Cymbalta is a safe, effective treatment for depression and anxiety disorders. Taking Cymbalta can result in mild side effects a few weeks after your initial dosage. However, stopping your medication without the guidance of your doctor can cause withdrawal symptoms, such as constant headaches and increased agitation or irritability. Before stopping your prescription, you must consult with your doctor to understand the risks.
What Is Cymbalta (Duloxetine)?
Cymbalta is the brand name for its active ingredient duloxetine. It is an effective antidepressant that helps to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression by boosting levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Cymbalta is a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), meaning that it increases serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. This helps to improve mood and reduce anxiety and pain perception.1
Cymbalta is an FDA-approved antidepressant used to treat the following mental health conditions:5
- Major depressive disorder (MDD)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain
- Chronic musculoskeletal pain
Cymbalta may be prescribed off-label to treat the following conditions:1
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Bulimia nervosa
- Bipolar disorder
What Is Cymbalta Withdrawal?
Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms are the physical and emotional symptoms a person is likely to experience when they suddenly stop taking their medication. However, not everyone will experience these symptoms, as the drug affects users differently depending on their health condition and genetic profile. Still, it is important to remember that after stopping your medication, chances are high that withdrawal symptoms will occur. This is due to the increase of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain as a result of Cymbalta.
Antidepressants work differently in people based on factors including age, gender, and health condition.2 To help prevent Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms, stick to your prescription and regularly consult with your doctor about any concerns or questions you have. Long-term use of Cymbalta can lead to dependence as the drug alters the body’s physiological adaptation to the antidepressant.3
If Cymbalta does not work for you or results in negative side effects, you can work with your doctor who can help you mindfully stop your dose and consider medication alternatives.
Withdrawal symptoms most commonly occur in situations such as:
- Missing a dose: Cymbalta is supposed to be taken for a particular duration as prescribed. Missing a dose within the timeline can result in withdrawal symptoms.
- Switching meds: Antidepressants have different chemical components and associated side effects. Changing medications can worsen either substance’s side effects, leading to withdrawal symptoms.
- Switching “cold turkey”: Abrupt cessation of your medication without proper guidance from your prescriber increases the chances of experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
- Dependence: Taking Cymbalta long-term alters the body’s physiological adaptations to the substance, contributing to withdrawal symptoms.3
Cymbalta Withdrawal Symptoms
Common Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms include suicidal ideation, anxiety, and nausea. The severity of these symptoms can be influenced by a person’s age or health condition. Older populations are at greater risk of experiencing severe Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms, which usually occur within one to two weeks of cessation.
Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms may include the following:1
- Suicidal ideation
- Sensory disturbances
- Mood swings
Taking Cymbalta can lead to side effects which can be mild or severe, and sometimes require immediate medical assistance. Therefore, before stopping your antidepressants abruptly, consult with your doctor to understand the associated risks and ensure safe tapering
Severe symptoms of Cymbalta withdrawal that require immediate medical attention include:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Self-harm behaviors
- Trouble breathing
Discontinuation vs. Relapse of Depression Symptoms
Depression symptoms can occur after a few weeks due to discontinuation of Cymbalta. Relapse of depression symptoms generally emerge later and more slowly.
The emergence of relapsed depression symptoms can be a result of factors such as:4
- Substance use
- Workplace stress
- Hormone changes
- Loss of a family member
Certain symptoms of depression are common side effects associated with a Cymbalta prescription. If you experience these, it does not mean your depression has reemerged. However, it can mean you are on course toward relapse. At this point, it is important to consult with your physician.
Symptoms of relapsed depression may include:5
- Suicidal thoughts
- Self-destructive behaviors
- Social withdrawal
Discontinuation of Cymbalta After Long-Term Treatment
A person’s brain adapts to the presence of Cymbalta after long-term use. This means sudden discontinuation of the medication can be dangerous as it will likely lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. However, when discontinuing your medication after short-term use, the symptoms may not be as severe because it takes time for your body to adjust to the medication.
Depressive episodes can prevail after Cymbalta is removed from your system completely. If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may choose another medication for your condition.
Discontinuation of Cymbalta While Pregnant
Antidepressants can have negative side effects on pregnant women and their unborn babies. Such populations need to consult with their doctors to understand the risks associated with the discontinuation of Cymbalta while pregnant. A doctor can find a better alternative for them. Cutting off Cymbalta medication while pregnant increases the chance of depression relapse.6
Cymbalta Withdrawal Timeline
Withdrawal symptoms following the discontinuation of Cymbalta will likely emerge within the first week. Its active ingredient, duloxetine, has a half-life of about 10-12 hours, meaning that duloxetine requires about 12 hours to be reduced to half. However, how long the drug stays in your body depends on your original dosage and your doctor’s recommended tapering off timeline. The drug can take about a week to leave your system completely.7
How to Cope With Cymbalta Withdrawal Symptoms
If you experience Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms, there are several strategies you can implement to help you manage or relieve them. Try to maintain a healthy diet, get adequate sleep, and engage in regular physical activity. These changes can help improve your symptoms and energy.
Below are ten strategies to help relieve symptoms of Cymbalta withdrawal:
- Get adequate sleep: Getting sufficient and quality sleep helps your brain process emotional information. This can help improve symptoms as you will have more energy and focus when you have adequate rest.8
- Stay active: Engaging in regular exercises can help improve your withdrawal symptoms by improving your mood and reducing anxiety.9
- Seek familial support: Having a supportive family can help you cope with Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms. Your family can provide necessary resources and social support.
- Try over-the-counter medications: If your symptoms are persistent and intolerable, over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-nausea medications can help you in the short term. However, if the symptoms become extreme and unbearable, seek medical assistance.
- Join a support group: Support groups provide a space for people to share their experiences with withdrawal symptoms, connect with others, and learn how to cope with their symptoms.
- Try natural remedies: This may include taking vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements that can help boost your energy, reduce stress, and manage your sleeping problems. Before taking any supplements, consult with your doctor about possible risks and/or side effects.
- Start therapy: Talking to a therapist can help you learn ways to cope with Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms.
Stick to your medication regime: You should ensure you don’t run out of your prescription when tapering off Cymbalta. This will help reduce the risk for withdrawal symptoms.
Questions to Ask Your Health Team
Before discontinuing a Cymbalta prescription, you should consult with your doctor to understand any possible risks. Your physician will guide you on the best way to taper off your medication.
Questions to ask your care team about discontinuing Cymbalta include:
- Is stopping Cymbalta dangerous?
- Should I stop taking Cymbalta all at once or over some time?
- What are the risks of stopping Cymbalta?
- When should I expect to experience symptoms of Cymbalta withdrawal?
- What should I do if something feels off during my withdrawal process?
- Who should I call and what should I do if I get sick?
- Would starting a new medication help limit withdrawal symptoms?
- Can my depression get worse after I stop taking Cymbalta?
- Does my family history play a role in the likelihood of withdrawal symptoms?
Antidepressants are usually associated with mild to severe side effects. Discontinuing your medication can lead to withdrawal side effects which can be life-threatening in some cases. Therefore, it is important to discuss the discontinuation of Cymbalta with your doctor and care team before changing your dosage.