Effexor (venlafaxine) is only available via prescription and should be taken as prescribed by a doctor. Stopping the medication without proper guidance increases the risk of Effexor withdrawal symptoms, such as worsening anxiety and increased sweating. If withdrawal occurs, a doctor can recommend helpful strategies for coping or to help relieve symptoms.
What Is Effexor (Venlafaxine)?
Effexor (venlafaxine) is FDA-approved for use in the treatment of depression and anxiety, particularly major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).1 The medication may also be prescribed off-label (not FDA-approved) for other disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).2
Effexor is a selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRIs) that regulates levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Increasing these levels can result in improved mood regulation, leading to decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression. SNRIs and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work similarly. However, while SNRIs prolong the action of both serotonin and norepinephrine, SSRIs only prolong serotonin action.3, 4
Effexor is FDA-approved for treating:1, 2
- Major depressive disorder (MDD)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
- Panic disorder
Effexor may be prescribed off-label for the treatment of:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
What Is Effexor Withdrawal?
Effexor can only be prescribed by a doctor. Stopping Effexor abruptly can result in withdrawal or antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. After the body adjusts to the medication, immediate cessation can result in an imbalance of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. A person may also develop a physical dependence on Effexor, which can make them more likely to misuse their prescription.5 This is due to the effects of the medication decreasing as one’s tolerance increases. People should not increase or decrease the dose unless directed to do so by their doctor.
Stopping Effexor without proper guidance, switching medications, or missing a dose can result in withdrawal. A doctor can provide a tapering dosage to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Effexor Withdrawal Symptoms
The severity of Effexor side effects varies from person to person and can be influenced by one’s age, gender, or pre-existing health conditions. Stopping Effexor without proper guidance can lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia and increased anxiety. If symptoms become severe, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Always discuss these risks with a prescriber.
Common symptoms of Effexor withdrawal may include:1
- Insomnia: Stopping Effexor can result in sleeping problems such as insomnia.
- Confusion: Effexor cessation can lower blood sodium levels, which can cause confusion.
- Increased sweating: Stopping Effexor can result in increased sweating.
- Self-harm thoughts or behaviors: Stopping Effexor may increase the risk of self-harm thoughts or actions.
- Mania: Those with bipolar disorder may experience manic episodes as a result of Effexor withdrawal.
Severe symptoms of Effexor withdrawal that may require immediate medical attention include:1
- Suicidal thoughts: Effexor withdrawal can increase the risk of suicidal ideation or action.
- Constant headaches: Effexor withdrawal can lead to continuous and persistent headaches that can grow intense over time.
- Drowsiness: Stopping Effexor can increase drowsiness and the risk of accidents.
- Dizziness: Effexor cessation can cause low blood pressure, resulting in dizziness. This can increase the risk of falls or accidents.
Discontinuation Vs. Relapse of Depression Symptoms
Stopping Effexor abruptly can result in discontinuation syndrome or a depression relapse. While they may seem similar, there are a few ways to differentiate between these two conditions. Typically, withdrawal results in flu-like symptoms, whereas a relapse in depression involves the re-emergence of negative moods or sleep issues.6
Withdrawal symptoms typically occur within a few days of Effexor cessation, while the onset of relapsed depression is slower.7
Discontinuation of Venlafaxine After Long-Term Treatment
Prolonged Effexor use can result in dependency. This can lead to unpleasant effects when stopping as their body becomes reliant on the drug for serotonin and norepinephrine regulation. After Effexor cessation, a doctor may consider recommending an alternative that better suits an individual’s needs, such as fluoxetine (Prozac) or vortioxetine (Trintellix).
Effexor Withdrawal Timeline
Effexor withdrawal symptoms usually emerge within a few days and may last for as long as three weeks. However, the duration of withdrawal depends on the individual. The severity of symptoms may improve over time, but it’s recommended to work closely with a doctor to ensure safety during this process.
Coping With Venlafaxine Withdrawal Symptoms
Symptoms of Effexor withdrawal can be challenging and, in some cases, severe. However, there are ways to prevent or minimize these symptoms. Tapering can minimize withdrawal symptoms. If withdrawal has already begun, a person should be sure to stay physically active, eat a healthy diet, and get adequate sleep in order to stay well.
Below are five strategies to help relieve symptoms of Effexor withdrawal:
1. Get Adequate Sleep
Improving your sleep habits can play an important role in withdrawal symptom management. Sleep greatly impacts a person’s mental health and getting enough of it is essential for maintaining emotional and physical well-being. It also ensures that you have the energy to tackle and overcome symptoms of withdrawal.8
2. Stay Active
It is recommended to engage in regular physical activity while experiencing withdrawal symptoms. There are many benefits of exercise for one’s mental health as it releases “feel-good” hormones known as endorphins. Regular exercise can greatly improve a person’s mood, and possibly prevent relapse in depression or anxiety symptoms after Effexor cessation.9
3. Make a Safety Plan With Family & Friends
If you are experiencing Effexor withdrawal, create a safety plan with trusted family or loved ones. This can help ensure that, if symptoms become severe or life-threatening, you will receive necessary treatment.
4. Maintain a Healthy Diet
A healthy and well-balanced diet not only improves your physical health, but also your mental well-being. You should start this before you begin to taper the medication so you can minimize withdrawal symptoms. Working with a dietician can help you achieve stability in a realistic and straight-forward way.
5. Take Some time Off
Focusing on your obligations, other responsibilities, or work can be especially stressful when experiencing withdrawal. Therefore, it is important to take a break from these in order to heal and recover quickly. Allow your body to rest.
Questions to Ask Your Health Team
Before stopping Effexor, always discuss the risks associated with a doctor. They will provide a safe tapering dosage to prevent withdrawal or discontinuation syndrome.
Questions to ask your care team about discontinuing Effexor include:
- Is stopping Effexor dangerous?
- Are there risks of stopping Effexor?
- When should I expect to experience withdrawal symptoms?
- What should I do if something feels off during this process?
- Who should I call and what should I do if I get sick?
- Would starting a new medication help limit withdrawal symptoms?
- Could my depression worsen after I stop taking Effexor?
Effexor can be an effective part of a person’s treatment plan. However, abrupt cessation of the drug can result in withdrawal. Because of this, it is essential to discuss a safe tapering dosage with a doctor to ensure healthy and safe discontinuation.