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

Liked by Bek, LynneB, kelly76, echams1 ... see all

@sarnm

I’ve been on Effexor for 16 years at 225 mg. I’m starting to get headaches and feeling a little Grumpy. I’ll try to stick out this doseage till I see my psychiatrist in July. Best to others on this path.

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Thank you for sharing your husband's experience. I really feel crappy but I'm going to gut this out.

@pinktart

Hi. I have been trying to get off Effexor for a few weeks now, and it’s been a nightmare. Absolute living hell. After decades of being diagnosed with depression, my doctor and I finally got to the root of WHY I have never gotten better. My life has remained stagnant. I’m unable to hold a job, have difficulty finding and staying in romantic relationships, and I’ve always had trouble in social circles because drama follows me everywhere (which I’m well aware is drama that I create).

My doctor diagnosed me as bipolar. Now granted, he didn’t diagnose me with depression, nor did he initially prescribe me the Effexor. I began seeing this doctor because my other one passed away. I told the doctor everything was fine with the Effexor because it did do well in hindering my depression even if my life was going absolutely nowhere. I never figured that my personal issues were because of a drug or misdiagnosis.

My doctor took me from 225 mg to 150 mg for one week, and then 75 mg the following week, and then STOP. (He also put me on Lamotrigine for the bipolar disorder, but it can take months to get to the right dosage and take effect.) But I was fine for a couple of days after stopping the Effexor, and then started to feel weepy. By the fifth day, all hell broke loose. Full mental breakdown that had my parents wondering if they should take me to the hospital. I could not stop crying, and I was so disoriented that I could barely walk. I felt practically paralyzed, and nothing interested me whatsoever. I wanted to lie there and cry and cry forever. It was the weekend, but my mom got in touch with my doctor, and he said to start taking 75 mg per day again, and we’d go from there.

Well, I had noticed the side effects that went away right along with the Effexor, most notably terrible and almost daily headaches, horrendous sinus problems, tooth and gum pain, and the most surprising of all, I went from being able to climax in minutes whereas it could take up to two hours on the Effexor. I just always assumed I was unfortunate and didn’t climax easily (or at all), but even in my worst days of withdrawal, my libido was so high that I could have an O like three or four times in under 15 minutes. Which was heaven sent for someone who never had that.

After a week of being on 75 mg again, I was unable to climax at all. I decided to quit the Effexor again and just try to barrel through it. I don’t work right now, so I figured I could just rest and cry and wait for it to pass. I was breaking down on the fifth and sixth day, but I soldiered on. The seventh day wasn’t so bad, which I have no explanation for. The eighth day, however, TODAY, was another breakdown that had me wanting to just absolutely die so badly that I gave in and took 150 mg.

Big mistake. Got nauseous, threw up my dinner, and although I feel okay now regarding the mental breakdown, I’m disappointed that I didn’t just rest and let it pass. I honestly don’t know whether I’d rather have my days of hysteria but an incredible ability to orgasm, or feel better and not have that ability at all. At least not until I can get off this terrible drug for good.

Did Effexor cause anyone else to have problems climaxing? And did you notice a strong increase in ability to climax again even if tapered off the Effexor slowly? I was so happy to be able to climax easily for the first time I can remember that it’s killing me to go back on this awful medication because it might literally do me in if I don’t take it.

I’d appreciate thoughts, ideas, advice, personal experiences, etc. Whatever you got. Thank you!

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@susanknits It felt like a godsend when I could finally climax again. I thought it was just a “me” thing; had no idea it was the effexor. That seems like a silly reason to want off a med so badly, but when you’ve never been able to climax easily (if at all), it feels like a miracle to be able to do it with such ease. I’m back on 75 mg a day because I completely broke down mentally, and it wasn’t just awful for me, but for my family as well. This is going to be quite a journey, and I’m scared, tbh.

But I do want to get my bipolar disorder stabilized too. The effexor interferes with that, so it could be a while before I can (hopefully) stabilize my life.

It's the start of day 11. I have continued the plateau that I hinted at on my last post. The nausea is pretty much gone which is awesome. My emotional levels are mellowing a bit too. I was having deeper emotional reactions to acts of kindness, deep conversations and even entertainment in general. Heck even the thought of something adorable (dog playing with a duck) get's me. I have been using my HTC Vive VR system to engage in some fun experiences. If you have access to VR tools (Google Day Dream, Oculus, etc.) I recommend it. Just going on a Google Earth VR trip can help you break free of negativity. I am going take @smccain advice about Tylenol PM if the melatonin doesn't help. I am having some trouble sleeping… this has alway been my MO since I was a kid. My dream intensity has leveled off which is nice. I am using the silver linings from the withdrawal to change my life. From shifting off soft drinks, eating and preparing more food to increasing physical exercise these lifestyle changes are all beneficial. I also believe I need to set realistic expectations that if I have a recurrence of mental health issues that using the medication is an option. But I want to understand the lifecycle of it for me. I thought I would be on effexor forever. That is what I was told when I started taking it but it lost its value over time. I feel very fortunate that this transition is going so well. I was taking 150 mg (for 10 years) and then went to 0. It wasn't a decision I took lightly like so many of you. Your openness and advice is the key reason to my success.

Tips that have worked for me:
Mindfulness and Medication – This has varied over time but I use it when I need it. I also have reminders from the Google Assistant. They seem to go beyond the basic positive platitudes.
Eating and Drinking Healthier – Getting off soda and lots of processes and quick service food has been amazing. I buying vegetables and fruit. It's freaking out people that know me.
Do What You Love – We all live busy lives and over inundated with so much content. It's important to know yourself and take care of you. Quickly name five things that make you happy. If it is a struggle then please take some time to discover this and involve people you love in the process.

The journey is the destination. Onward friends.

My daughter is trying to stop taking Effexor. She went to an "urgent" care doctor for the prescription – then again to get off (not same urgent care). The doctor told her to start taking every other day for a week and then stop taking all together. She is a MESS – dizzy, depressed, lack of energy, etc. I'm not sure if she should go back on the meds and then start taking the weaning process again. Also – not sure what qualified doctor we can get into soon to help oversee the process.
BTW – what is CBD oil?

@cmacy66

My daughter is trying to stop taking Effexor. She went to an "urgent" care doctor for the prescription – then again to get off (not same urgent care). The doctor told her to start taking every other day for a week and then stop taking all together. She is a MESS – dizzy, depressed, lack of energy, etc. I'm not sure if she should go back on the meds and then start taking the weaning process again. Also – not sure what qualified doctor we can get into soon to help oversee the process.
BTW – what is CBD oil?

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Hi, @cmacy66 — welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. I am so sorry to hear your daughter is a mess right now with such a tough withdrawal process from the venlafaxine (Effexor). Sounds very hard. I'm glad she has you to check on her and advocate for her.

That sounds unique that an urgent care doctor put her on the medication and then another put her on a tapering plan. Does she have a primary care provider who might offer advice for how to proceed at this point with the taper, since the process has been so challenging?

Hi I have been on Venlor 125mg daily for 20 years and I want to get off them. Would I need to go to the doctor to do this or would I be able to do this on my own? Thanks

Wanted to be one of the few posting positive results going off Effexor. I started taking Effexor XR 75 mg 10 months ago strictly for horrible hot flashes caused by a complete hysterectomy including ovaries. I’m not a candidate for taking hormones at all. Had positive results with 75% reduction in hot flashes until January when they started to come back especially at night. My doctor cautioned me about increasing but since a good friend had doubled her Effexor and had great results with hot flashes I urged the doctor to do it and she did. Was on 150 mg XR from January until May. Again my body got too used to the drug and hot flashes returned (but no where near like the premed ones). I also was experiencing nightmares and the worst dry mouth which triggered a tic in my mouth. So with my doctor I decided to go off as did my friend. We have different doctors. So our doctors took different approaches but we both had positive withdrawals. I reduced mine at first in 25 mg increments weekly with a non-XR pill. My friend went from 150 mg to 75 then to 37.5 all in 3 weeks. She did have crying jags, lots of night sweats & brain fog for about 4 days but is doing fine now and said she feels so good despite some hot flashes. I started mine a few weeks ago. I went from 150 to 125 on April 30 then on May 7 went down to 75 then on May 14 down to 50 and stopped completely this past Monday May 21. Other than some brain fog and hot flashes I have had no issues. Sadly the dry mouth/tic is still there but I have tons of energy & dropped 5 lbs immediately. I was scared to death based on all the horror stories so wanted to list some good news for 2 ladies who were successful. I’m taking a break from meds and will deal with those wretched hot flashes. We did not take the meds for anxiety or depression and were only on them about 10 months so that may make a big difference.

I began my withdrawal journey on May 15, 2017. I was taking 225 mg daily.
Here’s what I’m doing:
I open a capsule and remove 1 “bead”; next day, 2 beads; next day, 3 beads, and so on. By August 28, 2017, I had cut one capsule and was down to 150 mg daily. I continued to remove beads until I got down to 1 capsule. Now I am down to about 20 beads left and am still going forward. Once or twice I felt uncomfortable, with brain shivers and tinnitus. I would stay at that dosage for a week and then continue. At today’s dosage, I am experiencing some discomfort, but if I stay busy, I can deal with it.
It is a slow and tedious process, but so worth it! My memory is much better, for one thing! The support of my family and friends helps, too. Feel free to reply to me here for friendly support, questions, or comments. I would like to see everyone get off this “medicine “.
Good luck, best wishes, and I’m praying for each of you.

@congolia

I began my withdrawal journey on May 15, 2017. I was taking 225 mg daily.
Here’s what I’m doing:
I open a capsule and remove 1 “bead”; next day, 2 beads; next day, 3 beads, and so on. By August 28, 2017, I had cut one capsule and was down to 150 mg daily. I continued to remove beads until I got down to 1 capsule. Now I am down to about 20 beads left and am still going forward. Once or twice I felt uncomfortable, with brain shivers and tinnitus. I would stay at that dosage for a week and then continue. At today’s dosage, I am experiencing some discomfort, but if I stay busy, I can deal with it.
It is a slow and tedious process, but so worth it! My memory is much better, for one thing! The support of my family and friends helps, too. Feel free to reply to me here for friendly support, questions, or comments. I would like to see everyone get off this “medicine “.
Good luck, best wishes, and I’m praying for each of you.

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Hi, @congolia — welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. Thanks for sharing your journey so far with withdrawing from venlafaxine (Effexor). Tinnitus and brain shivers don't sound fun.

Please do update here with how it's going as you continue.

I wanted you to meet @jmanon @cmacy66 @fsumom6 @efexfreeforever and @efexnot so that they and others can share their experiences with coming off this medication.

Will you be transitioning to another medication instead, @congolia?

@cmacy66

My daughter is trying to stop taking Effexor. She went to an "urgent" care doctor for the prescription – then again to get off (not same urgent care). The doctor told her to start taking every other day for a week and then stop taking all together. She is a MESS – dizzy, depressed, lack of energy, etc. I'm not sure if she should go back on the meds and then start taking the weaning process again. Also – not sure what qualified doctor we can get into soon to help oversee the process.
BTW – what is CBD oil?

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@cmacy66

I am alarmed that the doctor told her to withdraw from Effexor so quickly. Some comments on here say it can take a year to get off the medication. I recommend that she return to taking the medication, and find a doctor to oversee her slow withdrawal. I am not a medical professional, so I can't diagnose and my recommendations are based on my own and other's experiences. Please read through the posts on here to learn how others have gotten off Effexor. Most have taken a very slow and long time to get off the drug. It sounds as if 1 year is a good time frame.

To answer about CBD, it's a derivative of Marijuana/Cannabis that has no "high" associated with it. It relaxes and calms people and is legal in most states now. CBD has helped people withdraw from opioids and other addictions. It is not addictive and is very benign in your body with no known side effects. I used CBD to help me withdraw from Tramadol and used marijuana to help me quit smoking. I also use CBD to help my occasional anxiety.

I hope your daughter finds a physician to help her get off Effexor. Another alternative is to contact your pharmacist as they are very knowledgeable about how drugs act and how we react when we are withdrawing from a drug. My pharmacist was very helpful for my withdrawal from Gabapentin when my doctor wouldn't help me. Please keep us informed about your daughter's progress. Best wishes for a healthy withdrawal.

Gail
Volunteer Mentor

After taking Venlafaxine for 8 years( up to 350mgs per day) I am now in the process of weaning from it. With the help of an amazing acupuncture practitioner I am down to 100mg every second day and will soon be reducing this. I also have some amazing friends who are available should I need them. I have been on and off of antidepressants for 50 years but have never felt as supported as I do now. To those who also walk this path I wish you well for now and your future.

@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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It's now May, 2018. I keep re-reading your post dated Nov. 2016. I don't know if you will ever read this, but I just wanted you to know that it is helping me through my withdrawal. I've been reducing from 150 mg since January 2018. I'm down to approx. 15 mg. I should just go ahead and as you say "rip off the band aid" but I'm a bit afraid to cut the cord. The last time I tried this, I got down this far and had a huge set back. I couldn't deal with it and went back on the drug. I'm not going to do it this time. The side effects of being on Effexor for 15 plus years have been debilitating. I'm done. Thanks for your encouragement.

@congolia

I began my withdrawal journey on May 15, 2017. I was taking 225 mg daily.
Here’s what I’m doing:
I open a capsule and remove 1 “bead”; next day, 2 beads; next day, 3 beads, and so on. By August 28, 2017, I had cut one capsule and was down to 150 mg daily. I continued to remove beads until I got down to 1 capsule. Now I am down to about 20 beads left and am still going forward. Once or twice I felt uncomfortable, with brain shivers and tinnitus. I would stay at that dosage for a week and then continue. At today’s dosage, I am experiencing some discomfort, but if I stay busy, I can deal with it.
It is a slow and tedious process, but so worth it! My memory is much better, for one thing! The support of my family and friends helps, too. Feel free to reply to me here for friendly support, questions, or comments. I would like to see everyone get off this “medicine “.
Good luck, best wishes, and I’m praying for each of you.

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Hi, Lisa. Thanks for your kind welcome. I will connect with the members you noted.
I am not planning to transition to any other medication.

Liked by lovetheocean

Hello All,

I am on day 21 off Effexor and life is going really well. The first 7 to 10 days were the worst. Then the withdrawal symptoms began to taper off. It feels like I won the superbowl so I should head to Walt Disney World. In fact I might just do that. 🙂

I don't expect to share more on there as my journey off the medication is complete. Now it's time to build on all the positive changes and silver linings that happened over the past three weeks. If you need me please feel free to reach out. I wish you all the best on your journey. The experiences people have shared are filled with excellent insights and recommendations. Work with a doctor your trust who understands you and this medication. All the best.

@jmanon

Hello All,

I am on day 21 off Effexor and life is going really well. The first 7 to 10 days were the worst. Then the withdrawal symptoms began to taper off. It feels like I won the superbowl so I should head to Walt Disney World. In fact I might just do that. 🙂

I don't expect to share more on there as my journey off the medication is complete. Now it's time to build on all the positive changes and silver linings that happened over the past three weeks. If you need me please feel free to reach out. I wish you all the best on your journey. The experiences people have shared are filled with excellent insights and recommendations. Work with a doctor your trust who understands you and this medication. All the best.

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Congratulations, @jmanon. Thank you for your testimony- it's helpful for other community members to see that there is a light at the end of the Effexor tunnel!

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