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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@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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I tried to take a half a dose yesterday…BIG mistake. I barely made it to the chair beside me.

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@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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@gailb or anyone else with experience, would you feel the need to consult with your doctor before taking CBD? Also, does anyone know if this is something that people on immunosuppressants can take? I have a tiny prescription for lorazepam (my doctor gave me an Rx for 10 over a year ago and I still have a couple left) that I use when I have anxieties at bedtime, which due to some family situations has been somewhat frequent recently, but I have tried to go without the lorazepam. Perhaps the CBD would help with that.
JK

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Third day without Effexor. Ran out.

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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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Thanks for posting this! My mental health care provided (not my regular doctor) weaned me off Effexor in 6 weeks. I felt fine until a day after the day of my last dose. The provider didn't give me any insight whatsoever and I ended up doing most of my own research and luckily found this group. He had another antidepressant prescribed to start right away even though I told him I was taking a break, so I am not taking anything new. Maybe I should check with my regular doctor on the melatonin for anxiety. I have never experienced anything like getting that drug out of my system! Now, I am still going through some of the side effects, but not as bad as it was. I am hoping that some of the depression, confusion, anxiety, etc. I have been feeling are still the residuals of the Effexor. I am a little scared because I don't know when the after effects of the drug will be done and my feelings that are no longer masked by a drug will resurface.

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@lovetheocean

Third day without Effexor. Ran out.

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@lovetheocean That's great, but perhaps you should keep some on hand, just in case. Is the prescription refillable?
JK

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I don't have any and no way to get any. I live in a rural area and no pharmacy delivery. Didn't want to rag about my situation. My prescription is still active. I slept well after waiting a long time for sleep to arrive. I need and want to rediscover the real me without antidepressants. Thank you for your response.

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@lovetheocean

I don't have any and no way to get any. I live in a rural area and no pharmacy delivery. Didn't want to rag about my situation. My prescription is still active. I slept well after waiting a long time for sleep to arrive. I need and want to rediscover the real me without antidepressants. Thank you for your response.

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@lovetheocean I can certainly understand your desire to get off antidepressants, from what I hear on here. As long as your prescription is still active so you could get some if you found the need to, then I would think you are all set.
I really hope you have continued success in being off of these drugs.
JK

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I've been posting pretty regularly here since I started my withdrawal from 150 mg back in January. This is my second attempt at getting completely off of Effexor. The first try came in 2013 at my then doctor's encouragement. He thought I had been on the drug too long and he was right. Ten years was too long. Unfortunately, this doctor was not very well versed in this drug and how to guide a patient through the wean down process. After a very bumpy road, and six months into trying to withdraw, I ended up in the emergency room in the throws of the worst panic attack of my life. Diagnosis was "withdrawal" and I was encouraged to get back on the drug and I did. In retrospect, that recommendation was wrong, wrong, wrong. I was down to 10mg and if I had a doctor who knew what the hell was happening I could have gotten past that downslide and off the drug instead of back where I started. Five years after that incident and still taking Effexor, I was back in another doctors office. He also encouraged me to wean off the drug. He, like the other guy, didn't have any better insight into how to do it except to try to put a day between dosages. No, no, no…..wrong again. You can't skip a day without adding some Effexor to your diet. This time I felt I would be my own best advocate and I started with this forum. Somewhere here (don't quite remember who it was) I read that people were opening the capsule and removing the little beads in slow degrees until you've reached the ultimate goal of zero. Now, that seemed logical to me. That's how I started to do it. I got myself down to 75mg and then down to 37.5 with very little consequence. By the way, my doctor was completely against my doing it this way, but his way was too painful, so I took things into my own hands. I continued to open the capsule decrease the beads until I had 10 little beads left in the capsule. This was two weeks ago. It's here where I started to have a few problems. I started to have horrific nightmares, some dizziness and nausea and weird feelings in my head . The nightmares are the worst part. Two days ago I quit completely, zip, zero, nothing. Today was a bit better than yesterday and I hope that the nightmares start to subside but as long as I have my husband beside me to hold me during the night I'm going to see it through. I'm sitting here now with a glass of wine at my side….definitely helps….and the feeling that no matter what happens I will get on the other side of this. It bothers me that the medical profession, full well knowing how powerful this drug is, does not know how to help their patients to a successful result. Why do we have to suffer to achieve this end.
P.S. I want to note that I read that Fish Oil supplements are helpful with this process. I do take fish oil and maybe that's why I've gotten this far, but it's just a guess and after all, it doesn't hurt to try.

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@arachel

I've been posting pretty regularly here since I started my withdrawal from 150 mg back in January. This is my second attempt at getting completely off of Effexor. The first try came in 2013 at my then doctor's encouragement. He thought I had been on the drug too long and he was right. Ten years was too long. Unfortunately, this doctor was not very well versed in this drug and how to guide a patient through the wean down process. After a very bumpy road, and six months into trying to withdraw, I ended up in the emergency room in the throws of the worst panic attack of my life. Diagnosis was "withdrawal" and I was encouraged to get back on the drug and I did. In retrospect, that recommendation was wrong, wrong, wrong. I was down to 10mg and if I had a doctor who knew what the hell was happening I could have gotten past that downslide and off the drug instead of back where I started. Five years after that incident and still taking Effexor, I was back in another doctors office. He also encouraged me to wean off the drug. He, like the other guy, didn't have any better insight into how to do it except to try to put a day between dosages. No, no, no…..wrong again. You can't skip a day without adding some Effexor to your diet. This time I felt I would be my own best advocate and I started with this forum. Somewhere here (don't quite remember who it was) I read that people were opening the capsule and removing the little beads in slow degrees until you've reached the ultimate goal of zero. Now, that seemed logical to me. That's how I started to do it. I got myself down to 75mg and then down to 37.5 with very little consequence. By the way, my doctor was completely against my doing it this way, but his way was too painful, so I took things into my own hands. I continued to open the capsule decrease the beads until I had 10 little beads left in the capsule. This was two weeks ago. It's here where I started to have a few problems. I started to have horrific nightmares, some dizziness and nausea and weird feelings in my head . The nightmares are the worst part. Two days ago I quit completely, zip, zero, nothing. Today was a bit better than yesterday and I hope that the nightmares start to subside but as long as I have my husband beside me to hold me during the night I'm going to see it through. I'm sitting here now with a glass of wine at my side….definitely helps….and the feeling that no matter what happens I will get on the other side of this. It bothers me that the medical profession, full well knowing how powerful this drug is, does not know how to help their patients to a successful result. Why do we have to suffer to achieve this end.
P.S. I want to note that I read that Fish Oil supplements are helpful with this process. I do take fish oil and maybe that's why I've gotten this far, but it's just a guess and after all, it doesn't hurt to try.

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Liked reading about your journey. It helps to read the sensations you have had while weaning yourself off this drug. I have not had any for six days. Being gentle with myself. Resting, resting and more resting. Lots of water and some simple food. Walked my dog only. No great heroics in the activity department. Getting on the drug was extremely helpful ten years ago. Now I am ready to try a different life without it.

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Day six without the 150 mg a day. Ten years. So far my reaction has been brain zaps, not constantly, but definitely annoyingly there. Getting some body aches and low back pain, but that is probably due to resting so much. Some fear of the future. I do not know many people. Have kept my almost-adult kids in the loop. Weird almost-but-not-quite noises that are more of a sensation than a sound. Onward.

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@arachel

I've been posting pretty regularly here since I started my withdrawal from 150 mg back in January. This is my second attempt at getting completely off of Effexor. The first try came in 2013 at my then doctor's encouragement. He thought I had been on the drug too long and he was right. Ten years was too long. Unfortunately, this doctor was not very well versed in this drug and how to guide a patient through the wean down process. After a very bumpy road, and six months into trying to withdraw, I ended up in the emergency room in the throws of the worst panic attack of my life. Diagnosis was "withdrawal" and I was encouraged to get back on the drug and I did. In retrospect, that recommendation was wrong, wrong, wrong. I was down to 10mg and if I had a doctor who knew what the hell was happening I could have gotten past that downslide and off the drug instead of back where I started. Five years after that incident and still taking Effexor, I was back in another doctors office. He also encouraged me to wean off the drug. He, like the other guy, didn't have any better insight into how to do it except to try to put a day between dosages. No, no, no…..wrong again. You can't skip a day without adding some Effexor to your diet. This time I felt I would be my own best advocate and I started with this forum. Somewhere here (don't quite remember who it was) I read that people were opening the capsule and removing the little beads in slow degrees until you've reached the ultimate goal of zero. Now, that seemed logical to me. That's how I started to do it. I got myself down to 75mg and then down to 37.5 with very little consequence. By the way, my doctor was completely against my doing it this way, but his way was too painful, so I took things into my own hands. I continued to open the capsule decrease the beads until I had 10 little beads left in the capsule. This was two weeks ago. It's here where I started to have a few problems. I started to have horrific nightmares, some dizziness and nausea and weird feelings in my head . The nightmares are the worst part. Two days ago I quit completely, zip, zero, nothing. Today was a bit better than yesterday and I hope that the nightmares start to subside but as long as I have my husband beside me to hold me during the night I'm going to see it through. I'm sitting here now with a glass of wine at my side….definitely helps….and the feeling that no matter what happens I will get on the other side of this. It bothers me that the medical profession, full well knowing how powerful this drug is, does not know how to help their patients to a successful result. Why do we have to suffer to achieve this end.
P.S. I want to note that I read that Fish Oil supplements are helpful with this process. I do take fish oil and maybe that's why I've gotten this far, but it's just a guess and after all, it doesn't hurt to try.

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Bright wings here. Congratulations my friend. My hat is off to you for getting this far. I am some months off this drated drug.
I really do think that counting the beads is the best way to get off the drug. I wish I knew that way when I was getting off it. I was on 150 mg and just started taking less and less of the caps.
I think I have finished symptoms of withdrawal. Yeah!!!! Jumping with joy.
Now lets get you over the withdrawal symptoms. We can do this together. The reason EVERYONE has to go back on the drug is the pain of the withdrawal. I will share what worked for me.
1. CBD oil I wish I had discovered this earlier. I am a retired RN. I have been running around sharing (testing) it on everyone. These are the types of complaints it worked on: sleeplessness, ANXIETY, severe back pain, bad dreams, breathing problems, pain relief for a broken finger, severe back pain from a fall, sore muscles. I have been using it for 2 months, the most wonderful things are happening to my body. My skin feels so soft. No icky dry skin on feet. The biggest change is my nailbeds are changing and seem to be repairing the beds to repair the biting I did for 31 years. Gosh, I sound like I am being paid for these comments but I can only wish. Grin!
The CBD oil I use is: Lazarus Naturals, 225 mg. I take 3 drops under my tongue, 2 or 3 times a day. It costs about $20 and I have used it for 2 months and have about 1/2 bottle left. You can order this by mail from The Flippin Hippee, Mountain Home, Arkansas. It is made from hemp.
2. Eat something every few hours. Now be proactive here. I use: hummus on a warmed tortilla and add vegetables, avacados, what ever I see in the fridge. I also eat chobani yogurt. I eat fresh fruit almost everyday. I am trying to eat better everyday. I am succeeding too. It takes time and thought but I am worth it.
3 Dealing with the RUSHES OF EMOTIONS. I no longer feel depressed, however I do get rushes of emotions. They may be good memories or bad but I would get extremely teary. I learned to say out loud: RESETTING MY EMOTIONS… There is some chemical thing that happens when you give yourself a command out loud. It can be in a normal time. Anyway, saying it out loud is the first step to feeling better. Then LOOK UP. Again, another chemical reaction in your brain. LISTEN FOR WHAT YOU CAN HEAR. Again a chemical reaction if you can hear birds singing or happy nature sounds.
Now if you are still having rushes of emotion, go into the bathroom, being careful to keep your chin level. DO NOT DROP YOUR CHIN. That would give you chemicals in your brain that will contribute to feeling bad. So, in the bathroom, look in the mirror and SMILE!. It give you happy feelings and dumps good chemicals in your brain. I know once I had to keep smiling at myself for 20 minutes. Why do that for so long? I am worth what ever time or effort to feel better.
Now about the nightmares, do not stay lying down when you wake up. Why? Again, negative chemicals are dumped into your brain if you are upset and stay lying down. Get up, have a cup of sleepy time tea, chamomile tea or mint medley. It removes you from lying down, and making the tea makes the upset go away. Better living thru chemistry, tea and happier brain chemistry.
Get yourself a bottle of bubbles and blow them and in the breathe of air you blow to make the bubble, send a negative thought or upset into the bubble and feel better. Make time to play during this time. IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO PLAY again, better brain chemistry when you play.
Nausea was handled by keeping a bit of food in my tummy by eating every few hours.
Now the weird feelings in my head were helped by the CBD OIL. I know I was reading up on our moderator of this forum and put an extra F in her name making it read LUCIFER. I actually thought that was her real name but posted anyways. LOL
Ok I am getting tired. I am doing great getting off the Effexor but my MS is kicking my butt right now. Be back with more. Smiling at you gf
Feel free to private message me if you choose. I can teach you ways to handle emotions in a couple of minutes but it would take me 20 minutes to type.

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@lovetheocean

Day six without the 150 mg a day. Ten years. So far my reaction has been brain zaps, not constantly, but definitely annoyingly there. Getting some body aches and low back pain, but that is probably due to resting so much. Some fear of the future. I do not know many people. Have kept my almost-adult kids in the loop. Weird almost-but-not-quite noises that are more of a sensation than a sound. Onward.

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Good for you, Loves the ocean. Sounds like you are coming along. I, too, love the ocean. I had to accompany my mother on a cruise when my stepfather suddenly died after paying for it.
I blogged about it on cruise critic. It is titled "My first voyage, Princendam, Circle of the Sum, 2006". Reading this will give you plenty of good brain chemicals. It is by being proactive we gracefully can get off this medication.

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Hi
I've been taking varying amounts of Effexor for MANY years to help with my generalized anxiety.

Several years ago, my PCP suggested that since I was feeling and doing so well, I should come off the Effexor.
Dumb as I was, I agreed. I was taking 1 pill in the am/pm. I cannot remember the strength.
She suggested I start slowly by stopping my pm pill for a period of time, then omit the am pill.

I omitted the pm pill. One day, a few days after stopping the pm pill, I was enjoying myself at a work-related workshop. I was laughing away and having a grand old time. I excused myself from the table to use the rest room. (SORRY FOR THE TMI) As I sat there, I had an all to familiar feeling, in an all too familiar place, in an all too familiar position. First, I had a sinking feeling. Soon, my body started quivering un-relentlessly. Then I began to breath heavily with that all too familiar feeling that this was it. I was going to die in this bathroom, on the toilet, with my pants down.

It has always been very difficult for me to get out of this feeling. I started my self-talk and breathing. It took me over a half-hour to calm myself down to the point of getting up and out. However, while I was walking back to the conference room, I felt a bit dizzy and everything seem far and fuzzy. I sat down and drank lots of water. Why? I have no idea. I just do this after an anxiety attack.

That night, I added back my pm pill. In my mind, I felt that it would take time for my body to get used to the change, again. But my body never did. The anxiety attacks began again. I went to see my therapist who suggested I see the psychiatrist to manage my meds. I did. She told me that once I went off the Effexor, it would not be as effective as it was initially. We tried 2 or 3 other meds. Nothing worked like the Effexor had. After months and months of trying, I asked to try to go back on the Effexor. She said it had been long enough and agreed.

I had to go back on the Effexor slowly, as a newbie. I had to go through the headaches, fatigue, etc. It took time for it to kick in, again, but it did. It's been several years since I've been put back on. My doses have been increased through the years. I have to say that it does NOT work as well as I initially went on the Effexor. I also had to change from extended release to the regular dose 1 1/2 years ago when I had weight loss surgery. (surgery impacts absorption so no extended time release for me anymore). Although I don't get those horrible anxiety attacks, I do experience anxiety (which I didn't do at all at the beginning). However, I am NOT looking to get off. I see my psychiatrist every 6 months. She says that I am at the top of the suggested dosage so she has given me something else to take on an as-needed-basis. That works fine.

Bottom line, if you no want to take Effexor, for any reason, do it with your therapist and/or psychiatrist. Do not do it with your primary care physician. Also, know that if you decide to go back on, many do not get the same impact as before and you will have to wait months before trying it again.

Sorry for being so long, but I think it is important to share.

Have a great day!
Ronnie (GRANDMAr)

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@arachel

I've been posting pretty regularly here since I started my withdrawal from 150 mg back in January. This is my second attempt at getting completely off of Effexor. The first try came in 2013 at my then doctor's encouragement. He thought I had been on the drug too long and he was right. Ten years was too long. Unfortunately, this doctor was not very well versed in this drug and how to guide a patient through the wean down process. After a very bumpy road, and six months into trying to withdraw, I ended up in the emergency room in the throws of the worst panic attack of my life. Diagnosis was "withdrawal" and I was encouraged to get back on the drug and I did. In retrospect, that recommendation was wrong, wrong, wrong. I was down to 10mg and if I had a doctor who knew what the hell was happening I could have gotten past that downslide and off the drug instead of back where I started. Five years after that incident and still taking Effexor, I was back in another doctors office. He also encouraged me to wean off the drug. He, like the other guy, didn't have any better insight into how to do it except to try to put a day between dosages. No, no, no…..wrong again. You can't skip a day without adding some Effexor to your diet. This time I felt I would be my own best advocate and I started with this forum. Somewhere here (don't quite remember who it was) I read that people were opening the capsule and removing the little beads in slow degrees until you've reached the ultimate goal of zero. Now, that seemed logical to me. That's how I started to do it. I got myself down to 75mg and then down to 37.5 with very little consequence. By the way, my doctor was completely against my doing it this way, but his way was too painful, so I took things into my own hands. I continued to open the capsule decrease the beads until I had 10 little beads left in the capsule. This was two weeks ago. It's here where I started to have a few problems. I started to have horrific nightmares, some dizziness and nausea and weird feelings in my head . The nightmares are the worst part. Two days ago I quit completely, zip, zero, nothing. Today was a bit better than yesterday and I hope that the nightmares start to subside but as long as I have my husband beside me to hold me during the night I'm going to see it through. I'm sitting here now with a glass of wine at my side….definitely helps….and the feeling that no matter what happens I will get on the other side of this. It bothers me that the medical profession, full well knowing how powerful this drug is, does not know how to help their patients to a successful result. Why do we have to suffer to achieve this end.
P.S. I want to note that I read that Fish Oil supplements are helpful with this process. I do take fish oil and maybe that's why I've gotten this far, but it's just a guess and after all, it doesn't hurt to try.

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Day 3: No Effexor
I feel awful. I woke up at 3:30 a.m. (no nightmares thankfully) but, instead, I've been running to the bathroom all morning with stomach cramps. My hands are shaking, my insides are rattling. I'm trying to swallow a small bowl of oatmeal just because I know I have to eat something but I don't really want it. I feel like I'm in a black box with no escape. I know that I'm going to cry any minute now but I'm trying to talk myself out of it. I plan to take a Xanax this morning after breakfast. I do hate having to do that, but I don't know how else to get through the day. I'm doing a lot of praying and I hope tomorrow will be a better.

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Hi everyone! I have been reading all of the posts to withdrawing from Effexor. I am so sorry for your pain and anxiety. I have a new psychiatrist and was curious about his thoughts. He said that, for most people, taking Prozac/fluoxetine while you wean off the Effexor should minimize if not eliminate withdrawal symptoms. Tapering the Prozac afterwards is no problem, he says, because it takes a longer time for it to process in our bodies. So there is virtually no problem to taper off of the Prozac. I hope this might help people who are struggling so much. I remember someone here mentioned they were using Prozac as a transition drug.

I took Effexor (and Wellbutrin)for about 10 years and then suddenly it wasn't working at all. This was about 8 years ago. I transitioned to Pristiq which was portrayed the same as Effexor but metabolized differently. I don't remember having problems with that change. BUT, I did go thru a very difficult time when the Pristiq just stopped working while I also developed severe short term memory loss, probably linked to long term use of wellbutrin. I remember a lot of anxiety and emotional roller coasters. It was compounded with my problems at work with a new boss. I became suicidal but remembered my precious grandchildren and couldn't leave them with that legacy. I took a couple weeks off to go to A new med (I think it was Cymbalta). My ability to function improved dramatically, but I still lost my job.

Eight years later, I have been on a few other meds AND had a full blown manic episode in 2015 that put me in the hospital at age 61! So now I have bipolar type 1. (Previously dx with Major Depression but probably actually had Bipolar type 2 all along.)I have been thru a number of meds for that (Depakote, lactimal, abilify, lithium) which I was allergic to some and when I had no job, Medicaid would not pay for abilify, which seemed to help at the time. Now I am on Prozac (80 mg) and seroquel (200 mg) and am doing pretty well. I get anxious thinking what will happen if they stop working. So I try to stay positive…
Hugs and warm wishes to all of you with hopes that your days become better very soon…Cathy

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