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Effexor Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, Natural Treatment

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Medically Reviewed Fact Checked

Last Updated on May 18, 2023 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr John Motl MD
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The SSRI antidepressant Effexor (venlafaxine) is prescribed only in the extended-release format, Effexor XR. If you or a loved one has had unsuccessful results after taking Effexor, you may be considering an Effexor withdrawal program. Alternative to Meds does not recommend trying it on your own and advises you to seek competent clinical support. This information may provide some guidance to share with your prescriber and may give some enlightenment on how to cope with the withdrawal process.

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 disorders, 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 slowly because of the discontinuation symptoms associated with what is termed discontinuation syndrome.5,7

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Common Effexor Withdrawal Symptoms

effexor withdrawal symptoms
Although most people begin to feel symptoms of withdrawal from antidepressant medication within a day or two, venlafaxine has a shorter half-life, just five hours, meaning most people’s bodies eliminate half the drug in five hours. So researchers have noted that discontinuation symptoms for venlafaxine can appear suddenly and severely if individuals don’t taper from the drug gradually.5,6

Stopping antidepressants like venlafaxine can also create a risk of depression recurring in addition to severe withdrawal symptoms.

Physical Effexor Withdrawal Symptoms
  • Flu-like symptoms (fatigue, muscle pain, aches)
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Brain zaps or brain shivers (electric shock-like sensations)
  • Dry mouth
  • Impulsive or erratic behaviors
Psychiatric Effexor Withdrawal Symptoms
  • Nightmares and insomnia (trouble sleeping)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Seizures

If you or a loved one wants to taper from Effexor (venlafaxine), discuss your treatment options with a healthcare professional. The range and potential severity of Effexor withdrawal symptoms present a strong case for seeking a holistic approach to tapering as well as exploring non-toxic venlafaxine alternatives to treat your condition.

How Long Do Effexor Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

how long do effexor withdrawals last?

Experts recommend that if you or a loved one wants to discontinue the use of venlafaxine, you must taper from the drug if you’ve been taking it for at least a week because of the severe Effexor withdrawal symptoms, which can begin within 8 to 12 hours of postponing or missing your last dose. These side effects from withdrawal can last for several weeks or months without comprehensive treatment. Factors such as the dose of medication, how long you’ve been taking the drug, age, and general health condition all impact Effexor withdrawal and recovery.6

Withdrawal Treatment Options

effexor withdrawal treatment options
Stopping Effexor (venlafaxine) or Effexor XR by going “cold turkey” can lengthen the time needed to recover from quitting Effexor. Always seek competent and professional help from your healthcare provider to discuss which of these options works best to cope with Effexor withdrawal symptoms.

If your withdrawal side effects feel like an Effexor addiction, you can manage your discontinuation symptoms safely and comfortably at the Alternative to Meds Center. The center offers expertise and knowledge grounded in our longstanding heritage of individual care and attention.

Taper Schedule

Experts recommend tapering from Effexor to ease withdrawal symptoms. Tapering tends to be very individualized, so your timeline for tapering off the medication could span from weeks to months and is best done gradually.4,5 Reach out to your doctor for medical advice to ask about how a taper schedule can reduce your withdrawal symptoms.

OTC Medications

Consult your doctor or healthcare provider about any over-the-counter medications that can help ease withdrawal symptoms. Nutritional supplements like vitamins, minerals, and amino acids can boost the production of naturally occurring neurotransmitter precursors, which can increase your level of neurotransmitters.

Diet and Exercise

Because you may experience symptoms even while tapering, you can support the withdrawal process by discussing these diet and exercise recommendations with your healthcare provider:

  • Choose foods with a high antidepressant food score (AFS): Researchers have determined that specific foods can act as antidepressants. Oysters, mussels, organ meats, leafy greens, peppers, and cruciferous vegetables scored highest on the antidepressant food scores, so include 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.
  • Exercise gently every day: Even an easy 10-minute walk can boost your recovery.


Undergoing supportive therapy can decrease your risk of having a relapse. Non-pharmacological approaches helped improve depression. These approaches included cognitive behavioral therapy, problem-solving therapy, competitive memory training, problem-adaptation therapy, and reminiscence group therapy.10,11

Seeking Support

Whether you or a loved one is looking for an alternative to Effexor or seeking help with withdrawal symptoms, get assistance from medical professionals who have experience with antidepressants.

You have options for dealing with depression and other conditions that Effexor XR is designed to treat. At Alternative to Meds Center, we specialize in many Effexor alternatives and treatments for attaining mental health naturally, free from prescription drugs. In order to get off Effexor safely and comfortably, it may be beneficial to pursue some of the holistic treatments and tapering techniques the center has found to be successful.


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. [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. [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. [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]

Originally Published Sep 13, 2018 by Lyle Murphy, Founder

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

Dr. John Motl, M.D.

Dr. Motl is currently certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry, and Board eligible in Neurology and licensed in the state of Arizona.  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated from Creighton University School of Medicine with a Doctor of Medicine.  Dr. Motl has studied Medical Acupuncture at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine and at U.C.L.A.

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Effexor Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, Natural Treatment
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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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