I feel great.

I hadn't plan on writing such an autobiography at this time. I just sincerely wish all of you the best. I've known several people who take AD's or anxiety cocktails and many have struggled with finding the right recipe by trial and error. Depression, anxiety and often the medication that goes with it can have a debilitating effect that is not understandable to those that have not experienced it. Other people seem to think that depression makes you feel sad all the time and anxiety makes you feel like you've just drank 10 cups of coffee. I had a group of students in my English class that did a presentation about depression: they laughed and subtly mocked those with depression, saying that those with depression just "need God in their lives" and implied that they just feel sorry for themselves. Another student outed himself in the class as one who experiences depression and they condescendingly patted him on the back and said "it's okay", with a smirk. I was apoplectic. I told them that they had no idea what they were talking about and gave my life story. After class I talked to my student that had depression and he understood that they had no idea what they were talking about. I then gave a free lesson on meditation to any students that were interested. Meditation has helped tremendously at keeping depression at bay.

Whether you want to continue medication, consider it or go off it, please do not be afraid to do what is necessary. Nothing is permanent. There are great days in store for you and it doesn't have to ruin your life. I hope that, one day, you'll look back at such dark times, like I have, and say "Thank God I fought through it."

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Oops, should have clicked on your address first to see how you did your taper. Thanks!

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@jtj

Hi all! I'm new to the group, but have been reading pages and pages of old postings. Here's my story and an ask for assistance.

I have been on 150 mg of Venlafaxine (generic Effexor) for many years for chronic depression and anxiety. For several reasons, I wish to quit taking this medication. I know how painful withdrawal can be, having been through it accidentally over a holiday weekend when I ran out of pills several years ago.

I am working with my psychiatrist, who lowered my dosage from 150 to 112.5 back in March. She thinks I should not discontinue use, as in her opinion it is "working." Yes, my depression and anxiety are in check, but I still do not want to be on THIS drug. (I have pretty much tried everything else though.) So she agreed reluctantly to assist me. Due to the pandemic, I have not seen her for a few months. On my own, I tapered from 112.5 to 75 mg. After a month on 75 mg, I then went down to 37.5 the last couple of weeks. I have had NO withdrawal symptoms with each reduced dosage. I now want to taper to 0. This seems to be the hardest step from what I've read. Not sure if I should first try the 37.5 mg every other day? Or remove the beads inside the capsule (seems tedious)? Since I've had no other withdrawal symptoms could I do this quickly? Or is this last step the one that needs to be dragged out the longest?

I should add, even though I've reduced my dosage from 150 to 37.5, I still feel happy with no anxiety (during this pandemic no less!), and no depression. Makes me think I've been over medicated for years. I am hopeful with the many life changes I've been through the last few years (sleep apnea treatment, retirement, and now grandchildren) my "chronic" issues won't come back. Perhaps naive, but I feel I owe it to myself to try. Thoughts? Appreciate all feedback.

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I really really think you should taper more slowly. I did taper off Paxil by myself over nine months. Evidently it wasn’t slow enough as I wound up in the hospital after losing a lot of weight, crying all the time and becoming agoraphobic. Terrible insomnia and 0 appetite. These symptoms did not show up until a few months after I thought I was in the clear. Don’t be fooled by how well you’re feeling now. Paxil is about as bad as Effexor to taper successfully. These drugs are both lifesavers and evil.

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@sears

I really really think you should taper more slowly. I did taper off Paxil by myself over nine months. Evidently it wasn’t slow enough as I wound up in the hospital after losing a lot of weight, crying all the time and becoming agoraphobic. Terrible insomnia and 0 appetite. These symptoms did not show up until a few months after I thought I was in the clear. Don’t be fooled by how well you’re feeling now. Paxil is about as bad as Effexor to taper successfully. These drugs are both lifesavers and evil.

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sears – "These drugs are both lifesavers and evil." What a mind-blowing statement. I believe it is probably accurate. When I became, at midlife, unexpectedly delusional and quite psychotic (had been bipolar most of my life without knowing it) a good shrink pulled me back from the brink with a long, evolving series of psychiatric meds.

However, she neglected to ever consider getting me off the meds at any point. Years went by, she died, I got old and progressively lost a lot of hearing. Research told me the hearing loss could be attributable to the powerful meds, and I seemed pretty sane, so a year ago, I took myself off them gradually.

Now I have just discovered that my most recent meds, which I was on for years, are BOTH associated with a higher chance of having Alzheimer's. My message to everybody on meds – never stop researching the effects of whatever meds you are on, or were on in the past. You need to know as much as possible.

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Research, research and more research. At age 67 I’m now paying a terrible price for listening to my doctor of 30 years. He deserted me when I expressed my desire to quit taking Xanax and Paxil. He deserted me because he didn’t know how to safely get me off these drugs. And guess what? A doctor is absolutely legally allowed to desert a patient at any time for any reason. Fortunately after many months I found a doctor willing to help me. At my age it wasn’t easy. Most are reluctant to take patients 65 or older.

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@sears

Research, research and more research. At age 67 I’m now paying a terrible price for listening to my doctor of 30 years. He deserted me when I expressed my desire to quit taking Xanax and Paxil. He deserted me because he didn’t know how to safely get me off these drugs. And guess what? A doctor is absolutely legally allowed to desert a patient at any time for any reason. Fortunately after many months I found a doctor willing to help me. At my age it wasn’t easy. Most are reluctant to take patients 65 or older.

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I didn't realize desertion by doctor was a problem. That is shameful. Very glad you were able to find a new doc. Congrats on asserting yourself for the sake of your health, and good luck!

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@jtj

I would be interested in your tapering schedule you used to get off of Effexor since Feb.

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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

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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Your story is very inspiring, thank you so much for sharing!

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@sears

Research, research and more research. At age 67 I’m now paying a terrible price for listening to my doctor of 30 years. He deserted me when I expressed my desire to quit taking Xanax and Paxil. He deserted me because he didn’t know how to safely get me off these drugs. And guess what? A doctor is absolutely legally allowed to desert a patient at any time for any reason. Fortunately after many months I found a doctor willing to help me. At my age it wasn’t easy. Most are reluctant to take patients 65 or older.

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@sears That is absolutely awful! He must not have been a very smart doctor. Was he a psychiatrist, they usually know how to get patients off of drugs like that. I'm glad you found another doctor. I go to a psychiatrist, we have mental illness in our family. My mom took her life at age 69 and I'm 67. My son is Bipolar 1 and his wife controls him, but yet I'm glad he has someone, but we have not contact with him or our 8 year old granddaughter, who I haven't seen since she was 3. We have skyped with her when she's at her other grand mothers, but she lives in Chicago and they live in NYC. The only thing I can do is pray to have our son to come home. You are loved.

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@lilypaws

@sears That is absolutely awful! He must not have been a very smart doctor. Was he a psychiatrist, they usually know how to get patients off of drugs like that. I'm glad you found another doctor. I go to a psychiatrist, we have mental illness in our family. My mom took her life at age 69 and I'm 67. My son is Bipolar 1 and his wife controls him, but yet I'm glad he has someone, but we have not contact with him or our 8 year old granddaughter, who I haven't seen since she was 3. We have skyped with her when she's at her other grand mothers, but she lives in Chicago and they live in NYC. The only thing I can do is pray to have our son to come home. You are loved.

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Yes he was a physchiatrist.

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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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