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

@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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Determined to wean myself off of Effexor and looking for ideas and to offer support to anyone else going through this.

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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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@gwenaloveseveryone2 I wish you great success in your withdrawal. From what I have read here, this is not an easy task. You sound very positive though so I am sure you will manage to push past the tough times and come out victorious.
JK

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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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Hi, @gwenaloveseveryone2 — thanks for being so encouraging to the members in this discussion. What you describe about going down in dosage and then needing to go back up again sounds typical of what others have reported in this tapering journey.

What part of the withdrawal side effects has been most challenging for you?

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I'm not coming off effexor but am tapering a Benzo right now and it's tough but doable. I'm a fighter and will be a winner. I saw my Psychiatrist today after she received the results of my genetic testing. My body is not tolerate of anything but Pristiq. Both she and I decided I'm going to continue my 6 month taper off my Benzo and call it done…..No more pills. I am however with her approval going to try CBD oil to aid me in my withdrawls. You can do this. Jump in and get your life back. One day at a time, low and slow in the taper. You deserve to be free and happy. There are a lot of us out here tapering and supporting…My Very Best

REPLY

With medications like SSRIs or SSNRIs you will want to slowly reduce the dosing so your body doesn't have an abrupt stop. This will depend on what is called the 'half-life' of the medication and the dosing. A pharmacist is actually a very good resource to ask if you don't feel comfortable speaking with your doctor but a medical professional should be the one to taper your dosing. I suspect there is a reason you don't want to be on this medication any longer and it will be important to have that addressed. Changing medications might be a better option for you but again this will need to be done carefully. Remember, these are chemical signals that change how your brain functions – it isn't something to mess with. Best of luck & don't be afraid to ask your doctor for help – that is why they are there.

REPLY

my husband tried CBD oil to minimize symptoms and it helps a lot, but he got fired from his job because there is THC in it and we didn't know it. He tested positive on a DOT drug test and my husband has never even done tobacco. We are in Texas and found out it illegal here but I purchased it at a local health food store. He had to stop taking it.

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I’m weaning off of Venlafaxine after only 2 mos of taking it. It caused violent personality changes in me – which is atypical behavior. As in I was yelling at my amazing, gentle boyfriend / soon-to-be fiancé over NOTHING and felt like I could just hit him. HORRIBLE. I felt BIPOLAR. Thank goodness he went through a personality change, too, years before we met when he was trying to find the right meds for his anxiety, so he understood, otherwise I guarantee our almost 2-year relationship would have ended that night. I was sobbing uncontrollably, angry…gosh it was horrible. The medication was supposed to make me feel better for goodness sakes, not turn me into a worse version of myself!

I initially went on it after Sertraline caused only one of my pupils to dilate, and at the advice of the ER pharmacist, I immediately stopped taking the Sertraline, as this can be indicative of a rare but serious side effect. I had wanted help with GAD and bad PMDD, no depression outside of my menstrual cycle. (Can’t take birth control or any other type of hormonal therapy, so I wanted to find alternative options for helping the PMDD.)

My doctor then put me on 37.5 mg of Venlafaxine and as I said now I’m weaning off of it due to the crazy personality change after 2 mos. I’m done trying meds after this; for my somewhat milder symptoms, it’s not worth the side effects.

It’s day 5 of weaning off, I took 1/2 pill per doctor’s advice for the first 3 nights, didn’t take it last night (night 4) and now day 5 I feel like I’m going to throw up. I have the jitters too.

However, I’m kicking myself because I had 4 cups of full caff coffee this morning about 4 hours ago (stupid!), and due to my extreme sensitivity anyway with caffeine, that made my nausea even worse. I feel like I’m about to burst into tears, too, because of not feeling well and the emotional changes of getting off the meds. If it’s this bad after only 2 mos taking 37.5 mg, I can’t imagine how terrible it would be for those on a large dose for years.

My body is HYPER sensitive to all things caffeine, alcohol, med related. My doctor even said she wouldn’t help me further with picking a 3rd medication to try, as my body indicates its more sensitive than others’. She referred me to a psychiatrist as they are “more familiar” with medications for anxiety, etc., and would do a better job picking a medication for me. But since the GAD/PMDD are mostly managable, I’m done with the experiment of trying medication to help – I gave it a good go.

I’m a 5’7”, 120 lbs, (29 yrs old), and my doctor said that having a smaller frame and lower dose should mean I won’t have as bad of withdrawal symptoms. Compared to others, I know she’s right, but as I’m typing this I’m fighting the urge to go try and throw up. AWFUL MEDICATION TO WEAN OFF OF! Do it gradually. Do not stop cold turkey – I am just so glad I was on a low dose for a short time. Doctor said it should only take 7 days for me to wean off since my dose was so small. Thank goodness it’s Saturday, so I can lie on the couch all day and I have tomorrow, too, to help me HOPEFULLY feel normal again by work Monday.

Tips: 1. Stay AWAY from caffeine 2. GRADUAL weaning off 3. Don’t give up! I’m also fighting the urge to take a half a pill today, but I don’t want to do that because that’ll set me back. I’m following my doctor’s weaning-off plan and in her words, there’s not much I can do to wean off since my dose was so small already. She said just to cut the pill in half and take the half pill for 3-4 nights.

Folks who are on very high doses, oh I feel for you. Blessings for strength to keep up the weaning-off path and not to relapse into taking it again.

I was petrified to wean off because “Doctor Internet” had so many posts about Venlafaxine being the worst medication of its kind you can possibly try to wean off of. Doctor Internet was right. It sucks, and I was only on 37.5 mg for 2 mos.

If possible, maybe ask your doctor about going on a different medication if you’re trying to decide between starting Venlafaxine (which is the generic brand of Effexor) and a different medication.

REPLY
@gb1988

I’m weaning off of Venlafaxine after only 2 mos of taking it. It caused violent personality changes in me – which is atypical behavior. As in I was yelling at my amazing, gentle boyfriend / soon-to-be fiancé over NOTHING and felt like I could just hit him. HORRIBLE. I felt BIPOLAR. Thank goodness he went through a personality change, too, years before we met when he was trying to find the right meds for his anxiety, so he understood, otherwise I guarantee our almost 2-year relationship would have ended that night. I was sobbing uncontrollably, angry…gosh it was horrible. The medication was supposed to make me feel better for goodness sakes, not turn me into a worse version of myself!

I initially went on it after Sertraline caused only one of my pupils to dilate, and at the advice of the ER pharmacist, I immediately stopped taking the Sertraline, as this can be indicative of a rare but serious side effect. I had wanted help with GAD and bad PMDD, no depression outside of my menstrual cycle. (Can’t take birth control or any other type of hormonal therapy, so I wanted to find alternative options for helping the PMDD.)

My doctor then put me on 37.5 mg of Venlafaxine and as I said now I’m weaning off of it due to the crazy personality change after 2 mos. I’m done trying meds after this; for my somewhat milder symptoms, it’s not worth the side effects.

It’s day 5 of weaning off, I took 1/2 pill per doctor’s advice for the first 3 nights, didn’t take it last night (night 4) and now day 5 I feel like I’m going to throw up. I have the jitters too.

However, I’m kicking myself because I had 4 cups of full caff coffee this morning about 4 hours ago (stupid!), and due to my extreme sensitivity anyway with caffeine, that made my nausea even worse. I feel like I’m about to burst into tears, too, because of not feeling well and the emotional changes of getting off the meds. If it’s this bad after only 2 mos taking 37.5 mg, I can’t imagine how terrible it would be for those on a large dose for years.

My body is HYPER sensitive to all things caffeine, alcohol, med related. My doctor even said she wouldn’t help me further with picking a 3rd medication to try, as my body indicates its more sensitive than others’. She referred me to a psychiatrist as they are “more familiar” with medications for anxiety, etc., and would do a better job picking a medication for me. But since the GAD/PMDD are mostly managable, I’m done with the experiment of trying medication to help – I gave it a good go.

I’m a 5’7”, 120 lbs, (29 yrs old), and my doctor said that having a smaller frame and lower dose should mean I won’t have as bad of withdrawal symptoms. Compared to others, I know she’s right, but as I’m typing this I’m fighting the urge to go try and throw up. AWFUL MEDICATION TO WEAN OFF OF! Do it gradually. Do not stop cold turkey – I am just so glad I was on a low dose for a short time. Doctor said it should only take 7 days for me to wean off since my dose was so small. Thank goodness it’s Saturday, so I can lie on the couch all day and I have tomorrow, too, to help me HOPEFULLY feel normal again by work Monday.

Tips: 1. Stay AWAY from caffeine 2. GRADUAL weaning off 3. Don’t give up! I’m also fighting the urge to take a half a pill today, but I don’t want to do that because that’ll set me back. I’m following my doctor’s weaning-off plan and in her words, there’s not much I can do to wean off since my dose was so small already. She said just to cut the pill in half and take the half pill for 3-4 nights.

Folks who are on very high doses, oh I feel for you. Blessings for strength to keep up the weaning-off path and not to relapse into taking it again.

I was petrified to wean off because “Doctor Internet” had so many posts about Venlafaxine being the worst medication of its kind you can possibly try to wean off of. Doctor Internet was right. It sucks, and I was only on 37.5 mg for 2 mos.

If possible, maybe ask your doctor about going on a different medication if you’re trying to decide between starting Venlafaxine (which is the generic brand of Effexor) and a different medication.

Jump to this post

Sorry you are having such a hard time…wow! I've been on Venlafaxine for about 4-5 years now and started down from 150 mg to 75 mg a month ago. Some withdrawal but not too awful. Determined to start 37.5 when I get back from vacation in 4 weeks and stay with it until I'm free. Best wishes for getting yourself free!

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@arachel

I have been posting on this thread since I began tapering off from 150mg. It's been 4 months and I'm finally down to 37.5 mg. I've been removing the beads from the capsules slowly. I decided to try removing the beads from the capsules instead of skipping a day between dosages. I tried this method once. It was unsuccessful. So, this time I decided to do it my way. So far so good. My doctor is against me opening the capsules because of the time release element built into the capsules. From what I have observed after opening the capsule, there are large beads and small beads so I suppose the drug in the smaller beads is dissolved faster than the drug in the larger beads. It's pretty difficult to separate the beads into size category so I just decided to do it slowly (5 beads a day). I figured it should level out sooner or later. I did have a few episodes of feeling sick, but it was worth it. The only thing I am noticing after getting down to 37.5 mg is my mood. I am getting some panic attacks. I'm trying to talk myself through them and have resolved not to let panic attacks deter me from my mission. I am curious as to how long panic attack episodes will last. I don't want to start weaning off of the 37.5 until my mood has leveled out. If anyone has any input on how long withdrawal symptoms last, I would love to hear about it.

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Hi- how long did you take this medication? I was on 150 mg from January 22 until April 13. I told my psych nurse practitioner that I wanted off this crap. She said okay but we agreed to start lexapro . So she told me to taper week 1 to 75mg Effexor (sr) and 10mg Lexapro – next week do 75 mg and 20 3rd/4th week so 37.5 and 20mg. My therapist told me no! This is too fast! So I’ve tapered 112.5 and 10 first 10’days- second ten days 75 and 10- this past weeks she had me go up and down between 75 and 37.5 and stay at 10 Lexapro. Today is the final week to 2 weeks of the low dose taper for me.

I have never been on anti depressants like these . I had a nervous breakdown in January after being on Xanax and ambien for 5 was weak. Ending up checking my self into tha psych hospital only to be cold turkey off those meds( I was glad) and then doped up on gabapentin and Effexor.’I got off the gabapentin in 28 days and then started the Effexor taper 5 days later. I have tmjd and now Eustachian tube issues(due to tmjd) – I want off the Effexor so bad! No one understands how hard this stuff is to get off of except my therapist. What would happen if I just stopped the Effexor at 37.5 and let the Lexapro take over? I’ve been doing this for almost 26! Days now.

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@tundra

I'm not coming off effexor but am tapering a Benzo right now and it's tough but doable. I'm a fighter and will be a winner. I saw my Psychiatrist today after she received the results of my genetic testing. My body is not tolerate of anything but Pristiq. Both she and I decided I'm going to continue my 6 month taper off my Benzo and call it done…..No more pills. I am however with her approval going to try CBD oil to aid me in my withdrawls. You can do this. Jump in and get your life back. One day at a time, low and slow in the taper. You deserve to be free and happy. There are a lot of us out here tapering and supporting…My Very Best

Jump to this post

Hi, @tundra — since you mentioned tapering off benzodiazepines (benzos), you might be interested in one of these discussions on that subject:
https://mayocl.in/2KbEkNU (protracted benzo withdrawal)
https://mayocl.in/2KFYD6k (FDA warnings on opioids and benzos)

Interesting about your genetic testing and the results with your body only being tolerant of one medication. Will you tell us more about your testing and what led you to do it?

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@allamericanmommy

With medications like SSRIs or SSNRIs you will want to slowly reduce the dosing so your body doesn't have an abrupt stop. This will depend on what is called the 'half-life' of the medication and the dosing. A pharmacist is actually a very good resource to ask if you don't feel comfortable speaking with your doctor but a medical professional should be the one to taper your dosing. I suspect there is a reason you don't want to be on this medication any longer and it will be important to have that addressed. Changing medications might be a better option for you but again this will need to be done carefully. Remember, these are chemical signals that change how your brain functions – it isn't something to mess with. Best of luck & don't be afraid to ask your doctor for help – that is why they are there.

Jump to this post

Hi, @allamericanmommy — thanks for the wise advice on reducing SSRIs and SSNRIs. Agreed that pharmacists can be a great resource.

Have you experienced tapering off an selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) or a selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SSNRI), @allamericanmommy?

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@smccain

my husband tried CBD oil to minimize symptoms and it helps a lot, but he got fired from his job because there is THC in it and we didn't know it. He tested positive on a DOT drug test and my husband has never even done tobacco. We are in Texas and found out it illegal here but I purchased it at a local health food store. He had to stop taking it.

Jump to this post

Hi, @smccain — that is a very wise word of advice — knowing exactly what is in anything you are taking, the legalities where you live and what is allowable at your workplace.

Very sorry to hear your husband lost his job. How is he doing now? Did he switch to another medication?

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