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

@nat31

Do you think I could reinstate after 5 weeks off and a failed prozac bridge? I'm so miserable and the anxiety/restlessness is beyond manageable. I did taper for 6.5 months but seems that was too fast. 10 year user, 6 on 150mg and 4 years on 225mg

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Yeah, I think your taper was too fast. Like you, I was on Effexor (venlafaxine) for a long time—18 years. I warn you, Effexor gets stored in fatty tissue all over your body I was only ever on 25 mg Effexor/venlafaxine (for hot flashes caused by breast cancer treatment); I didn't develop withdrawal symptoms until 6.5 weeks AFTER I slowly tapered off. I think it took those weeks for all my body stores to be used up.

I don't know if reinstating would help you, or not. You could try it for a couple of days and see. In my case, I went into the whole process of getting off Effexor without realizing how difficult it would be—my oncologist just said to cut my pills, take a quarter less for a couple of weeks and cut again by a quarter until I was off. I had what was left of a six-month supply and no prescription refill. I didn't know I was in trouble until 6.5 weeks after my last dose. I started researching Effexor withdrawal BECAUSE I was experiencing it. Once I read others' stories, I didn't think my reinstating after so long would do any good. What did help was to take a number of OTC supplements—GABA (a brain neurotransmitter) and ESPECIALLY, L-tryptophan, an amino acid which the body changes into serotonin. (NOTE to others reading this post who are still on Effexor—Do NOT take L-tryptophan, or 5-HTP while still on Effexor as this can trigger serotonin syndrome.) You can click on my name and go to Discussions to read my previous posts and see how much/how often I took the various supplements.

I'm sorry the Prozac "bridge" didn't work for you. Did your doctor cross-titrate between the two antidepressants (have you go down on the Effexor and go up on the Prozac), or did he just have you switch over to Prozac?—
(https://www.depressionforums.org/forums/topic/107532-coming-off-of-effexor-with-prozac-bridge/)

A commenter to the above forum wrote, "If you have issues with anxiety/irritability/etc., then you can take a benzo temporarily, like Xanax, Ativan (short-acting), Klonopin, Valium (long-acting), etc."
I can attest to the effectiveness of Valium for those issues. As well as my daily regimen of OTC supplements, my oncologist prescribed 5 mg Valium/diazepam to take as needed when my akathisia and/or anxiety got too bad. (I took those Valium sparingly, seldom more than a 1/2 tablet for a day, or two, as the prescription was for a small quantity of pills.) A couple of months later, I ended up going to Care Now after a particularly stressful Friday at work because my agitation was through the roof. The doctor I saw was familiar (very unusual!) with Effexor withdrawal. She had me stay home for three days and gave me prescriptions for l-methylfolate (an easily metabolized version of Vitamin B) and Valium. I was to take a whole Valium twice a day and rest. Her thinking was that I needed to use a significant amount of Valium to stabilize (she described it as "getting ahead of the anxiety") and then back off the drug.

Hope this helps.

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@texasduchess

Yeah, I think your taper was too fast. Like you, I was on Effexor (venlafaxine) for a long time—18 years. I warn you, Effexor gets stored in fatty tissue all over your body I was only ever on 25 mg Effexor/venlafaxine (for hot flashes caused by breast cancer treatment); I didn't develop withdrawal symptoms until 6.5 weeks AFTER I slowly tapered off. I think it took those weeks for all my body stores to be used up.

I don't know if reinstating would help you, or not. You could try it for a couple of days and see. In my case, I went into the whole process of getting off Effexor without realizing how difficult it would be—my oncologist just said to cut my pills, take a quarter less for a couple of weeks and cut again by a quarter until I was off. I had what was left of a six-month supply and no prescription refill. I didn't know I was in trouble until 6.5 weeks after my last dose. I started researching Effexor withdrawal BECAUSE I was experiencing it. Once I read others' stories, I didn't think my reinstating after so long would do any good. What did help was to take a number of OTC supplements—GABA (a brain neurotransmitter) and ESPECIALLY, L-tryptophan, an amino acid which the body changes into serotonin. (NOTE to others reading this post who are still on Effexor—Do NOT take L-tryptophan, or 5-HTP while still on Effexor as this can trigger serotonin syndrome.) You can click on my name and go to Discussions to read my previous posts and see how much/how often I took the various supplements.

I'm sorry the Prozac "bridge" didn't work for you. Did your doctor cross-titrate between the two antidepressants (have you go down on the Effexor and go up on the Prozac), or did he just have you switch over to Prozac?—
(https://www.depressionforums.org/forums/topic/107532-coming-off-of-effexor-with-prozac-bridge/)

A commenter to the above forum wrote, "If you have issues with anxiety/irritability/etc., then you can take a benzo temporarily, like Xanax, Ativan (short-acting), Klonopin, Valium (long-acting), etc."
I can attest to the effectiveness of Valium for those issues. As well as my daily regimen of OTC supplements, my oncologist prescribed 5 mg Valium/diazepam to take as needed when my akathisia and/or anxiety got too bad. (I took those Valium sparingly, seldom more than a 1/2 tablet for a day, or two, as the prescription was for a small quantity of pills.) A couple of months later, I ended up going to Care Now after a particularly stressful Friday at work because my agitation was through the roof. The doctor I saw was familiar (very unusual!) with Effexor withdrawal. She had me stay home for three days and gave me prescriptions for l-methylfolate (an easily metabolized version of Vitamin B) and Valium. I was to take a whole Valium twice a day and rest. Her thinking was that I needed to use a significant amount of Valium to stabilize (she described it as "getting ahead of the anxiety") and then back off the drug.

Hope this helps.

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When I got down to 37.5mg effexor the doctor added in 20mg prozac I took them both together for 3 weeks before discontinuating effexor and upping the prozac….epic fail! My doctor gives me 5mg valium but I have never took anymore than 2.5mg at a time and even then I didn't think it helped. I really am at a loss on what to do, I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

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@nat31
It seems to me your going at this the hard way.
Although cutting down EXTREMELY SLOWLY isn't a guarantee you won't ever have side effects but it reduces your chances greatly but I do not doubt that it would be better than how you're going at it. Just my personal opinion but I'm not a fan of adding additional drugs into an already volatile situation however some disagree with me on this. Do we have your doctor to thank for the mess you are in?
I wish you the best of luck,
Jake

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@jakedduck1

@nat31
It seems to me your going at this the hard way.
Although cutting down EXTREMELY SLOWLY isn't a guarantee you won't ever have side effects but it reduces your chances greatly but I do not doubt that it would be better than how you're going at it. Just my personal opinion but I'm not a fan of adding additional drugs into an already volatile situation however some disagree with me on this. Do we have your doctor to thank for the mess you are in?
I wish you the best of luck,
Jake

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Yes these doctors are clueless, I'm in the UK and the mental health system here is unbelievable. Do you think going back on after 5 weeks off, stabilising then tapering super slowly would benefit me? I'm so miserable and barely functioning right now, the prozac definitely didn't help

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@kbschoe

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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@kbschoe
Dizziness is both a side effect and one a withdrawal symptom of Effexor so maybe a decrease in your taper will ease or get rid of the dizziness.
After being on this medication for such a long period of time I would taper very slowly.
Would you mind sharing what your dose was when you started tapering & your taper schedule?
Good luck,
Jake

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@nikkik

Jake,
Unfortunately, this is how my doctor advised me to taper. I understand I did it wrong, but now that I have done it wrong and have been off if for 6 days now, I am hesitant to start taking it again if I am almost over the withdrawal period.

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My withdrawal symptoms hit me at three weeks out

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@nikkik

Thanks…I am considering doing that. I am concerned that I am going to go through these same symptoms once I get down to zero if I continue to taper since I am on the lowest dose that is prescribed. I have read about going down 5 -10 % by counting the beads in the capsule but if the symptoms are gonna be the same but only a little bit worse, is that worth it? I have already suffered the past few weeks, so do I just push through it?

I also looked at doing the Prozac bridge but am I going to have to go back on the effexor to do that?

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If you have to count beads than you have to count beads. Talk to you pharmacist as to what is available. Everyone is different but I would expect for your symptoms to worsen. Such a shame you really have no help from your doctor. Something has got to change here. Don’t put yourself through this. Keep calling doctors in your area until you find one that can help. This is what I had to do. It wasn’t easy but I did find one. Again, my advice would be to reinstate at a dose that makes you comfortable and then work on finding a doctor to help with a looooong supervised taper. If any doctor says a taper can be done in weeks, run!

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I ended up speaking with my doctor about getting pill form and tapering from 37.5 to the 25 mg pill and so on from there, but that day, (yesterday) I barely had any brain zaps so even though I got the prescription filled, I decided not to take them. I woke up today feeling decent again (compared to the last couple of days) and was even able to handle work for a while. I am exactly one week without effexor. I hope it doesn't get worse, but I will re-evaluate at that time if it does. Thank you all for your advice and support.

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@rmj5

My withdrawal symptoms hit me at three weeks out

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@rmj5
Oh gosh, I am sorry to hear that. I hope you were able to manage through them ok. I am hoping that I am through the worst of it since I have had them from day 1 of no effexor.

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@nikkik

@rmj5
Oh gosh, I am sorry to hear that. I hope you were able to manage through them ok. I am hoping that I am through the worst of it since I have had them from day 1 of no effexor.

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I hope so too, Good luck

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@nikkik

I ended up speaking with my doctor about getting pill form and tapering from 37.5 to the 25 mg pill and so on from there, but that day, (yesterday) I barely had any brain zaps so even though I got the prescription filled, I decided not to take them. I woke up today feeling decent again (compared to the last couple of days) and was even able to handle work for a while. I am exactly one week without effexor. I hope it doesn't get worse, but I will re-evaluate at that time if it does. Thank you all for your advice and support.

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Don’t mess around with Effexor. Tapering can’t be done in an unorganized manner. You have to use a well thought out tapering schedule and stick by it .

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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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Thank love for this informative article!

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