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Effexor (Venlafaxine) Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment

This entry was posted in Antidepressant on by .
Medically Reviewed Fact Checked

Last Updated on May 10, 2022 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr John Motl MD
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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.

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

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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 safely.5

Stopping antidepressants like venlafaxine can also create a risk of depression recurring in addition severe withdrawal symptoms, such as the following: 6

Physical 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 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 presents 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 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 before they dissipate, depending on your dose of medication, how long you’ve been taking the drug, your age, and your condition.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 work 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 two to eight weeks.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 neurotransmitters 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:

  • Eating with a high antidepressant food score (AFS): Researchers have found that nutritious food positively impacts brain health, and fresh vegetables and fruit score the highest antidepressant food scores, so including more of them in your diet can ease your symptoms.9
  • Reducing stimulants: Lowering your intake of sugar and caffeine can have a positive effect on your withdrawal process.
  • Exercising gently every day: Even an easy 10-minute walk can boost your recovery.

Therapy

Undergoing 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.

Sources


1. Accessdata.fda.gov. Effexor XR label. [cited March 23, 2022]

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. Women’s Health Research Institute, Northwestern University. Off-label use of venlafaxine. [cited March 23, 2022]

4. Schifano Fabrizio, Chiappini Stefania. Frontiers in Pharmacology. “Is There a Potential of Misuse for Venlafaxine and Bupropion?” [cited March 23, 2022]

5. Gabriel, Matthew, and Verinder Sharma. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal. “Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome.” [cited March 23, 2022]

6. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Venlafaxine and Serious Withdrawal Symptoms: Warning to Drivers.” [cited Feb. 7, 2022]

7. European Medicines Agency. “Background to the CPMP Position Paper on selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and dependency/withdrawal reactions.” [cited March 26, 2022]

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.” [cited March 23, 2022]

9. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression.” [cited Feb. 7, 2022]

10. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Pharmacological strategies for detoxification.” [cited Feb. 7, 2022]

11. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. “The effectiveness of non-pharmacological interventions in older adults with depressive disorders: A systematic review.” [cited Feb. 7, 2022]


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 (Venlafaxine) Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment
Medical Disclaimer:
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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