Effexor (Venlafaxine) has proved to be effective in the treatment of anxiety as it helps to improve one’s overall mood. However, taking Effexor can result in side effects that may be severe depending on the individual. The medication should be taken as prescribed to reduce the risk of health complications that may arise throughout one’s anxiety treatment.
What Is Effexor (Venlafaxine)?
Effexor (venlafaxine) is FDA-approved for the use of treating symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.1 Effexor is associated with mild side effects, such as headaches or drowsiness, that occur as one’s body adjusts to the medication. Side effects often persist for some patients for as long as they take the medication
Effexor belongs to the selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) class of drugs. This medication works by increasing the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, which are natural substances that help maintain mental balance. By blocking the reabsorption of these neurotransmitters, Effexor improves one’s mood, behavior, and emotions, leading to reduced anxiety.
Can You Use Effexor for Anxiety?
Effexor does not cure anxiety, but can help reduce symptoms. Effexor is an FDA-approved medication for the treatment of anxiety. By altering the brain’s chemical substances (serotonin and norepinephrine), Effexor regulates mood. In turn, a person can experience relief from anxiety symptoms.
Effexor may be used in the treatment of anxiety disorders such as:2
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
- Panic disorder (PD)
- Specific phobias
- Separation anxiety disorder
How to Take Effexor for Anxiety
Effexor is administered with food daily as a single dose, either in the morning or evening. The medication should be taken as prescribed to avoid health complications that might occur as a result of missing dosage or overdosing.
Effexor is available in different forms, including:1
- Oral capsule
- Oral tablet
- Immediate release
- Extended release
How Long Does it Take for Effexor to Work?
It will take some time before Effexor begins to work. Most antidepressants that are also prescribed for anxiety can take up to six weeks to relieve anxiety symptoms. It typically takes between four and six weeks for Effexor to take full effect. However, patients may experience symptom reduction after the first one or two weeks of treatment.3
Effexor Dosage For Anxiety Disorders
Effexor dosages vary depending on one’s age, health condition, and the type of anxiety disorder being treated. A typical starting dose for anxiety is between 37.5 mg and 75 mg daily. At the start of treatment, a physician may prescribe a smaller dose to see how effective the drug is at treating one’s anxiety symptoms. If the initial dose is not leading to improvement, they may increase the amount; the maximum is 225 mg per day.1
Side Effects of Effexor While Treating Anxiety
Taking Effexor for anxiety can result in mild side effects, including nausea and vomiting. These occur as a person’s body adjusts to the substance, but may persist for as long as a person takes Effexor. Side effects usually emerge within one to two weeks of starting Effexor. However, if the side effects are persistent and are severe, seek medical help as soon as possible.
Effexor side effects can be affected by several factors, such as a person’s age, health condition, and the interaction of Effexor with other substances. Mixing Effexor with certain substances can result in overdose, vital organ failure, and sudden death. For this reason, it is not advisable to combine Effexor with other SNRI medications or substances like alcohol.
Common side effects of Effexor include:1
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Dry mouth
- Sleeping problems
- Appetite issues
Serious side effects of Effexor that may require immediate attention include:1
- Breathing problems
- Serotonin syndrome
- Angle-closure glaucoma
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior
- Irregular heartbeat
If taking Effexor does not work for you or leads to adverse reactions, talk with your doctor about other alternatives. Your doctor will reevaluate your symptoms to determine a more suitable medication.
Warnings & Associated Risks of Taking Effexor for Anxiety
Effexor medication should be taken as prescribed. If you are concerned about the interaction of Effexor with other substances, share these concerns with your doctor in order to understand the risks. Effexor should not be combined with alcohol as this can trigger the side effects of either substance or lead to overdose.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should only take Effexor after weighing the potential risks and benefits with their doctor, as the medication may increase the risk of infant exposure and preterm labor.
Effexor withdrawal can occur if the medication is stopped abruptly. Suddenly stopping Effexor will alter one’s brain chemistry, resulting in serotonin and norepinephrine imbalance and further side effects.
Can You Overdose on Effexor?
Overdosing on Effexor is possible, especially if Effexor is misused or combined with another substance. If an overdose has occurred, persistent headaches, seizures, heart rate abnormalities, loss of consciousness, and drowsiness are common. Effexor overdose happens as a result of increased serotonin levels, leading to toxicity. In case of an overdose, call 9-1-1 or visit the nearest emergency room for immediate medical assistance.
Substances to Avoid While Taking Effexor
Taking certain medications, herbs, or supplements alongside Effexor can change how Effexor works in your body or increase the risk for serious side effects. This article does not consider all the possible interactions. Please let your doctor, psychiatrists, and pharmacists know about all the products you currently use, such as prescription medication, nonprescription drugs, and herbal supplements. Do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any medicines without your doctor’s approval.
Effexor can interact with other substances, resulting in worsening side effects and further health complications. Substances include monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), alcohol, and other medications, among others. To stay safe while taking Effexor, consult with your doctor to understand any risks.
Substances that interact with Effexor include:1
- Blood thinners: Effexor affects the blood clotting process, increasing the risk of excessive bleeding.
- Benzodiazepines: The interaction of Effexor and benzodiazepines increases the severity of side effects of both substances.
- Migraine drugs: The interaction between Effexor and certain migraine medications increases the risk of serotonin syndrome.
- NSAIDs: The interaction of Effexor and NSAIDs increases the risk of bleeding.
- MAOIs: Taking MAOIs while on Effexor or taking Effexor within 14 days of stopping MAOIs increases the risk of serotonin syndrome.
- Thioridazine: Mixing Effexor with thioridazine increases the risk of serotonin syndrome.
- Pimozide: Combining Effexor with pimozide increases the risk of serotonin syndrome.
- Alcohol: The interaction of Effexor and alcohol can worsen symptoms and lead to symptoms like those of an overdose.
- Other SNRI medications: Combining Effexor with other antidepressants can worsen symptoms.
Alternatives to Effexor for Anxiety
Many antidepressants work in the same way when addressing anxiety symptoms. However, how they interact with one’s body and their associated side effects vary from person to person. Your doctor will consider one medication over another based on your condition, the drug’s side effects, and its efficacy. If Effexor does not work for you, your prescriber will consider alternatives.
Alternatives to Effexor to treat anxiety include:4, 5
Questions to Ask Your Health Team
It is important to talk with a physician about the risks of taking Effexor for anxiety. A doctor will assess the medication’s efficacy as a part of your treatment plan, and look out for any associated safety concerns.
Questions to ask your care team about Effexor include:
- Is Effexor effective for treating anxiety?
- Is Effexor more effective than the medication I am already taking?
- Can I take Effexor with the medication I am already taking?
- What are the best online psychiatry options to receive an Effexor prescription?
- How long do the side effects of Effexor last?
- What should I do if Effexor does not work for me?
- Can I consume alcohol while on Effexor?
- What should I do before I start Effexor?
Effexor can be an effective component in a person’s treatment plan for anxiety. The drug is associated with side effects, and you should seek medical attention if these are severe or concerning you. Before taking Effexor, discuss the associated risks of the medication with your doctor to see if it is the right option for you.