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Effexor Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, Natural Treatment

Last Updated on June 7, 2024 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Effexor withdrawal can be a complex process. This SNRI antidepressant is currently prescribed only in the extended-release format, Effexor XR. Alternative to Meds Center does not recommend trying to withdraw from Effexor on your own. Even in choosing an out patient setting. always take time to find competent clinical support. The information below may provide some guidance to share with your prescriber regarding how to manage Effexor withdrawal safely.

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What Is Effexor Used For?

The short answer is doctors prescribe Effexor to treat the following conditions: 1

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
  • Panic disorder (PD)

Doctors prescribe 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 Effexor have been used to treat symptoms of menopause,3 obsessive-compulsive disorders, and chronic pain syndromes.4

The SNRI antidepressant Effexor has been around since 1997. Currently, doctors only prescribe venlafaxine under the brand name Effexor XR, which is a time-release version of the drug. it is commonly referred to as “Effexor” but it is not prescribed as an immediate-release drug today.

Effexor and Adult Suicide Risk

The Black Box warning on Effexor products mentions the risk of suicide in children and youth. However, the risk of suicide in adults is two and a half times that of placebo according to research published in 2019 by Hengartner and Ploderl. Anyone taking Effexor should be informed of the need to monitor suicidal thoughts, regardless of the age of the patient. 26

How Does Effexor Work?

According to the FDA drug label, how Effexor works is “unknown.” The label also reports that “non-clinical studies” have demonstrated the drug affects serotonin, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and norepinephrine, an excitatory hormone that is related to adrenaline. The drug is also found to affect dopamine but to a lesser extent. To clarify, “non-clinical” trials are animal-based studies done on either live animals or in vitro (studies done in a lab, outside of a living organism).1,12

Although the DEA does not classify venlafaxine as a scheduled drug, meaning it has no abuse potential, medical literature does acknowledge withdrawal-like symptoms can occur if you miss several doses or stop taking Effexor (venlafaxine) at once.4,5

Can You Get Addicted to Effexor?

can you get addicted to effexorThere are different ways to define addiction. A workable definition is this:  if there are withdrawals when you stop taking a drug, this is a marker showing that addiction or dependence has developed.6,7

Based on the non-clinical trials, it is believed that Effexor alters brain chemistry. The neurons in the CNS begin to adapt to and become reliant on the presence of the drug. This is called neuroadaptation.13 So if you change your dose or stop taking venlafaxine, the neurotransmitter cannot immediately adapt, and this causes distressing withdrawal symptoms.5

Research shows that Effexor withdrawal should be done gradually to avoid Effexor withdrawal symptoms. While it was neglected as a serious subject in the drug’s early days, Effexor withdrawal is now termed Effexor discontinuation syndrome in medical studies and literature.5,7

Common Effexor Withdrawal Symptoms

Commonly, many persons will experience symptoms of withdrawal from antidepressant medication within a day or two. While the immediate-release version of venlafaxine has a 5-hour half-life, Effexor XR has a somewhat extended half-life of about 11 hours. The half-life point is a somewhat predictable marker for when withdrawal symptoms will begin to manifest.5,6

Effexor Withdrawal Symptoms
  • Seizures
  • Stroke-like symptoms 27
  • Brain zaps or brain shivers (electric shock-like sensations)
  • Mania, hypomania 28
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Flu-like symptoms (fatigue, muscle pain, aches)
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Impulsive or erratic behaviors
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia, disturbed sleep

Effexor withdrawal can cause a wide range of extremely distressing reactions, and these can differ from person to person. Seek help to avoid this outcome. And, never ever abruptly discontinue Effexor as to do so can be life-threatening. Seek licensed, competent help to assist you with Effexor withdrawal.

How Long Do Effexor Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Some persons may be able to stop taking antidepressants especially if the drug was only taken for a short time, and at a low dose. For others, especially after stopping too abruptly, the adverse effects of Effexor withdrawal can last for several weeks, months, or longer. Factors such as age, general health and others can also impact Effexor withdrawal and how long it may take to achieve full recovery.6

Withdrawal Treatment Options:  Outpatient or Inpatient?

Inpatient treatment for Effexor withdrawal is highly recommended, especially if a person is experiencing extreme reactions, or in a case where the person has tried more than once to stop taking Effexor without success. Many of our clients have found that inpatient care was the key to their successful Effexor withdrawal. Protocols used at the center are described in more detail below.

However, we also understand that not everyone can be a candidate for inpatient treatment and opt for out patient care. The most important part of choosing care is being confident in your caregivers. There is an online resource to find licensed physicians called IMHH.org. You can likely find help in your geographic area by searching this directory for physician who not only can prescribe, but follows guidelines based on integrated medicine for mental health.

Slow and Gradual Effexor Withdrawal

Experts recommend slowly and gradually reducing your dosage of Effexor to ease withdrawal symptoms.4,5 Reach out to your doctor for medical advice to ask about how a gradual withdrawal schedule can minimize your withdrawal symptoms.

What About OTC Medications?

Before taking over-the-counter medications, consult with your doctor or healthcare provider. A naturopath can guide you concerning any nutritional supplements like vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that may act as neurotransmitter precursors, to help the body regain balance.

Diet Upgrades in Effexor Withdrawal

Certain nutrient-dense foods and supplements may play a significant role in recovery from depressive disorders, according to the work of La Chance et al. We encourage you to learn more about the role nutrition can play and discuss these diet recommendations with your healthcare provider:

  • improved diet for effexor withdrawalMedical research shows the highest antidepressant food scores (AFS) were found in oysters, mussels, other seafoods, and organ meats. In plant-based foods, the highest scores came from leafy greens, lettuces, peppers, and cruciferous vegetables. Consider including more of them in your daily diet.9
  • Eliminate stimulants:  Lowering your intake of sugars and caffeine can have a positive effect on your withdrawal process.
  • Supplements that got the highest “antidepressant nutrient score” included these: vitamins A, C, B (especially noted were B1, B6, & B12), magnesium, selenium, potassium, iron, folate, and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. (Look for the highest quality supplements you can afford.) You can research the best available food sources for these nutrients and micronutrients — and supplements can further ensure you’re getting enough of them. Lab testing can help determine your body’s profile and needs accurately.

Advantages of Exercise in Recovery

Physical exercise is probably one of the most under-used but beneficial types of therapy for recovery after drug use has damaged the body. The effects of getting the body moving, combined with mindfulness and breathing exercises have been well-documented.

Whether your preference is aerobics or yoga, clinical trials have shown significant positive effects of physical exercise on mental and physical health. Take time during your recovery to include exercise, and gain these advantages! 21,22

Supportive Therapy

When the withdrawal process has adequately stabilized, and the person is eating and sleeping, this might be a good time to introduce counseling and various types of psychological therapy. Undergoing supportive therapy can help address areas that may be related to and contributing to depression and anxiety, and that can give you ways to cope with and overcome the stressors in your life. A wide range of international researchers such as Nakao, Lazar, Keng, Clark, and others have recommended approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy, problem-solving therapy, competitive memory training, problem-adaptation therapy, reminiscence group therapy, and more.10,11,13,22-25

Effexor Withdrawal at Alternative to Meds Center

There are many non-pharmacological options for effectively dealing with depression and other conditions. However, Effexor withdrawal done correctly will put you in a position to best take advantage of them. At Alternative to Meds Center, we specialize in orthomolecular-medicine-based  treatments for attaining mental health naturally, free from the need for prescription drugs.

holistic effexor withdrawal help sedona drug rehabYou can view the protocols we use in detail on our services overview pages. Some of the most important and fundamental examples include neurotoxin removal, and neurotransmitter rehabilitation. We have found that the most stubborn and puzzling symptoms, especially those that medication did not resolve, were directly related to accumulated neurotoxic elements in the body. And, once these are gently removed, healing moves forward and regaining mental wellness and a normalizing of neurotransmitter function become possible. Since mental health symptoms are directly associated with neurotoxicity, we cannot overemphasize the importance of having a “clean machine” and what that can do for natural mental wellness.17-19

A wide array of therapeutic services and science-based nutrition has been honed and perfected over 17 years to help our clients through to successful recovery. Some of the most popular options include CBT,13,20 acupuncture,14 therapeutic massage,15 traditional Chinese medicine,16 and a host of others. Each program is carefully designed to fit the unique needs and profile of each client.

Ours is a multi-layered and highly personalized approach to regaining mental health in non-toxic, safe, gentle ways. Please call us for more information about how our comprehensive Effexor withdrawal program may be the answer you’ve been looking for to end your suffering, or that of your loved one.

Sources


1. FDA drug label, Effexor (venlafaxine extended-release capsules) approval 1997 [cited 2023 April 13]

2. Walton, Surrey M. Ph.D., Schumock, Glen T. Pharm.D., M.B.A., Lee, Ky-Van Ph.D., Alexander, G. Caleb M.D., M.S., Meltzer, David M.D., Ph.D.d, Stafford, Randall S. M.D., Ph.D. Developing Evidence-Based Research Priorities for Off-Label Drug Use. [cited March 23, 2022]

3. Walton SM, Schumock GT, Lee KV, Alexander GC, Meltzer D, Stafford RS. Prioritizing future research on off-label prescribing: results of a quantitative evaluation. Pharmacotherapy. 2008 Dec;28(12):1443-52. doi: 10.1592/phco.28.12.1443. PMID: 19025425; PMCID: PMC4406412. [cited 2023 April 13]

4. Schifano Fabrizio, Chiappini Stefania. Frontiers in Pharmacology. “Is There a Potential of Misuse for Venlafaxine and Bupropion?” [cited 2023 April 13]

5. Gabriel, M., & Sharma, V. (2017). Antidepressant discontinuation syndromeCMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne189(21), E747. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.160991 [cited 2023 April1 3]

6. Campagne D. M. (2005). Venlafaxine and serious withdrawal symptoms: warning to driversMedGenMed : Medscape general medicine7(3), 22. [cited 2023 April 13]

7. European Medicines Agency. “Background to the CPMP Position Paper on selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and dependency/withdrawal reactions.” [published April 12, 200] [2023 April 13]

8. Fava, Maurizio M.D., Mulroy, Rosemarie B.A., Alpert, Jonathan M.D., Ph.D., Nierenberg, Andrew A. M.D., and Rosenbaum, Jerrold F. M.D.The American Journal of Psychiatry. “Emergence of Adverse Events Following Discontinuation of Treatment With Extended-Release Venlafaxine.” [published Dec 1, 1997] [cited 2023 April 13]

9. LaChance, L. R., & Ramsey, D. (2018). Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression. World journal of psychiatry8(3), 97–104. https://doi.org/10.5498/wjp.v8.i3.97 [published online 2018 Sept 20] [cited 2023 April 13]

10. Diaper, A. M., Law, F. D., & Melichar, J. K. (2014). Pharmacological strategies for detoxification. British journal of clinical pharmacology77(2), 302–314. https://doi.org/10.1111/bcp.12245 [published online 2014 Jan 22] [cited 2023 April 13]

11. Apóstolo J, Bobrowicz-Campos E, Rodrigues M, Castro I, Cardoso D. The effectiveness of non-pharmacological interventions in older adults with depressive disorders: A systematic review. Int J Nurs Stud. 2016 Jun;58:59-70. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2016.02.006. Epub 2016 Feb 17. PMID: 27087298. [cited 2023 April 13]

12. EUPATI publication Non-clinical development: Types of non clinical study published online [N.D.] [cited 2023 Dec 1]

13. Gautam M, Tripathi A, Deshmukh D, Gaur M. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression. Indian J Psychiatry. 2020 Jan;62(Suppl 2):S223-S229. doi: 10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_772_19. Epub 2020 Jan 17. PMID: 32055065; PMCID: PMC7001356.  [cited 2023 Dec 1]

14. Chang BH, Sommers E. Acupuncture and relaxation response for craving and anxiety reduction among military veterans in recovery from substance use disorder. Am J Addict. 2014 Mar-Apr;23(2):129-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1521-0391.2013.12079.x. Epub 2013 Aug 30. PMID: 25187049. [cited 2023 Dec 1]

15. Espí-López GV, Monzani L, Gabaldón-García E, Zurriaga R. The beneficial effects of therapeutic craniofacial massage on quality of life, mental health and menopausal symptoms and body image: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Complement Ther Med. 2020 Jun;51:102415. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102415. Epub 2020 Apr 25. PMID: 32507432. [cited 2023 Dec 1]

16. Yeung A, Chan JSM, Cheung JC, Zou L. Qigong and Tai-Chi for Mood Regulation. Focus (Am Psychiatr Publ). 2018 Jan;16(1):40-47. doi: 10.1176/appi.focus.20170042. Epub 2018 Jan 24. PMID: 31975898; PMCID: PMC6519567. [cited 2023 Dec 1]

17. Cardenas-Iniguez C, Burnor E, Herting MM. Neurotoxicants, the Developing Brain, and Mental Health. Biol Psychiatry Glob Open Sci. 2022 Jul;2(3):223-232. doi: 10.1016/j.bpsgos.2022.05.002. Epub 2022 May 23. PMID: 35911498; PMCID: PMC9337627. [cited 2023 Dec 1]

18. National Research Council (US) Committee on Neurotoxicology and Models for Assessing Risk. Environmental Neurotoxicology. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1992. 1, Introduction: Defining the Problem of Neurotoxicity. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK234243/  [cited 2023 Dec 1]

19. Kern JK, Geier DA, Homme KG, King PG, Bjørklund G, Chirumbolo S, Geier MR. Developmental neurotoxicants and the vulnerable male brain: a systematic review of suspected neurotoxicants that disproportionally affect males. Acta Neurobiol Exp (Wars). 2017;77(4):269-296. PMID: 29369294. [cited 2023 Dec 1]

20. Nakao, M., Shirotsuki, K. & Sugaya, N. Cognitive–behavioral therapy for management of mental health and stress-related disorders: Recent advances in techniques and technologiesBioPsychoSocial Med 15, 16 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13030-021-00219-w  [cited 2023 Dec 1]

21. Wang D, Wang Y, Wang Y, Li R, Zhou C. Impact of physical exercise on substance use disorders: a meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2014 Oct 16;9(10):e110728. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110728. PMID: 25330437; PMCID: PMC4199732. [cited 2023 Dec 1]

22. Brown RP, Gerbarg PL. Sudarshan Kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: part I-neurophysiologic model. J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Feb;11(1):189-201. doi: 10.1089/acm.2005.11.189. Erratum in: J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Apr;11(2):383-4. PMID: 15750381. [cited 2023 Dec 1]

23. Clark, D. A., & Beck, A. T. (2010). Cognitive therapy of anxiety disorders: Science and practice. New York, NY: Guilford Press. [cited 2023 Dec 1]

24. Keng SL, Smoski MJ, Robins CJ. Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies. Clin Psychol Rev. 2011 Aug;31(6):1041-56. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2011.04.006. Epub 2011 May 13. PMID: 21802619; PMCID: PMC3679190. [cited 2023 Dec 1]

25. Lazar, S. W., Kerr, C. E., Wasserman, R. H., Gray, J. R., Greve, D. N., Treadway, M. T., McGarvey, M., Quinn, B. T., Dusek, J. A., Benson, H., Rauch, S. L., Moore, C. I., & Fischl, B. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thicknessNeuroreport16(17), 1893–1897. [cited 2023 Dec 1]

26. Michael P. HengartnerMartin Plöderl; Newer-Generation Antidepressants and Suicide Risk in Randomized Controlled Trials: A Re-Analysis of the FDA DatabasePsychother Psychosom 14 August 2019; 88 (4): 247–248. [cited 2024 April 24]

27. Sabljić V, Ružić K, Rakun R. Venlafaxine withdrawal syndrome. Psychiatr Danub. 2011 Mar;23(1):117-9. PMID: 21448114. [cited 2024 June 7]

28. Kora K, Kaplan P. Antidepresan ilaç kesimi ile tetiklenen hipomanik/manik kayma [Hypomania/mania induced by cessation of antidepressant drugs]. Turk Psikiyatri Derg. 2008 Fall;19(3):329-33. Turkish. PMID: 18791886. [cited 2024 June 7]


Originally Published Sep 13, 2018 by Lyle Murphy, Founder


This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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