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

Hello – I have been taking Effexor for nearly 20 years, got up to 225 mg per day and am now almost off. It has been so difficult, I felt it might help others to share some insights. First of all, I put this whole process off until I retired from teaching, because when I tried to get off before, the emotional effects of tapering were not conductive to my work. Also, I live in Alaska and have dark winters so I waited until May of this year, with the light returning, to begin again, a SLOW taper. It has taken me nearly 8 weeks so far; I am on my last week. Having the TIME and SUPPORT and especially the LIGHT have helped my progress. My husband and close friends are aware of the side effects (nightmares, dizziness, anxiety, upset stomach, etc.) and give me a great deal of support. I take the time to walk or ride my bike; the physical exercise and drinking lots of water seem to help the most. Also, finding creative, fun projects to lose myself in are helpful, just so there are not any high expectations to cause anxiety. Knowing, by reading the posts here, that these symptoms are temporary, has also empowered me to keep going. Once I am totally off, I vow to never take this drug again. If the winter gets rough, I will go to counseling again and if absolutely necessary, find another medication. But never again Effexor. Best of luck to each person who is on this journey. It IS hard, but it is possible. Right?

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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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@dbrown72
I’m sorry you feel so awful, I’m not there yet but will be shortly. Good luck! I’m weaning off Venaflexine 150mg (generic Effexor) & started taking Trintellix the same time I started to wean off. I have been having terrible headaches every day! My anxiety is back more often (still had it on the Vevaflezine 150mg & had no emotion, hence the reason I’m switching). I’m a crier and I couldn’t shed a tear for any amount of money, I don’t like being so flat. That’s why my dr, is switching me. I only have these horrible headaches & sometimes whole body aches! I need to have the Trintellix to kick in and really help my daily uncomfortable anxiety. I hope your doing better by the time you read 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

Jump to this post

@lindaeb13 thank you. I've been only on Trintellix now for a few weeks. I still have my ups and downs though. I started on 5mg Trintellix and now am at 10mg Trintellix daily. The transition was horrible to say the least, but I've had a lot going on with my life. I broke up with an emotionally abusive boyfriend, lost my job and things are crashing down around me it seems, but I've been able to keep it together. Not sure if I could without any medication. Good luck with your transition. I had that flat feeling while on Celexa. I still get headaches, but not sure what they're from. I would never recommend Effexor to anyone just due to the effects of going off of them. Have a great day!

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Hi, everyone — as there have been a number of mentions in this discussion of cutting tablets or splitting capsules of venlafaxine (Effexor), we asked a Mayo Clinic pharmacist for some input. Here is what she had to say:

Each patient should consult their clinician for individualized recommendations for tapering off antidepressant medications. Tapers should be individualized with consideration for the specific medication to be tapered, current dose, how long they have been taking the medication and other factors based on the clinicians expertise.

In some cases tablets may be split. Capsules should never be split. Removal of beads from capsules to accomplish titration is not a recommended method of tapering. Taper schedules can extend for several weeks if the patient's situation requires a slower taper. Tapers are sometimes shortened in the case of adverse effects or other patient factors.

You can read more about antidepressant withdrawl here https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/antidepressant-withdrawal/faq-20058133.

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This is my weaning schedule which I followed and can say I thought I was going to die! Effexor – went from 300 to 150 for four days then 75 for four days then 37 1/2 for 6 days. At the same time I was weaning off Atavan and Amitryptaline. Towards the end he introduced Trintellix and Neurontin. I have been so sick, mentally and physically. I went almost all day without a headache today. I still cry, exhausted, ruminating and feeling like I will never laugh again. But I was in such bad emotional shape with the drugs I was on that I stayed in my house for six years.
I kept promising my mom a trip when I felt better, but I never felt better. My mom died on Valentines Day I never took her anywhere. I am sobbing just writing this. I have PTSD and MDD. I have battled to stay alive for 63 yrs., now after losing so much of life I really hope this works.
I have never been so sick but I will do anything to get better. I can't sleep because of the pain in my head, ruminating, restlessness. I see my psychiatrist tomorrow. I go to bed at night and ask that tomorrow will be better.
Sorry for rambling, drugs, pain and a broken heart.

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@lisalucier
Lisa, I have to disagree with your comment about the Pharmacists statements you quoted. It is my opinion that particular Pharmacist is passing the buck by sending these people back to their doctors some of which may be giving wrong advice to their patients. Just because they are doctors it doesn’t preclude them from making mistakes. In fact according to research by John Hopkins Hospital over a quarter million people are killed each year from medical mistakes, and sadly that figure is on the rise. Doctors to often are giving patients inaccurate information like the person who was given three different diagnosis’s about her eye problem I read here today. Doctors prescribe the wrong medication which kills many people every year. I was nearly one of those statistics myself. Some years back a doctor accidentally (I hope lol) wrote a prescription for the Anticonvulsant Phenobarbital, however he wrote a lethal dose down. Had I not been somewhat familiar with medication dosages no telling what could have happened. Hopefully the pharmacist would have caught the error. But they are not infallible either. But my main reason for writing was to talk to
@patricia1955
regarding her discontinuing some medications.
1). It has been my experience that tapering multiple meds at one time is a risky endeavor. I ended up in bed for three months doing that. I was sicker than a dog.
2) Taper off off SLOWLY and I can’t empathize that enough. SLOWLY AND EVENLY. Don’t cut your dose in half or take it every other day or 3 days at one dose and 6 days for another dose. Remember, SLOW AND EVEN. This is especially true the higher your dose and the longer you’ve been on a particular medication.
3) I have read about a number of people here were given Xanax which is another Benzodiazepine, one Benzodiazepine is hard enough to get off of let alone two.
I’m not saying you have to come off every drug as slowly but I’d definitely go slow with Benzos.
But just because a doctor or Pharmacist gives you a t dose and timetable doesn’t mean they are always right.
Hope everyone titration

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@jakedduck1

@lisalucier
Lisa, I have to disagree with your comment about the Pharmacists statements you quoted. It is my opinion that particular Pharmacist is passing the buck by sending these people back to their doctors some of which may be giving wrong advice to their patients. Just because they are doctors it doesn’t preclude them from making mistakes. In fact according to research by John Hopkins Hospital over a quarter million people are killed each year from medical mistakes, and sadly that figure is on the rise. Doctors to often are giving patients inaccurate information like the person who was given three different diagnosis’s about her eye problem I read here today. Doctors prescribe the wrong medication which kills many people every year. I was nearly one of those statistics myself. Some years back a doctor accidentally (I hope lol) wrote a prescription for the Anticonvulsant Phenobarbital, however he wrote a lethal dose down. Had I not been somewhat familiar with medication dosages no telling what could have happened. Hopefully the pharmacist would have caught the error. But they are not infallible either. But my main reason for writing was to talk to
@patricia1955
regarding her discontinuing some medications.
1). It has been my experience that tapering multiple meds at one time is a risky endeavor. I ended up in bed for three months doing that. I was sicker than a dog.
2) Taper off off SLOWLY and I can’t empathize that enough. SLOWLY AND EVENLY. Don’t cut your dose in half or take it every other day or 3 days at one dose and 6 days for another dose. Remember, SLOW AND EVEN. This is especially true the higher your dose and the longer you’ve been on a particular medication.
3) I have read about a number of people here were given Xanax which is another Benzodiazepine, one Benzodiazepine is hard enough to get off of let alone two.
I’m not saying you have to come off every drug as slowly but I’d definitely go slow with Benzos.
But just because a doctor or Pharmacist gives you a t dose and timetable doesn’t mean they are always right.
Hope everyone titration

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@brightwings
Confusing post huh. Sorry about that. Got a bit confused. Guess you figured it out. Your quick at finding things.

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@jakedduck1

@lisalucier
Lisa, I have to disagree with your comment about the Pharmacists statements you quoted. It is my opinion that particular Pharmacist is passing the buck by sending these people back to their doctors some of which may be giving wrong advice to their patients. Just because they are doctors it doesn’t preclude them from making mistakes. In fact according to research by John Hopkins Hospital over a quarter million people are killed each year from medical mistakes, and sadly that figure is on the rise. Doctors to often are giving patients inaccurate information like the person who was given three different diagnosis’s about her eye problem I read here today. Doctors prescribe the wrong medication which kills many people every year. I was nearly one of those statistics myself. Some years back a doctor accidentally (I hope lol) wrote a prescription for the Anticonvulsant Phenobarbital, however he wrote a lethal dose down. Had I not been somewhat familiar with medication dosages no telling what could have happened. Hopefully the pharmacist would have caught the error. But they are not infallible either. But my main reason for writing was to talk to
@patricia1955
regarding her discontinuing some medications.
1). It has been my experience that tapering multiple meds at one time is a risky endeavor. I ended up in bed for three months doing that. I was sicker than a dog.
2) Taper off off SLOWLY and I can’t empathize that enough. SLOWLY AND EVENLY. Don’t cut your dose in half or take it every other day or 3 days at one dose and 6 days for another dose. Remember, SLOW AND EVEN. This is especially true the higher your dose and the longer you’ve been on a particular medication.
3) I have read about a number of people here were given Xanax which is another Benzodiazepine, one Benzodiazepine is hard enough to get off of let alone two.
I’m not saying you have to come off every drug as slowly but I’d definitely go slow with Benzos.
But just because a doctor or Pharmacist gives you a t dose and timetable doesn’t mean they are always right.
Hope everyone titration

Jump to this post

Hi, just want to clarify that according to what I looked up, Effexor is not a benzodiazepine. It's a SNRI antidepressant (serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor.) At higher doses, it includes dopamine. But no matter what, it obviously is very difficult to withdraw from it. My heart goes out to all of you!

Also, it's been interesting to hear about taking out the beads from the capsule. I would suppose that each bead has a certain amount of medication in it but maybe they just are the same. We can't deny that this method has worked well for some people.
Cathy

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@dianrib

I made a couple mistakes. The correct post is the last one. I have asked that the first two be deleted. Sorry about the confusion.

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I’m so out of it right now that I don’t know if I’m even posting in the right spot! I was on Effexor 150mg Extended release 2x daily for 4 years along with 200mg 2x daily of lamotrigine. Long story short, since the beginning of May I’m down to 25mg a day of lamotrigine. That’s the easy one. The last week I dropped down to 37.5mg in the morning and 37.5mg around 3pm of the Effexor (not extended release). I can’t stand myself or basically anybody around me! I’m angry, my anxiety hits me off and on all day long, I feel like bugs are crawling on me, headaches, and impulse buying on the internet! The sad thing is, I had my thyroid a year ago and that is still not under control so I’m sleeping most of the day. I’m only up a few hours out of the day and I’m losing it! I’m supposed to start Cymbalta when I’m completely off of the Effexor. For the depression and fibromyalgia. I went to a new doctor because my doctor now just doesn’t give a crap about his patients anymore. I had to take a urine test for the new doc to test for the Percocet that I’m on. He’s very strict. He said it takes 3 weeks for the results so I don’t see him until the 24th. It’s going to be a long 12 days! I feel like calling him and asking him to take me in as soon as he gets the results back to get me on the Cymbalta and be done with the Effexor completely!

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@74unicorn I am so sorry you are experiencing all this. We who are here posting have been or are going thru the same thing. Please get to reading, the answers you have are already here.
Please be aware if you just stop the pills at 37.5 mg, you are going to get sicker than you are now. I know from experience. Call your doc or do what others have done to reduce the withdrawal symptoms. Smiling at you BRIGHT WINGS
NOW get to reading…….

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@lisalucier

I can’t reply to your message. So I hope you see This. Thank you for deleting my posts. Have no idea what happened, just hope I don’t do it again. Thanks again.

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@patricia1955

This is my weaning schedule which I followed and can say I thought I was going to die! Effexor – went from 300 to 150 for four days then 75 for four days then 37 1/2 for 6 days. At the same time I was weaning off Atavan and Amitryptaline. Towards the end he introduced Trintellix and Neurontin. I have been so sick, mentally and physically. I went almost all day without a headache today. I still cry, exhausted, ruminating and feeling like I will never laugh again. But I was in such bad emotional shape with the drugs I was on that I stayed in my house for six years.
I kept promising my mom a trip when I felt better, but I never felt better. My mom died on Valentines Day I never took her anywhere. I am sobbing just writing this. I have PTSD and MDD. I have battled to stay alive for 63 yrs., now after losing so much of life I really hope this works.
I have never been so sick but I will do anything to get better. I can't sleep because of the pain in my head, ruminating, restlessness. I see my psychiatrist tomorrow. I go to bed at night and ask that tomorrow will be better.
Sorry for rambling, drugs, pain and a broken heart.

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Hi, @patricia1955. Wow, weaning off of three medications at one time sounds challenging.

Really sorry to hear that you wanted to take your mom on a trip when you felt better, but that time never came before she passed away on Valentine's. Very sorry to hear of her loss. Sounds like she meant a lot to you.

A couple other threads here on Connect you may want to check out are:
https://mayocl.in/2NbhXbW, on loss and grief
https://mayocl.in/2uqCkdq, on PTSD

You mentioned feeling so terribly sick. Is this just from medication withdrawal, or other health issues?

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Bright Wings checking in…Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, OH MY GOSH! There is life after Effexor. I realized a couple of days ago, I am now living the dream! Life with all the effects of my childhood abuse erased. Rejoice with me. I have worked hard since 1986 to get to this point. I was and am worth all it takes or will take to keep me here.
Ok, some of my challenges post withdrawal include:
1. back pain, I am using my CBD oil, 700 mg as directed. 2 dropperfulls 2x a day.
I still can't stand up straight (almost!) and my back aches but I can handle this at this point. It is not keeping me from cleaning places I have neglected during withdrawal.
2. Background anxiety, handled with edibles. Less and less are necessary as I catch my stride in this new life I am living.
3. Sleep was rough after getting off the Effexor. Couldn't sleep the night thru. It is improving nicely.
4. Happiness level vs depression level: I am doing well, I feel like a fountain bubbling up happiness.
I had to go thru another bout of grieving…this time again for my brother who committed suicide. Psychiatry was not ready for his stories in 1974. Ha, they were not ready for my stories in the early 90's. But I never gave up or allowed myself to do the same thing. My brother already killed himself, there was no way I could put the family thru that again. I went thru 1000's of bouts of being suicidal. But I knew, if I gave in and ended my life, THEY WOULD WIN AND THERE WAS NO F'ING WAY I WOULD ALLOW THAT.
So now when I am out walking and I see someone frowning, I very quickly check the corners of my mouth. If they are down at the corners, I am so aware that I am dumping negative chemicals into my brain. I immediately start smiling again. Oh how many years I used "fake it till you make it" to purposely dump good, happy chemicals in my brain to help myself. I remember standing for hours, in front of a mirror, smiling at myself to get the good chemicals I needed to stay alive.
5. ADHD symptoms…I am handling it nicely, I think. As I bounce around from point A to B, I just keep going, not making myself stay on point but getting something done where ever I land. I have an inner knowing that this too shall pass.
6. I have gotten audio books again. I started reading when I was 8. I never stopped. My husband and I used to go to the big library 80 miles from our house, every 3 weeks. We took out the max allowed, 30 audio books. Oh, how we delighted in our books.
I can't afford that library now. They want $80 a year for out of city folks. I found one in the nearest town for $30. Oh, I am overjoyed. I can do things and still read. Yippee SKIPPEE
I am having some difficulty staying on track listening sometimes, but remember I also have multiple sclerosis. I do know that my MS also gives me brain challenges so I can't always tell which problem is responsible. Who cares anyway. I just know I have a challenge and set off to change it. Its no big deal. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes not. I just keep going like the energized bunny.
Update on July: Monday am: I am taking off with my friend to go crystal hunting on Mount Ada, Arkansas until wednesday.
It is also a civil war battle site so I will be studying before I leave. I was invited to go by young ceremony friends. Camping in over 100 degree is going to strain my MS. So I am bringing extra clothes to douse myself with gallons of water if necessary. I have tons of tricks to stay cool. If I have to play in the nearby river I will.
I am not sure if I can actually stay hunting crystals on the mountain cuz it is in the blazing sun. I will try but I know I have consequences if I get too hot. But I am so excited. Ceremony folks are the best.
On another note: I was just adopted into the Native American church where I attend ceremony. Now I can apply for my Medicine Woman card. Yippee SKIPPEE
Ceremony is fast approaching. July 21 for an evening ceremony. I love them the best.
I have become aware of different healing that comes with night ceremonies. Can't put my finger on why but I know its true.
Ok, my old dog who takes CBD oil on his milkbones is actually dancing to go out, Bright Wings…..living the dream….

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Your name is now even more appropriate than before. You obviously are a very strong woman, I guess you’ve had to be. I’m so happy for you!!! My most heart ❤️ felt congratulations BRIGHTwings and continued good luck to you.

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