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

@rmj5

I'm so sorry. Prozac made me more anxious when I tried it years ago. I hope you can find a Dr. that can help

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Well I've heard it takes a while to work so I'm trying to give it a fair trial but the anxiety is unreal, all day everyday. I'm maybe thinking trying cymbalta which is similar to effexor, I just don't know. Just want my life back its hard

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@babydoll

Good Morning everyone! I have no idea how to start a thread, so I just hit reply! I am looking for suggestions. I have been Effexor free since February! Yes, I had a horrible time, had to have a bridge of Prozac, didn’t help at first, but now I feel great. I still get anxiety, but not as bad. My problem now is restless leg syndrome! I have had this diagnosis for years and take Requip for it, but since stopping Effexor it is worse than ever! I can not sleep for the aching feeling of having to keep moving my legs. It starts around 6 PM and I’m walking, dancing, whatever to keep it at bay! Has anyone else had this problem? Also, I want you all to know that each and everyone of you are in my prayers, this is a journey we are on to feel better and I love the support and suggestions that I read from you all! Keep smiling your all beautiful and worth it!

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are u still on Prozac?if so how much do you take daily?

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@notaround

Wanted to check in so people know I'm still alive. Still venlafaxine free. I don't think I'm getting any withdrawal symptoms. Prozac bridge worked for me. Didn't help the depression but it stopped the withdrawal.

I'm not really reading this forum regularly anymore so sorry if I worried anyone.

Maybe someday I'll find a treatment that works. Next step is a prescription stimulant under the idea that if I have more energy I'll actually be able to do the self care stuff. Still angling for a clinical trial for ketamine.

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hello. could you please tell me for how long you ve being on prozac bridge?

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@sandij

How is everyone here doing? I'm hanging in there, taking vistaril, 10 mg prozac, omega 3, I have a wave almost every day like clockwork between 11 and 3-4 pm. Grateful it's only those few hours, and doesn't interfere with my work. I've been able to return to almost a full schedule of teaching (for me that's 2 to 3 hours early am), which was something I was completely unable to do in June. Also I'm going to the gym 3 or 4 times a week with my neighbor and seeing a therapist. Although I spend lots of time trying to explain to the therapist that I've had and managed anxiety all my life, no thanks to effexor, and I'm needing support for the WITHDRAWAL. The techniques she has given me are helpful. It's just frustrating to have to educate these professionals, lol. I'm sure between all of us here we have boatloads of valuable information for them!!! Grateful today for recovery from this drug, my husband for his patience and my God.

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for how long are u on Prozac?

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@cmatthew88

hello. could you please tell me for how long you ve being on prozac bridge?

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Welcome Matthew. I see that you are interested in learning more about using Prozac as a bridge to taper off of Effexor from other members like @sandij @notaround @babydoll. I think you might also be interested in this post by @texasduchess where she gives great information here:
https://connect.mayoclinic.org/comment/126429/
Matthew, have you started tapering?

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I have been trying to ween off Effexor for 7mnths now. The first two times I went off completely I ended up in the ER. First for brain zaps and the second for out of control anxiety and thoughts of being better off dead. This has been the worst. I have lost my job. As it turns out, rage isn't the best withdrawl symptom for a preschool teacher. No doctor has been able to help. (I live in a small town) I don't know how I'd get a job in this condition. I'm so confused sometimes. I need help

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@sherry47

I have been trying to ween off Effexor for 7mnths now. The first two times I went off completely I ended up in the ER. First for brain zaps and the second for out of control anxiety and thoughts of being better off dead. This has been the worst. I have lost my job. As it turns out, rage isn't the best withdrawl symptom for a preschool teacher. No doctor has been able to help. (I live in a small town) I don't know how I'd get a job in this condition. I'm so confused sometimes. I need help

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Please start at Page 1 of this thread and read ALL of it. There's a lot of good information on this discussion board; I hope you'll start at the beginning and work your way through up to the present. You will note that the recurring recommendation is to taper off Effexor (venlafaxine) slowly—drop to a lower dosage that is no more than 5–10% less and stay at the new level for weeks (even months) AND stabilize before dropping again. Withdrawal symptoms (brain zaps, anxiety, hopelessness, rage, etc.) are the big tipoff that a taper is being done too aggressively.

You say that no doctor has been able to help. Sadly, the NORM is that often doctors don't know how to get someone off antidepressants; as @jakedduck1 said, "If there is an expert on getting off Effexor, they are hiding very well." You can help yourself—read this thread, do some online research, print out articles to give your doctor. Here are some articles about the difficulty of getting off psychiatric drugs, tapering off and the importance of tapering slowly—
https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2018703293/going-off-antidepressants-take-time-to-quit
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/30/antidepressant-withdrawal-symptoms-doctors-side-effects
https://natashatracy.com/treatment-issues/withdrawal/stop-antidepressants-minimize-withdrawal/
https://natashatracy.com/treatment-issues/withdrawal/antidepressants-effexorpristiq-venlafaxinedesvenlafaxine/
https://www.benzoinfo.com/benzodiazepine-tapering-strategies/
Once your doctor is up to speed re discontinuing psychiatric drugs, you can ask your doctor to prescribe a different formulation of Effexor—changing from extended-release capsules to regular-release tablets (I was on 25mg regular-release tablets that could be cut), or to specify a certain brand of capsules (@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—see @sandij, or @doorman on how to do this). Or your doctor can write a prescription for a compounding pharmacy to make tapered doses for you (the extra cost may well be worth it because you can glide down in incremental amounts, rather than make rather large jagged drops). You can also ask your doctor about a "Prozac bridge"—essentially, the Prozac cushions the effect of no Effexor and lets you "ride out" the withdrawal process—
https://natashatracy.com/treatment-issues/withdrawal/antidepressants-effexorpristiq-venlafaxinedesvenlafaxine/
https://www.depressionforums.org/forums/topic/107532-coming-off-of-effexor-with-prozac-bridge/
Even with a slow taper, you can experience withdrawal symptoms until you stabilize at the new lower level; OTC medications and supplements can help with some of the withdrawal symptoms (you can click on my name and go back through my past comments to see the supplements I used). Ben*dryl, Bon*ine, or other seasickness remedies can reduce/minimize the dizziness/vertigo. Sucking on Pepto Bism*l lozenges and eating dry saltine crackers can help with nausea. Folks who experienced "brain zaps" found relief by taking fish oil capsules. Do NOT take l-tryptophan, or 5-HTP while still on Effexor (can trigger serotonin syndrome). Here's a good article re how to mitigate withdrawal effects with supplements—
https://www.4mind4life.com/effexor-withdrawal-symptoms
Distraction during the weaning process helps—reading, hobbies, work, chores, gardening, exercise, etc. But some things can just be too agitating, so be mindful of what TV and movies you watch, or any video games you play—nothing frenetic, violent, or disturbing. Same for what you read, or listen to (no atonal, or dissonant music).

There is quite a benefit to getting your hands in dirt. There's a microbiome in it that acts as a natural anti-depressant. Even if you aren't up to a lot of gardening (or that interested), a houseplant, or an outdoor potted plant can lift your spirits and give you something beautiful to look at and/or smell.

Getting natural light to your eyes is extremely beneficial for lifting your mood and is calming … sunbathing isn't required, but getting out and seeing daylight—take a walk, or at least, get out of your house for 5–10 minutes, even if it's just stepping out onto a patio.

Effexor is a very powerful antidepressant that affects your brain's neurotransmitters–serotonin and norepinephrine. While reducing, or after getting off Effexor, it takes your brain a while to figure out how to rebalance serotonin and norepinephrine. Each of us is our own guinea pig; we're all just guessing here on what tapering schedule's going to work for us. Only you know how you feel; don't let anyone rush you. Make it easy on yourself—take as much time to taper off as you need to.

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Where is your provider? You need to get back on Effexor or another antidepressant ASAP until you get this figured out!

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@texasduchess

Please start at Page 1 of this thread and read ALL of it. There's a lot of good information on this discussion board; I hope you'll start at the beginning and work your way through up to the present. You will note that the recurring recommendation is to taper off Effexor (venlafaxine) slowly—drop to a lower dosage that is no more than 5–10% less and stay at the new level for weeks (even months) AND stabilize before dropping again. Withdrawal symptoms (brain zaps, anxiety, hopelessness, rage, etc.) are the big tipoff that a taper is being done too aggressively.

You say that no doctor has been able to help. Sadly, the NORM is that often doctors don't know how to get someone off antidepressants; as @jakedduck1 said, "If there is an expert on getting off Effexor, they are hiding very well." You can help yourself—read this thread, do some online research, print out articles to give your doctor. Here are some articles about the difficulty of getting off psychiatric drugs, tapering off and the importance of tapering slowly—
https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2018703293/going-off-antidepressants-take-time-to-quit
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/30/antidepressant-withdrawal-symptoms-doctors-side-effects
https://natashatracy.com/treatment-issues/withdrawal/stop-antidepressants-minimize-withdrawal/
https://natashatracy.com/treatment-issues/withdrawal/antidepressants-effexorpristiq-venlafaxinedesvenlafaxine/
https://www.benzoinfo.com/benzodiazepine-tapering-strategies/
Once your doctor is up to speed re discontinuing psychiatric drugs, you can ask your doctor to prescribe a different formulation of Effexor—changing from extended-release capsules to regular-release tablets (I was on 25mg regular-release tablets that could be cut), or to specify a certain brand of capsules (@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—see @sandij, or @doorman on how to do this). Or your doctor can write a prescription for a compounding pharmacy to make tapered doses for you (the extra cost may well be worth it because you can glide down in incremental amounts, rather than make rather large jagged drops). You can also ask your doctor about a "Prozac bridge"—essentially, the Prozac cushions the effect of no Effexor and lets you "ride out" the withdrawal process—
https://natashatracy.com/treatment-issues/withdrawal/antidepressants-effexorpristiq-venlafaxinedesvenlafaxine/
https://www.depressionforums.org/forums/topic/107532-coming-off-of-effexor-with-prozac-bridge/
Even with a slow taper, you can experience withdrawal symptoms until you stabilize at the new lower level; OTC medications and supplements can help with some of the withdrawal symptoms (you can click on my name and go back through my past comments to see the supplements I used). Ben*dryl, Bon*ine, or other seasickness remedies can reduce/minimize the dizziness/vertigo. Sucking on Pepto Bism*l lozenges and eating dry saltine crackers can help with nausea. Folks who experienced "brain zaps" found relief by taking fish oil capsules. Do NOT take l-tryptophan, or 5-HTP while still on Effexor (can trigger serotonin syndrome). Here's a good article re how to mitigate withdrawal effects with supplements—
https://www.4mind4life.com/effexor-withdrawal-symptoms
Distraction during the weaning process helps—reading, hobbies, work, chores, gardening, exercise, etc. But some things can just be too agitating, so be mindful of what TV and movies you watch, or any video games you play—nothing frenetic, violent, or disturbing. Same for what you read, or listen to (no atonal, or dissonant music).

There is quite a benefit to getting your hands in dirt. There's a microbiome in it that acts as a natural anti-depressant. Even if you aren't up to a lot of gardening (or that interested), a houseplant, or an outdoor potted plant can lift your spirits and give you something beautiful to look at and/or smell.

Getting natural light to your eyes is extremely beneficial for lifting your mood and is calming … sunbathing isn't required, but getting out and seeing daylight—take a walk, or at least, get out of your house for 5–10 minutes, even if it's just stepping out onto a patio.

Effexor is a very powerful antidepressant that affects your brain's neurotransmitters–serotonin and norepinephrine. While reducing, or after getting off Effexor, it takes your brain a while to figure out how to rebalance serotonin and norepinephrine. Each of us is our own guinea pig; we're all just guessing here on what tapering schedule's going to work for us. Only you know how you feel; don't let anyone rush you. Make it easy on yourself—take as much time to taper off as you need to.

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Excellent advice.

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I have been taking 75 MG of effexor for about 5 years and then increased to 150 mg as I didn't feel it was working effectively anymore and was on that for a year before I consulted with my doctor to try something else. I started taking wellbutrin and we tapered myself down from the 150 to 37.5 over the duration of 6 weeks and that went relatively smooth (minus some moodiness and extra anxiety that I could handle) Once I started the 37.5 dose one day and nothing the next is when I started having severe issues. Word would not come to me, I had dyslexia with my numbers, I couldn't multi-task ( I work in a fast paced environment and require attention to detail). The brain zaps were increasing and the ability to function normally was not an option. I saw my doctor who offered for me to stay on 37.5 MG without weaning off anymore, which I didn't want to do, or stop taking the medication as the every other day was not working for me. I chose to stop taking the medication and take the rest of the week off of work to push through it. I have increased my omega 3s to 300 mg, am taking prenatal vitamins for the extra vitamins, magnesium, and benadryl (to sleep). I also take Epson salt baths every other day..I am on day 5 of no effexor. Day 4 was almost constant brain zaps and headache. I woke up today feeling OK and with hope. Since I was feeling ok, my husband and I went to supper and walked around home depot for an hour and my brain zaps and headache were back tenfold…once I got home and laid down without movement, they aren't bad again.
Is there anything else I can do to decrease the brain zaps? I feel I will be ok cognitively but I am not sure I can function at work for a full day with the brain zaps and I only have one more day off before they are expecting me back. Any advice is appreciated!!

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@nikkik

I have been taking 75 MG of effexor for about 5 years and then increased to 150 mg as I didn't feel it was working effectively anymore and was on that for a year before I consulted with my doctor to try something else. I started taking wellbutrin and we tapered myself down from the 150 to 37.5 over the duration of 6 weeks and that went relatively smooth (minus some moodiness and extra anxiety that I could handle) Once I started the 37.5 dose one day and nothing the next is when I started having severe issues. Word would not come to me, I had dyslexia with my numbers, I couldn't multi-task ( I work in a fast paced environment and require attention to detail). The brain zaps were increasing and the ability to function normally was not an option. I saw my doctor who offered for me to stay on 37.5 MG without weaning off anymore, which I didn't want to do, or stop taking the medication as the every other day was not working for me. I chose to stop taking the medication and take the rest of the week off of work to push through it. I have increased my omega 3s to 300 mg, am taking prenatal vitamins for the extra vitamins, magnesium, and benadryl (to sleep). I also take Epson salt baths every other day..I am on day 5 of no effexor. Day 4 was almost constant brain zaps and headache. I woke up today feeling OK and with hope. Since I was feeling ok, my husband and I went to supper and walked around home depot for an hour and my brain zaps and headache were back tenfold…once I got home and laid down without movement, they aren't bad again.
Is there anything else I can do to decrease the brain zaps? I feel I will be ok cognitively but I am not sure I can function at work for a full day with the brain zaps and I only have one more day off before they are expecting me back. Any advice is appreciated!!

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It’s imperative to taper this drug very slowly. It may be impossible for you to work while tapering. I would tell you to speak to your provider but it would probably be to no avail. If I were you I would go back to the dose that make the side effects go away and then search for a doctor that may be able to help you taper properly. This isn’t a race, it’s your brain and well-being.

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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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Thanks for this. I've been on Effexor for 21 years. Just working to get off now. No depression issues these days but the side affects are tough. I was looking to see how long they would last. Been easing off for 6 weeks and would love to be done with the dizziness, headaches, sleep issues. Your advice is very helpful.

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