In this guide, we will discuss Venlafaxine Withdrawal symptoms, coping and relief from venlafaxine withdrawal and other things to consider when stopping the medication.
Venlafaxine Withdrawal (Help)
Venlafaxine withdrawal symptoms, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness may include irritability, nausea, feeling dizzy, vomiting, nightmares, headaches, and/or having a prickling or tingling sensation on the skin (paresthesias).
This is why it is not recommended to suspend Venlafaxine intake abruptly, even if you have started to feel better. Before discontinuing the treatment, we advise you to talk to your doctor and follow their instructions to avoid the withdrawal symptoms.
The venlafaxine withdrawal symptoms may manifest because it suddenly creates an imbalance in the brain resulting in psychological and physical symptoms. The onset and duration of the withdrawal symptoms may vary from person to the other, for some people symptoms won’t manifest until several weeks later (from the last dose).
It is believed that the duration of the withdrawal symptoms will depend on how long someone took the antidepressant medication. For instance, if someone took the antidepressant for six months then, usually it has a less intense effect that someone that took the medication for 2 years or more.
What is Venlafaxine?
Venlafaxine or Effexor (brand name) is classed as an antidepressant medication that is commonly prescribed for the treatment of major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
Venlafaxine can also be prescribed off-label for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults and children/adolescents, diabetic neuropathy, migraine prevention, hot flashes, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) (National Alliance on Mental Illness).
Venlafaxine is available in tablets and extended-release formulations. The extended-release formula has a slower release and according to MDedge “extending the time to peak plasma concentration and, therefore, has once-daily dosing and fewer side effects; however, it offers no substantial advantage over IR formulation in terms of diminished withdrawal effects”.
What should I know about Venlafaxine?
As we discussed, is not recommended to stop taking Venlafaxine abruptly and without following your doctor’s instructions. Additionally, missing a dose can also increase the risk of relapses of your symptoms or you can even experience withdrawal symptoms.
People with depression taking Venlafaxine are at a higher risk of “turning” their depression into mania, which is characterized by a “high” or irritable mood, high self-esteem or exaggeration of talents, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, a need to keep talking, being easily distracted, frequently involved in activities that are considered dangerous or that have a high risk for negative consequences.
How long does Venlafaxine withdrawal symptoms last?
According to Nancy Schimelpfening from Verywell Mind, some “people often describe these sensations as a very brief, repetitive electric shock-like feeling that remains confined to the brain or head. Others report the sensation spreads out to other parts of the body. The sensation can be triggered by moving your eyes and is often accompanied by disorientation, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vertigo, and/or lightheadedness”.
As we discussed previously, there are some signs and symptoms related to Venlafaxine withdrawal and they may include:
- Muscle pain, fatigue, and nausea (flu-like symptoms)
- Feeling restless
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal sensory disturbances
- Feeling dizzy
Additionally, there are some other psychiatric or cognitive symptoms that may include:
- Frequent dreams or nightmares
- Problems with concentrating
- Anxiety or the worsening of depression symptoms
The Recovery Village recommends that you always consult with your doctor first, before stopping the treatment since Venlafaxine doses should be tapered off over 7 to 10 days to avoid having serious withdrawal symptoms. Due to the fact that venlafaxine’s half-life is about 5 hours, withdrawal symptoms tend to develop quickly after missing one single dose.
Compared to other similar drugs, the half-life of venlafaxine has been said to be shorter and withdrawal symptoms may appear from 5 to 12 hours after missing a dose or discontinuing the treatment.
Coping and relief of venlafaxine withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms are said to develop quickly, so you may experience them if you have missed a dose. As soon as you feel any of the withdrawal symptoms due to a missing dose, try taking it as soon as you remember. But if it is almost time for your next dose, just discard the missing dose and take the next one as usual.
Symptoms can usually cease after a few weeks but there are some tips to make Venlafaxine withdrawal easier and tolerable, here are some steps to consider according to Nancy Schimelpfening from Verywell Mind:
- Team up with your doctor. They are your best ally when it comes to preventing and coping with symptoms of withdrawal. Discuss the benefits and risks of stopping Effexor and work together to figure out how (and when) to slowly stop taking the drug.
- Ask about OTC medications. Consult your doctor about any over-the-counter medications that can help ease Effexor withdrawal; for example, sleep aids, anti-nausea medications, and pain relievers.
- Consider psychotherapy. According to investigators at Harvard Medical School, undergoing psychotherapy while discontinuing an antidepressant can decrease your risk of having a relapse.
- Seek support. Consider asking a close friend or family member for support and let them know what to expect as you work with your doctor to wean off the drug.
- Keep up with follow-ups. It’s important to keep in touch with your healthcare provider as you are weaning from the drug as well as after you’ve stopped altogether. Depending on how you feel, you may need to book ongoing monthly check-ins until discontinuation symptoms have eased and there are no signs of relapse.
- Practice self-care. As you are going through withdrawal, it’s more important than ever to exercise, eat healthfully, get regular sleep, and practice stress management.
According to MDedge, in some cases another strategy to prevent Venlafaxine withdrawal and to “prevent discontinuation syndrome is to initiate fluoxetine—an SSRI with a long half-life—before taper; maintain fluoxetine dosage while venlafaxine is tapered, and then taper fluoxetine”.
Warnings from Venlafaxine withdrawal
If you or someone else is experiencing the following withdrawal symptoms it is advised to seek medical help right away:
- Suicidal thoughts
Additionally, as we mentioned, anxiety and depression symptoms may get worse but if they last for a long period of time (more than a month) then, this might indicate you are having a relapse. Talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you may have.
According to a study from 2005, serious withdrawal symptoms may occur just within hours of discontinuing the medication and it may affect deeply motor and coordination skills recommending patients to avoid engaging in activities such as driving or handling heavy machinery.
Stages of the withdrawal response
It has been said that there are three stages of the withdrawal response:
- First stage: after 2-3 days the onset of the flu-like symptoms could be severe depending on the amount reduced.
- Second stage: after 2-3 weeks people can see continued improvement and can start having a more normal behavior with less impact due to the side effects.
- Third stage: after 2-3 months there seems to be a full recovery of the personality at the end of the process and it is presumed that there will be an ongoing recovery and benefit in this time frame.
Detox is considered the first step to quitting antidepressant medication and treatment can often involve therapy and counseling. Counselors can help people understand some things that are underlying causes of their depression symptoms.
Psychiatrist Dr. Richard Shelton from the Addiction Center explains how “To be able to taper off an antidepressant medication successfully, we want to do it slowly. So, it can take a month or six weeks or two months. But we just simply step the dose down slowly over time”.
In some cases, it has been said that people that take antidepressants may also abuse drugs and/or alcohol if they are not getting any benefits from their antidepressant medication. The use of various drugs can worsen the symptoms and increase the risk of addiction. If you need help make sure you contact a mental health professional for additional support managing your addiction.
Why is this blog about Venlafaxine withdrawal (Help) important?
As we discussed, Venlafaxine is a drug classed as an antidepressant that is commonly prescribed for the treatment of major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
Venlafaxine withdrawal can manifest after a few hours of missing a dose or after abruptly discontinuing the medication. It recommended never stopping antidepressant medication all of a sudden, your doctor will actually recommend gradually reducing the medication for you to come off the venlafaxine, avoiding the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Support from family members and loved ones is also crucial when stopping the medication.
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