What is Withdrawal, and Why Does It Occur?
Many associate withdrawal with quitting smoking or giving up alcohol and recreational drugs. However, some prescription medications like Effexor can cause withdrawal symptoms too in case you miss a dose or stop taking the drug abruptly.
Normally, withdrawal symptoms can appear within approximately 8 to 12 hours after missing a dose or discontinuing the drug and persist for up to two weeks. Healthcare providers generally encourage you to decrease the dosage gradually if you need to stop the medication.
This article explores the symptoms of Effexor withdrawal, how long it can last, and how to cope with it.
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Basic Facts About Effexor
Effexor, also known as venlafaxine, is a medication prescribed for treating depression disorders, anxiety disorders, and panic disorder. It belongs to the class of serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
Effexor typically works by boosting serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain. These chemicals affect mood and emotions. Effexor slows down the reabsorption of these chemicals by nerve cells, leading to their higher levels in the brain and enhancing your mood, energy, and sleep.
Even though Effexor XR is an effective treatment, the process of discontinuing it requires extra attention. Venlafaxine withdrawal can be uncomfortable and dangerous if not managed well.
What Does Effexor Withdrawal Feel Like?
After taking antidepressants for some time, your body becomes used to the increased neurotransmitter level in your brain. So when you stop taking Effexor or other antidepressants abruptly, you can experience uncomfortable side effects due to an imbalance in neurotransmitters. It takes time for your brain to readjust to the new situation, triggering different withdrawal symptoms depending on individual factors, dosage, and duration of treatment.
The most common symptoms of Effexor withdrawal include the following:
- Impaired coordination
- Dry mouth
- Brain zaps or electrical shocks in the head
These symptoms often begin as early as a few hours after your last dose and can last from a few days up to several weeks or months in some cases.
Severe Effects of Withdrawal
In rare cases, Effexor withdrawal can cause more severe psychiatric symptoms like hallucinations and mental disorientation. Withdrawal can trigger seizures in people with a history of seizures or those taking a high dosage. It can also cause a recurrence of depressive symptoms like suicidal thoughts.
Seek medical attention if you experience severe symptoms from Effexor withdrawal.
Learn more about pharmacological treatment and how to avoid or reduce the side effects of the prescribed medication.
How Long Does Effexor Withdrawal Last?
Different factors can influence the Effexor withdrawal timeline. Often, the withdrawal duration depends on the time you’ve been taking the medication, the prescribed dose, and individual sensitivity.
The Effexor half-life is approximately 5 hours for the immediate-release formulation and about 15 hours for the extended-release formulation. If you take a dose of the immediate-release Effexor, it will take 5 hours for your body to metabolize and eliminate half of the drug, another 5 hours to eliminate half of the remaining drug, and so on. It would be completely cleared out from the body in approximately one day.
Due to its relatively short half-life, Effexor can cause withdrawal symptoms within a few hours if a person misses a dose, reduces the dose abruptly, or stops the medicine suddenly. These symptoms can last for several weeks or months in some people, while others may experience symptoms that appear several days after the last dose and may only last for a few days.
It is worth noting that some people might not experience adverse effects after they stop taking the medication.
How to Ease Effexor Withdrawal
It is always helpful to talk to your doctor before you stop taking Effexor. A healthcare provider can help you create a plan for stopping the medication slowly, helping to minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
Tapering off Effexor involves gradually reducing the medication dose over a period of several weeks or months. To ease the transition, your doctor may recommend switching to a different medication, like a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
Besides tapering off the medication, you can leverage several other strategies to manage Effexor withdrawal symptoms. Here are some tips to consider.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to ease symptoms like headaches and nausea.
- Get enough sleep. Withdrawal from Effexor often causes insomnia. Prioritizing sleep by establishing a consistent sleep schedule can help ease some symptoms. You can also create a relaxing bedtime routine to help you sleep.
- Exercise regularly. Creating a regular exercise regimen can help to enhance your mood and reduce anxiety, helping to ease withdrawal symptoms.
- Eat a balanced diet. Eating healthy meals provides the nutrients your body needs to manage stress and other withdrawal symptoms.
- Seek support. Talk to a therapist or join a support group to cope with the emotional challenges of Effexor withdrawal.
- Try psychotherapy. Find a therapist experienced in helping patients wean off antidepressants. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you quit Effexor while reducing the risk of a relapse.
Your doctor could also recommend remedies that help manage specific side effects of Effexor withdrawal. For instance, anti-nausea medications can ease nausea, while benzodiazepines can be prescribed for managing anxiety.
Work With Experienced Healthcare Providers
Are you planning to stop taking Effexor? Talk to a medical practitioner first. They’ll help you create a plan for tapering off the medication gradually, minimizing the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Having a doctor who can monitor your progress and help you manage the side effects is always beneficial.