Last Updated on May 10, 2022 by
Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr John Motl MD
The antidepressant medication, Effexor (venlafaxine) has been prescribed by doctors for various mental disorders, including depression and anxiety. A selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), doctors prescribe Effexor only in the extended-release format, Effexor XR. If you or a loved one has been taking Effexor and you experience serious side effects or would just like to stop, you may suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms. This post guides you through withdrawal from Effexor as well as how you can cope through the withdrawal process.
Table of Contents:
What Is Effexor Used For?
Doctors prescribe venlafaxine under the brand names Effexor and Effexor XR. Recently, as guided by the Food and Drug administration (FDA), doctors can only prescribe the extended-release version, Effexor XR, but doctors and pharmacists still refer to it as simply Effexor.
An antidepressant medication and a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), doctors prescribe Effexor (venlafaxine) to treat mental health illnesses such as:
- Major depressive disorder (MDD)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
- Panic disorder (PD)1
Doctors have been prescribing Effexor (venlafaxine) for many off-label uses as well. Most commonly, venlafaxine has been prescribed off-label to treat bipolar affective disorder and schizophrenia.2 Other off-label prescriptions of venlafaxine have been used to treat symptoms of menopause,3 obsessive-compulsive disorder, and chronic pain syndromes.4
Although the DEA does not classify venlafaxine as a scheduled drug, meaning it has no abuse potential, withdrawal-like symptoms called “antidepressant discontinuation syndrome” can occur if you miss several doses or stop taking Effexor (venlafaxine) at once.4,5
Feeling withdrawal symptoms doesn’t necessarily indicate an Effexor addiction. Although some health experts assert that antidepressant medication causes dependence, still others disagree.6,7 Experts do concur that discontinuing Effexor can cause withdrawal symptoms.
Effexor works like most antidepressant medication classified as an SSRI. It alters your brain’s chemistry, namely the levels and activity of neurotransmitters in your body, to better deal with your illness. So if you change your dose or discontinue taking venlafaxine, the neurotransmitter levels don’t adapt immediately, causing distressing withdrawal symptoms.5
For this reason, abruptly discontinuing venlafaxine or sharply reducing dosage can introduce such a shock to the body that the withdrawals could be overwhelming and impossible to endure without medical intervention. Experts recommend tapering from venlafaxine because of the discontinuation symptoms associated with discontinuation syndrome.7