Effexor (venlafaxine) is a medication which belongs to the class of serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor drugs or SNRIs. Do to its ability to regulate and increase serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain it is primarily used for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD.) It has also recently begun to be used for the treatment of other conditions such as diabetic neuropathy and hot flash symptoms experienced in women going through menopause. Unfortunately one of the side effects of taking Effexor long term is the experience of withdrawal symptoms when stopping the use of the medication abruptly.
Effexor (venlafaxine) withdrawal symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms may start as a form of agitation and anxiety. For many the anxiety can become overwhelming leading to an anxiety attack. Also accompanying these side effects are dizziness, confusion, and loss of coordination. A person undergoing acute Effexor withdrawal will appear to be very distressed to those around them. Effexor withdrawal may also result in a difficulty to sleep accompanied with mania. The withdrawal from Effexor has also been known to effect the gastrointestinal system of many who experience it. This results in nausea and vomiting as well as diarrhea. Another side effect experienced is known as a brain zap. This is where the patient feels as if a current of electricity is passing through their head and can be very painful. Psychologically, those experiencing a withdrawal from Effexor may feel feelings of extreme dysphoria. This is a result of the rapid changes of concentrations of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine within the brain. There may also be a return to deep depression accompanied by thoughts of suicide for some users.
Missing a dose
Effexor has a very short half-life for an antidepressant medication. This means that it is eliminated from the body rather quickly. Because of its short half-life some of these withdrawal symptoms may begin to occur if a dosage has been missed. Typically they will not be quite as severe as the wide array of side effects experienced during a actual withdrawal as they will subside as soon as the next dosage of Effexor is administered. To avoid the unpleasantness of experiencing withdrawal symptoms while on Effexor it is important to be diligent in taking doses at the proper times and intervals.
Effexor (venlafaxine) withdrawal treatment
There is no way to completely do away with the withdrawal symptoms experienced when stopping to take Effexor. Tapering the dosage taken can help to limit many of the side effects, but it does not eliminate all side effects completely. If withdrawal symptoms set in that are too severe for the patient to handle the patient can be given Effexor again and then tapered off of it in a more conservative manner. To help with insomnia doctors will often prescribe benzodiazepines. It is important not to become physically dependent upon benzodiazepines as withdrawal from these types of medications can be equally as severe as a withdrawal from Effexor and even more drawn out. Those experiencing brain zaps while withdrawing from Effexor are also recommended to take the supplement 5-HTP as this has been found to be beneficial is reducing the severity and frequency of brain zaps.